Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas in the closet

The past two months have been a time of very rapid progress for me. In a short amount of time I've advanced from peering out of the closet to taking my first tentative steps into the world as my real (female?) self. And I felt comfortable as me, and it was like fresh air and sunshine.

And then, with its great clattering of tacky songs, comes Christmas. Suddenly I am hurled back into the suffocating darkness of the closet. The door is shut and latched, and I am forced to contend once more with the absurd fact of hiding my identity from people I love.

This is because, of course, all the progress I made stopped short of coming out to my parents.

In my previous post I wrote of walking to the grocery store and buying lunch as a girl. That day also happened to be the first time I spent an entire day as a girl, which was lovely. I hoped that with all that girl-time my gender might stop bothering me for a while and I decided to be a boy the next day. But it was just as difficult as ever, and this more or less confirmed for me that I will probably have to socially transition.

A couple days later I was a girl again. This time I put gas in my car, got a bunch of groceries, talked to the cashier with my first attempt at a female voice, and went Christmas shopping at an antique store. What I've learned from all this is that either I pass, or people in general don't give a shit about crossdressers— and to be honest, the latter sounds more likely— because no one gave any signs that anything was out of the ordinary.

Christmas is a huge deal in my family, and in general I actually enjoy it. We had our celebration early, on the 22nd, because my brother and his wife, (henceforth known as Carson and Jamey), were planning on spending the 25th with her family. My family always spends the day before Christmas together as well, which meant two days of pretending to be a boy. And not the effeminate boy I usually look like when I'm presenting male either, but a "typical" boy.

And so Christmas was fun, but it was also hard. It helped a lot having Carson and Jamey there, as they at least know about me. After we finished unwrapping the presents Jamey nudged me to follow her down the hall and gave me a small container of makeup from MAC: a clandestine Christmas gift. It wasn't much, but what it meant— an affirmation of my gender at a time when that's exactly what I needed— was huge. I ended up having to lock myself in the bathroom until I stopped crying, silly me! Sometimes the tears are just one more thing you have to hide...

I went home that evening thinking I had made it through a Christmas in the closet. But as I mentioned, we did Christmas early. And since I was still in town over the 24th and 25th, my parents suggested I spend those days at their house too. I didn't have a good reason not to, and resigned myself to continue the charade.

On the 23rd my brother and his wife were making the ten hour drive to visit her family in British Columbia. Someone turning left onto the highway didn't see them coming and pulled out just in time to cause an accident. My brother texted me from the ambulance. No one involved seemed to be seriously hurt, but they were going to the hospital just to be sure. Their car, however, was totalled. In the end Jamey had some minor whiplash, but that was the only injury. They actually made it to their destination that same night, somewhat later than intended. Carson asked me not to tell mom and dad about this incident, and I understood why: we all know my father is a chronic worrier. Still, this meant one more secret to keep.
Their car. Yikes...
The next day I returned to my parent's house. And even though I love my parents, I hated being around them. I'm very bad at pretending to be happy when I'm not. After two days of this they were fairly certain that there was something wrong with me that I was keeping from them. I would have liked to have said, "Relax guys, I'm just trans, it's not a big deal." But I was in no emotional state to have that whole conversation, so I left with the source of my malaise still (mostly) unknown.*

They've been pretty worried about me since then.

The ironic thing is that, with the exception of the last few days, I've actually been doing very well lately. I am, in general, happier than I've been in a long time— taking the first small steps toward living in the right gender has a way of doing that, I suppose. But of course that's not the part of me they saw. How could they have?

I suppose I ought to come out to them, and soon. Not just for my sake anymore, but for theirs too. It's unkind of me to let them worry so much when there's really nothing wrong. I'm kind of annoyed to have had my hand forced in this way, but I guess that's life. And in any event, I've been thinking about telling them for a long time.

I hope all goes well when I do.

* My mom did pick up on a hint that it was gender-related, but I won't go into that now because this post is already really long.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Another little milestone

Today I left the house as a girl for the second time. But unlike last time, when I walked around a quiet neighbourhood in the evening, this time I strode down busy streets in broad daylight. In fact, I walked right down to the nearby grocer and picked up something for lunch. So now, not only have I left the house as a girl, but I've also accomplished a real-world errand, even if it was just a small one. That, I feel, counts as another little milestone on the road to... well, wherever this is going.

I dressed very casually, of course. It warmed up above freezing today, so I didn't have to bundle up. I made sure to walk with confidence, keep my head up and make eye contact with people.
I'm sure if anyone had looked closely, they would have read me as male. But people at the grocery store aren't walking around thinking about gender; they're thinking about bread and milk and eggs. At a quick glance people probably assumed I was a woman and didn't pay the matter any more attention. In any event, I didn't notice any stares or double-takes, so I must not have stood out; (though maybe folks are just polite?). I went through self-checkout, so I didn't actually have to speak to anyone.

It wasn't overly thrilling or exciting, nor was I particularly nervous: I just felt like an ordinary girl buying herself some lunch. It's funny: just eight months ago I went to a different store, dressed as a boy, and bought a single tube of cheap mascara— my very first purchase as a crossdresser. And I was terrified. I went through self-checkout then too, and my hands were shaking so bad I could barely enter my PIN on the Interac machine. I've certainly come a long way these past eight months! :)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

I came out to my housemates!

After months of thinking and worrying and hoping, I've finally come out to my roommates! And their response, as I suspected it would be, was very positive. Yay!

I moved into this house last May after responding to a roommate wanted ad, so I didn't know any of the people I was living with at first. They were all cis hetero guys in their early twenties. At the time I had no idea how significant crossdressing would become for me: the only girly things I owned when I moved in were a tube of mascara and a pair of women's jeans. But as I began to realize just how trans I was, I started to wonder if I should tell my roommates. Around this time I also came out to my friend AT, the first person I ever told.

Of my four roommates at the time, I thought three of them would be more or less okay with it. But the fourth guy I knew would not be. Well, that fourth guy turned out to be a thief and got himself kicked out of the house. AT just happened to be looking for a place at the time, and moved in to fill the empty room. It was totally serendipitous: the one housemate who I was sure wouldn't accept me was replaced by, at the time, the one person in the world whom I was already out to. After that minor miracle I pretty much made up mind that I would tell them.

That was back in July. Either because coming out is so hard or because I'm a coward, it took me till now to finally get around to it.

Yesterday evening I went down to the basement where they were playing billiards on our pool table. "Hey, can I talk to you guys about something?"
And it was so simple and so easy. I told them I was transgender and felt more comfortable dressing as a girl. I clarified that I'm attracted to girls and that crossdressing isn't a fetish for me. And they said, "Yeah man, that's totally okay. You gotta be yourself."
"So like, if you saw me in, say, a skirt or something, that wouldn't freak you out?" I wanted to be sure we were on the same page.
"That would be fine," they affirmed, adding that they appreciated my talking to them about it nonetheless.
"You guys have probably already noticed some stuff anyways," I suggested.
"Yeah... we had pretty clear idea already."
And that was it. I thanked them for being so accepting, and the conversation turned to something else.

I still can't believe I spent so much time worrying about something so small. And I'm free now! I can dress how I want around the house! Yaaaay!! (I should add that one roommate still doesn't know: he returned to his native Deutschland for the holidays and won't be back till January. But I'm sure he'll be just as accepting as the others.)
Eff you, closet!
I am now out to five people in total, four guys and one girl. I suppose mom and dad should be next on the list, but that conversation's going to be a lot scarier...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The fear of needing to

"Wanting to be a woman isn't what I'm scared of. Needing to be a woman scares me juiceless."

I read that, or something like it, on a crossdressing forum back when I was first beginning to try and make sense of this stuff. The speaker had recently begun crossdressing herself, and she, like I, was recovering from a case of fundamentalist Christianity. Her words, and the fear they represented, stuck in my mind.

Do I want to be a woman? Maybe, but I don't want to need to.

I sat on the edge of my bed, paralyzed. It was last Sunday and there were a bunch of errands I needed to get done. I was dressed as a boy. At that moment it seemed like the only reasonable thing to do would be to laugh, Ha! I look like a boy, better fix that!, make myself up as a girl and be on my way. The thought of doing anything else seemed completely insane. But I couldn't go as a girl, and I couldn't bear to stay a boy, so instead I just sat there. Eventually I started crying. Then I got angry: Why am I transgender?! I never fucking asked for this!!

Do I wish I'd been born a girl? No, not really. I'm happy to have had the experiences I've had as a boy. I'm grateful for the perspective that being trans gives me. I don't hate my body, though there are some changes I might consider. Most importantly, I'm happy with the person that I am, and that's not who I'd be if I'd been raised as a girl.

Do I wish I were "normal" boy? No, not at all. I love my femininity. I love that I love heels and skirts and nail polish, and I would never want to lose that part of me. I just wish I could enjoy that stuff while still being comfortable as a boy— lots of crossdressers do, after all. Or I wish I could switch my gender on when it's convenient and off when it isn't. But gender doesn't work like that.

Do I want to be a woman? More than anything I just want to have some say in the matter.

[EDIT: In the time since I wrote this post I've come to realize that some of the terminology I used is problematic. Especially, I should have written "assigned female at birth" rather than "born a girl." But even so, I've decided not to change it because it reflects the understanding I had at the time.]

Friday, 22 November 2013

Support group and TDOR

Remember last month when I chickened out of going to a support group? Well, on Monday I tried again, and this time I found the courage to push myself through that door and into my local trans community! I went in boy mode, but presenting effeminately, and introduced myself as Tyler, making sure to indicate that it was only my birth name. It was very good to meet other people like me.

The discussions were mostly related to medical or legal aspects of transitioning, and so didn't have much to do with where I am. The focus of the group might not be what I'm looking for at this time. However, I learned of a different group that meets there that's more of a TG\CD social group, and I think I'd like to join them at some point. Either way, next time I'm in such a setting, I hope to go as a girl.

This Wednesday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the first one since I've identified as trans. I didn't go to any services, but I read the list for this year, and it's absolutely heart-breaking. Honestly, I don't even know what to say about this stuff, but perhaps I don't really have to: that ugly list can speak for itself.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

I (finally) left the house as a girl! Yay yay yay!!

Yesterday evening I went for a walk around my neighbourhood as a girl, and it was lovely! The snow was falling softly, and made for a very peaceful winter's night. Even if I passed I must have looked kind of silly clomping through the snow in my heels, stopping now and then to take selfies. But that's okay, I enjoyed myself, and that's what matters. (Only a crossdresser wears heels to go for a stroll, right?)

One of my roommates was home when I left. I'm sort of in a glass closet to my roommates: I haven't "officially" come out to them, but I make very little effort to hide who I am and I suspect they kind of know already. Nonetheless, I've decided I don't want them to see me as a girl until I've had a chance to explain why I crossdress and make sure they're comfortable with it. Thus, in order to get from my room to the outdoors I had to do a bit of sneaking. Just to be on the safe side, I left the house in my boy shoes, climbed into my car, put on my girl shoes in there, then got out and went for the walk. Kind of a silly extra step, but whatever.

I only really got nervous once. There was someone behind me and I wanted to stop to think about which way to go, but was afraid of them catching up to me. Instead I just kept walking. Overall the experience was very liberating: being out as my female self, doing something in the real world. The closet, even a glass one, gets pretty stuffy after a while.
A liberated woman! ♥
Not unusually for a winter in Alberta, it was a chilly -11° C out. The cold compelled me homeward sooner than I might have liked.

Two things have resulted from this little excursion. One is that I feel more confident and comfortable with myself. Before I always felt a twinge of embarrassment talking about my crossdressing with either of the males I'm out to. Today I brought it up casually in a conversation with one of them like it was no big deal. The other is that I've decided I need to buy some winter-appropriate feminine footwear: walking through snow in heels is kind of stupid and a little dangerous...

Anyways, let's hope this is the first of many such outings!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A morning mantra

As the alarm goes off yet again, I decide it's time to start the day.

"Good morning, beautiful world," I say quietly as I sit up in bed. Putting my feet on the floor, I shamble over to the mirror and see my hairy, male body in a pink camisole and polka-dot pyjama shorts, the remnants of yesterday's mascara smudged around my eyes. "Good morning, beautiful girl," I add with a smile.

This is becoming my morning mantra, on days when I remember to say it. Call it optimism, I guess. I'm not a natural optimist, but it seems I can become one out of necessity. I am a natural dork, so talking to my reflection isn't that out of place. :)

Well, dorky or not, I think it's important to tell ourselves what we know to be true. Though both may be hard to understand sometimes, the world is still a beautiful place, and I am still a beautiful person— and I'm betting you are too! It doesn't hurt to remind ourselves of these things, even if, as in my case, it might take a rather silly morning mantra to do so...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Wishful thinking

When I shop for clothes I typically try to get stuff that's practical. (And when I say clothes I mean girl clothes— I haven't bought anything from the boy's section since I started crossdressing for real last May). I'll buy jeans that I can wear as a boy, or a skirt that I could wear as a girl without seeming out of place. I think it's fantastic that so many crossdressers get all gussied up in cocktail dresses and ball gowns, but for me personally, I always kind of figured I'd wait until I actually had an occasion to wear something before I bought it. Well, I may not have bought a cocktail dress, but I definitely broke that rule.

I buy nearly all my clothes from thrift stores. For a crossdresser they have some definite advantages: the SAs don't ask you what you're looking for, and they usually have unisex fitting rooms, too. So, I was perusing a Value Village yesterday and had picked out a number of practical and needed items. I was just about to check out when I figured I'd try on some less practical stuff, just for the fun of dressing up. What I ended up getting, of all the silly things, is a two-piece swimsuit. And, I must admit, a pretty skimpy one at that!
All set for a day at the beach!
Now if only Edmonton had beaches instead of snow...
This, I suppose, is the epitome of wishful thinking— and not least because it's winter here in Alberta! :) I put it on when I got home, and though it "felt right," my body has never looked more wrongly shaped to me. It did look a bit better once I put a loose tee-shirt on over top. In any event, it was only five bucks— that's the other advantage of a thrift store— so it's not like I wasted a bunch of money.

At this point I haven't completely ruled out the possibility of medically transitioning, so who knows? maybe there will come a day when I can feel comfortable in this thing. One thing's for certain though: if I'm going to wear bikini bottoms, I'm going to have to learn how to tuck without a gaff!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Ungendering Facebook

I use Facebook quite a bit. I'm on there at least once a day, and for a number of people in my life, it's my primary means of keeping in touch. (Whether or not this is beneficial is debatable, but that's a different topic.) Like anyone, I want the persona I project online to reflect the person I feel I am. I recently made two small changes in Facebook-world that I feel very happy about.

I'm now they instead of he. This was surprisingly complicated. Facebook, ostensibly, does not allow users to unspecify their gender, nor does it provide any non-binary options. You have to choose a gender, and it has to be male or female. At best you can choose not to display your gender on your profile, but it will still refer to you with gendered pronouns based on your choice. However, it used to allow gender to be unspecified, and still retains the functionality to use neutral pronouns. With a bit of screwing around and some help from this thread, I was able to outwit Facebook and force it to stop gendering me: take that, Zuckerberg! :) I'm honestly surprised by how much better this makes me feel.
(For the record, I'm not a huge fan of singular they either, though that has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with linguistic pedantry. Even so, I'd much rather be mispluralized than misgendered.)

The other thing I did was to change my profile picture. My last one had been up there for nearly three years, largely because I'm never really happy with pictures of boy-me (for obvious reasons) and I'm still mostly closeted about girl-me. My new picture is, in fact, a photo of girl-me— I was fully crossdressed when I took it— that's been carefully edited. It's cropped so that my boobs are out of the frame, and desaturated so that my blush and lipstick are nearly invisible. The result is that it doesn't scream "crossdresser," but looks much more feminine than its predecessor, replete with beard and bushy eyebrows as it was. And I feel so much better, knowing that the face I'm presenting is that of the real me.
Boy? Girl? Who knows!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Facial hair and the power of kind words

Sometimes I let my facial hair grow out for a few days. I know it's really psychologically unhealthy to do so, but I'm lazy, and shaving sucks, and it can be a bit of a trigger too. (I recently made the impulse purchase of an epilator, hoping I'd be able to use use it on my face. The prospect of no shaving, no beard shadow, and three weeks of no re-growth seemed fantastic. I gave it a try, but it's just too damn painful. There's a lot of torture I'm willing to endure in order to look pretty, but even this t-girl's gotta draw the line somewhere!) It's always kind of surreal when I go to shave after a few days of not shaving. I'm inevitably struck by how good I look, as a guy, with a bit of stubble. As gross as it feels to say this, I make a very handsome boy, and I definitely look better stubbly than I do clean-shaven. What a pity I'm so uncomfortable looking like a guy...
Epilator? More like holyfuckilator...
Yesterday I was the recipient of some kind words (and possibly speculations?) about my femininity, from a cis girl. NL is a friend of one of my roommates, and she's started to become a friend of mine, too. She was over at our house for a visit when she caught sight of my hands and asked, "Did you do your nails?"
"Yep!" I responded, holding them out for her to look, "Aren't they pretty?"
"Wow, did you do them yourself?"
"Really? Right and left hand?"
She seemed pretty impressed. She made a comment about me being like a nail salon, and added, "You should do mine some time!"
I giggled at this suggestion. Then she asked, "Did you do your eyebrows, too?"
I grinned. "Yeah, I might have."
"Awww," she said, "You've just been, like, experimenting?"
I didn't really know what to say to this, and answered, slightly awkwardly, "Yeah, I guess so."
Then, before I knew it, the conversation had turned to something else.

It's such a small thing, she probably has no idea what a difference it made. But because of that little excahnge I felt a lot better about myself and my gender than I had in a while. Who would have known I had such a knack for nails? (Maybe she was just being nice?)

I haven't yet come out to three of my four roommates, (and yes, I live in a house of five people. And we share one bathroom. And I'm a crossdresser. It's pretty insane, actually). This conversation, ironically, took place in front of precisely those three. If they didn't suspect something before I'm sure they do now! In retrospect it was probably the perfect opportunity to tell them (and her), and I'm a little annoyed that I missed it. But, the fact that they all seemed unfazed by it gives me hope for acceptance when I do let them know. Which, all things considered, should probably happen sooner than later.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Not today

Before I go and visit my parents I take off all my nail polish. If they're going to stop by my house I hide all my skirts. I hate this arrangement. I feel like a liar. I so badly want them to know me as the person I am, not the one I pretend to be. Lately I've been thinking a lot about how and when I will make that happen.

Later today I and my brother and sister-in-law are all going over to mom and dad's for a belated Thanksgiving dinner. (Thanksgiving was two weeks ago, but we postponed it 'cause my dad was out of town). I had been thinking that, in many ways, today would be the perfect day to come out to them. And then something very sad happened.

A few days ago my mom's brother died of cancer.

She's apparently taking it pretty well: it's something we all knew was coming for a while. But still, I feel it would be very selfish of me to burden her with my silly gender issues at a time like this. She needs time and space to process his passing: it'd be unfair to give her something else to process on top of that.

So, I will not be coming out today.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Maybe next time?

There's a transgender support group that meets once a month at my town's Pride Centre. I've been aware of it for a long time now and I keep telling myself I should go. Yesterday was the day I was finally going to do it.

I decided to not crossdress. Partly because I didn't have time to do it properly; partly because I'm not out to most of my roommates, (though I know they're beginning to suspect something), and I wasn't sure how to get from my room to my car and back without getting "caught." But mostly it was because I've never interacted with anyone as a girl before: I figured I'd be nervous enough without adding that to the mix. Still, I couldn't bear the thought of going in full boy mode, so I opted for androgyny: girl jeans, flats, light makeup and my already painted nails.

When I got there I had to park pretty far away. I was feeling nervous to begin with, and that feeling only grew with each step of the walk over. I'm always fairly nervous when it comes to meeting new people. In this case though, it was compounded by the newness of the situation: I'd never been to any kind of support group, never been to the Pride Centre, never told a stranger about my gender. I kept over-thinking stupid, unimportant things, like: should I introduce myself with my boy name, my girl name or both? As if that were a big deal. By the time I was nearing the door I'd made the situation much more terrifying than it needed to be.

Did I take a deep breath, open the door and walk in to face my fears? No. I slowed down a bit, I tried to look inside, but I kept on walking.

I thought about orbiting the whole block and seeing if I fared any better on a second approach, but by then the meeting would already have started and entering late would have been even worse. So I simply walked back to my car and drove home. It was pretty disappointing.

But you know what? Now I've got something else to look forward to instead— the next meeting's only a month away!! :)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Purple! ♥

Way back in this post I mentioned I was thinking of dyeing my dreads. Well, guess what I finally got around to doing last weekend?
It came out a bit darker than I wanted, but overall I'm pretty happy with it.

When I started crossdressing I wondered whether dreadlocks would be feminine enough. I considered cutting them off and using a wig until my hair grew long again. Then I learned of the beautiful and talented film director Lana Wachowski— and watched this— and realized a trans woman can actually look great with dreadlocks! And so far that knowledge has kept my scissors at bay. Well, that and the fear that having short hair would seriously aggravate my gender stress.

It's funny: I often forget I have an unconventional appearance. Sometimes I'll be out walking somewhere and wondering, "Why does every one keep looking at me? Do I have something on my face or what?" Nope, I just look different, that's all.
Different and beautiful! At least that's what I tell myself...
Today was a very different day than yesterday. Yesterday I was as depressed as I've ever been about my gender. I managed to go to my classes but otherwise pretty much spent the day in bed. Today however, I set aside time to get all pretty, (and took the photos you see here), and I feel so much better having done so. It was the first time I'd fully crossdressed in over a month. I guess expressing my gender makes me happy!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A quick feminist rage post

Apologies in advance. I probably shouldn't be rage-posting on this blog, but... I'm going to anyways.

So, there's this online crossdressing forum that I'm registered on. I don't visit there very often, but every now and then I'll pop in and see what's going on, read a few threads, leave some comments, that sort of thing.

Today a lady had posted saying she was going on her first date with a man, and her first date as a woman, and was asking for advice. (She added that she'd never been into men before but had a crush on this one and was through with trying to categorize her sexuality: a good attitude to have, I think). As you can imagine there was lots of excitement, thoughts on what to wear, what style of wig to go with, tips on staying safe... all the typical stuff you'd expect from a gaggle of crossdressers.

Several people, however, said things like "let him do most of the talking," and "make sure he pays the bill." Someone actually said "be passive; don't talk, listen."

Cue feminist rage moment.

Seriously? Be passive? Don't talk? What kind of 1950s bullcrap sexism is that? You would think crossdressers, whose very existence challenges binary gender norms, would be the last people in the world to appeal to and reinforce the traditional male\female roles. Gender binarism is precisely the reason why so many of us are forced into the closet, why so many of us can't be ourselves around our friends and families, and why so many of us can't dress the way we want to on a day-to-day basis. It's also part of the reason why trans people in general are stigmatized, mocked, and occasionally killed. And yet here we are, propping up that system ourselves. Way to go, gals.

I was a tad nettled.
"Don't talk, sweetheart. Every man loves a woman with no personality!"
Of course, if she wants to be passive and listen, that's fine. If she wants to clean his house and do his laundry afterward, that's fine too, I don't care. What bothered me is that people were recommending passivity solely because she's going to be a woman on a date with a man.

Anyways, I didn't comment there because I'm not a regular and didn't want to take the thread off topic. But typing this out here has felt good.

That is all :)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

I'm not really a "boy" anymore

It hasn't yet been three months since I started this blog, but I've come to feel differently about my gender in that short amount of time.

In my introductory post I referred to myself as a tomgirl, which I defined as "a boy that likes girly things." At the time I sincerely hoped that I could be comfortable as a male so long as I got to twirl about in a skirt every now and then. But now, more and more, I'm beginning to recognize that this is probably not the case. Identifying myself as a boy, even a "boy that likes girly things," just doesn't feel right to me anymore.

At the same time, I'm pretty sure I'm not a girl either. At least, not fully. Or if I am, I'm not ready to face it yet. So I've started thinking of myself as "non-binary, tending toward female." That's a lot more complicated, and takes a lot longer to say, than just "boy" or "girl," but no one ever said gender was simple, right?

(Well, actually people say that all the time, but... they don't know what they're talking about!)

The blog's subtitle still reads "the diary of a tomgirl." I may change that at some point, though I'm pretty sure "the diary of a non-binary person who tends toward female" would only compound the awkwardness of the blog's already impossible name! We'll see what I come up with...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Feeding the gender-dragon

My location on the gender spectrum doesn't really change: I always feel like more of a girl than a boy. However, the strength of that feeling can vary widely. Sometimes my "gendered-ness" is no more than a quiet, nagging whisper: present, but able to be ignored. At those times, presenting as a boy doesn't bother me too much, and I'm able to get on with life. But sometimes, it's a deafening, piercing shout. It drowns out everything else and demands to be heard. And that gets awfully frustrating.

The past four or five days have been really bad. I haven't been able to focus on schoolwork (I had to skip a small assignment) and I've been having trouble paying attention in class. Lately it seems like gender, and my sense of discomfort with my male-ness, is all I can think about.

Sometimes having these gender feelings is like living with a dragon. I have to satisfy the dragon's hunger or it will devour me. So I say to it, "Look gender-dragon, I bought you some frilly pink panties. Now will you leave me alone?" And if it's content with that I can breathe easily for a few days. But soon enough it gets hungry again, and each time it wants more.

The first thing I did when I figured out I was trans was to shave off the scraggily beard I'd been sporting for two years. That in itself brought me a huge sense of relief. Then it was makeup, then clothes, then breastforms, nail polish, shaving my legs.... And it makes me wonder, when will it finally be enough? When I'm out to everyone and can crossdress most of the time I want to? Or will I have to go full-time and change my name? What if it takes electrolysis, HRT and surgery?? Needless to say, I don't want to mess around with those last three if it's at all possible.
(artwork by John Bauer)
I don't know why I have these feelings, but I do know some things I can do to help. As much as I detest it, I should probably get in the habit of shaving every day: that really does seems to make a difference. The same thing goes for wearing makeup, too. I think it's bullshit that our society has decided 20 minutes in front of a mirror each morning is an indispensable part of "feeling like a woman," but whatever: if it helps to assuage my gender stress, it's probably something I should do.

Earlier this month I read the book She's not the Man I Married by Helen Boyd, which, as you can probably tell, is about how her husband's trans-ness has affected their lives. (And come to think of it, that book also uses a dragon as a metaphor for gender, though in a different context). I quite liked it, but I have to admit, at least part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was simply that it allowed me to live vicariously through Helen's husband, Betty, who has been much more able than I to explore and express her own femininity. That's probably not the healthiest way to read a book.

The other reason I liked it was that Helen writes from a very feminist perspective. Before I knew I was trans, I thought I was such a good little feminist because I had no interest in fulfilling a traditional male gender role. I thought to myself, "If I, as a man, would rather stay at home and cook and clean and raise the kids, then I should marry a career-woman." And that was that. But when I learned I was transgender, I started to wonder: what if the reason I want to cook and clean and raise the kids is not that I'm an open-minded man, but simply that I'm a woman?? I was appalled. Had I suddenly gone from defying traditional gender roles to reinforcing them? After that there existed some tension in my mind between feminism and trans-ness. The trans-inclusive feminism in Helen's book helped me to see that being trans doesn't make you a misogynist, and being a feminist doesn't make you a transphobe.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Being seen and affirmed

Because I've started telling people, I am partially out of the closet. But because I have yet to leave the house as a girl, I suppose I'm still mostly in. Last week I did that thing that seems to be one of the hallmarks of a closeted crossdresser: I got myself all girled up and started snapping photos in my room! Sure, it's a bit silly, but I had a lot of fun with it, so who cares?
Afterwards I posted a few of the better ones on a crossdressing forum that I occasionally visit. The ladies there are far, far too kind: they all had very lovely things to say and pretty soon I was blushing. I guess compliments make me happy, who knew?

But of course it was about more than just compliments: it was the first time I'd ever really been seen as a girl by anyone, even if it was only over the internet; and their response was an affirmation of who I am. It's surprising how much being seen and affirmed can matter to someone.
Me being a tomboy. Someone else referred to this as "criss-crossdressing."
I've started school now and it seems to be going well, though it's a little strange being so much older than most of the other students.

There's a "queer social group" on campus called OUTreach. Yesterday was their first meeting of the term, and I forced myself to go. I didn't want to. I knew it would be icebreakers and I hate that sort of thing. Though I love people, I am unfortunately very shy, awkward and anxious when it comes to meeting new ones. But I went anyways.

And it was good. While I was biking over there I kept thinking, man, I'm gonna be the only person there who's not gay. I also kept thinking man, I'm gonna be the only "boy" with painted nails, since I had applied some sparkly blue polish earlier. And while I was right about the nails, there were a couple of other people there who had queer gender identities rather than (or in addition to) queer orientations. So that was cool. Hopefully in the future I will be able to get to know them better: I really need to have people in my life whom I can talk to about this stuff, and who can understand some of what I'm going through.

Overall I'm glad I went. Afterwards though, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I would rather have gone as a girl!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

I don't always...

I don't always wear girly sleepwear to bed, but when I do, it's an absolute joy waking up the next morning. There's nothing like starting off your day in the right gender! ^_^

The only downside (and it's a pretty big one) is that it makes having to change into boy clothes right away that much more miserable. Lately I've come to realize that my crossdressing is not simply about the fact that I like dressing as a girl; it's also about the fact that I hate dressing as a boy.
(happy sigh) :D
This past week has been good in some ways and frustrating in others. I'm starting school next week, but I decided to quit my job last week (ie, a week early) so as to have some free time in between. During that time I was able to dress a lot more freely than I usually am, since my roommates were, for the most part, at work during the day. This was wonderful, but it forced me to revisit a bunch of questions that, in many ways, I'd rather not have to deal with: would I dress full time if I could? would I transition if it wasn't so scary? am I, in fact, a girl in the wrong body??

When I first accepted my trans-ness and started trying to figure out what it means for me, I asked those sort of questions a lot. They caused me a great deal of stress and not a few tears, but I eventually reached the conclusion that I'm fairly happy having a boy body and transitioning is probably not right for me. Today I'm less certain about either of those things.

The freedom I had this week also forced me to face the fact that I will have to come out to my roommates at some point. It will drive me insane if I have to keep locking myself up in my room any time I need to dress and someone else happens to be home. My roommates are good guys and they're totally not homophobic or anything, so I think they'd be okay with it, but even still, coming out is always hard.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Science, religion, and why I'm going to school

Guess what I'll be starting in a week? My first year of university! At age 25 I suppose it's better late than never. Sure, it's been eight years since I graduated from high school, but that's just how long it took me to figure out what I wanted to study!

Actually, seven years ago I thought I wanted to study Christian theology: (as I've mentioned before, I had a very religious upbringing). So, I started attending a theological college and ended up staying for almost four years. That was about how long it took me to figure out I didn't actually believe in most of traditional Christianity. I also began to doubt that there was (or even could be) any sound epistemic basis for believing in the authority of scripture.

During the years that followed, I very, very gradually came to believe that the scientific method provides a more certain means of acquiring knowledge than faith does. This was not an easy process: I became profoundly depressed, for example, when I realized I couldn't be certain whether there was an afterlife. (That might sound silly, but when you've believed since childhood that you will literally live forever, and then find out you might only get eighty or ninety years, it hits you pretty hard). But eventually I concluded that, as Cat Faber puts it in The Word of God, "humans wrote the bible; God wrote the world." And that if I wanted to search for truth, I'd do better to study the natural world than scripture. And as I spent more and more of my free time devouring science articles on Wikipedia, I fell absolutely in the love with the awesome, beautiful universe in which we live. And so, here I am today, about to start a four year degree with a major in astrophysics! Yay!!
Astrophysics, dude.
For much of my life the bible was a huge factor in determining what I thought, did and tried to feel; and for a long time this hindered me from recognizing and accepting my trans-ness. It wasn't until I began to see the bible as, not an unquestionable divine authority, but merely a good book, that I felt free enough to try to understand the gender issues I'd been struggling with. This is partly because the bible, as you might expect, specifically condemns transvestism (in Deutoronomy 22:5). But more important than that was an entire understanding of gender that I internalized from reading Genesis 1:27, which says, "God created humans in his image; in the image of God he made them male and female." Like many conservative Christians, I took this to mean that male-ness and female-ness are not mere social constructs, nor some accident of biology, but direct manifestations of the very nature of God himself. Thus I felt like any queering of gender norms was a very serious transgression. And though I very rarely "gave in," I felt guilty any time I even wanted to wear heels or dresses or makeup. And I almost always wanted to.

Needless to say, I am deeply grateful to have changed my way of thinking!

[EDIT: Just to clarify the terminology for the rest of the world: in Canada, a university is an academic institution, whereas a college provides vocational training. They're not the same thing.]

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Choosing a girl name

When I first began to realize I might be a crossdresser, I started reading a lot of stuff about it on the internet. I soon noticed that almost all of the MtF crossdressers in the online community had a nom de femme, and that that was the name they usually went by. I thought to myself, "That makes sense, why not?" At the time I didn't really feel like I needed a girl name, but it seemed like a cool part of the culture of crossdressing. In addition to that, it just seemed practical: if I was hoping to one day pass as a woman, I'd want a ready answer if someone asked me my name.

So I made a list of girl names that I liked: Hannah, Tiffany, Caroline, Amber, and Hillary. Then I noticed that if I chose Tiffany as a first name and Amber as a middle name, I could keep the same initials I have as a guy. So thats's what I went with at first.

But Tiffany never really felt like me. I'm not sure why, but that name always felt more like an alter-ego, or like some woman I was aspiring to be, rather than the person who I just am. Some crossdressers talk about their other gender as though they have a split personality, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's not what I wanted for me. I started to question whether I should have a girl name at all. In the end I decided I would choose something closer to my boy name. Since my boy name is Tyler, the obvious choice was Taylor. I chose Ashley as a middle name because it sounded like my boy middle name. But when I realized I didn't actually like the name Taylor (at least not for me), I switched them around. So now I'm Ashley.

To be honest, I'm still not sure if a girl name is something I need. But then, so far I've only used it on the internet. Perhaps once I've been caled Ashley in the real world, once that name has been spoken aloud, perhaps then it will seem real to me.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A big step in an out-of-the-closet direction

Yesterday evening I walked to my car, got in, and turned the key. My heart was pounding. I took a deep breath. I told myself, "Okay Ashley, you're a big girl, you can do this."

I was about to drive to my brother and sister-in-law's house. And I was going to tell them about who I am. And I was so nervous about it that I went the wrong way and got there late!

I had been wanting to come out to Carson (my borther) and Jamey (his wife) for a while now. I had had several perfect oppurtunities to do so, but I couldn't bring myself to just say it. Countless times the words "hey, can I talk to you guys about something?" died on my tongue. So I decided I would put myself in a position where I had no choice.

Thus, last Sunday I texted my brother asking if they were home and if I could stop by as there was "some stuff" I wanted to talk to them about. I hit send and knew I was committed. But the way our three schedules worked out it ended up having to wait until Wednesday. So they spent three days wondering what great secret I had to tell, and I spent three days worrying about it.

During that time I was really depressed and experieced a lot of gender stress; (I can't dress as freely as I'd like due to my roommates, so that doesn't help). I kept thinking of reasons I didn't really need to tell them: "I'm not that transgendered; is the closet really so bad?" But I knew I'd be better off with them knowing and I knew I couldn't back out now anyways.

So, eventually, I got there, we had dinner, we sat down for tea, and after a bit of an awkward preamble I simply said, "I am transgender." I then clarified that I wasn't gay and I wasn't transsexual. I told them I felt like my brain was half boy and half girl. I told them I had spent most of my life supressing and denying the girl half, and that this had resulted in a lot of depression and some bad habits I had used to help me cope. I told them that earlier this year I reached a point where I finally had to accpet my femininity, that I had started expressing my girl half, and that as a result I had been much happier and much psychologically healthier. I told them that expressing that side of me included crossdressing. I told them I felt more comfortable in girl clothes than boy clothes. I told them I was born this way. And lastly I told them "I just wanted you guys to know; I didn't want it to be a secret."

And their response was absolutely amazing. Better, by far, then I had hoped for. You see, Carson and I both come from a very conservative religious background, and Jamey, remarkably, comes from an even more conservative religious background, so I had cause for concern. But they were totally accepting, totally supportive, and, best of all, really quite comfortable with the idea. Carson told me that he already suspected something like this anyways. Jamey told me she was really happy for me. They made it clear they didn't think there was anything bad about crossdressing. We talked a lot about gender as a spectrum, unrelated to one's biological sex and one's orientation. And I was continually sursprised by how well they understood these concepts when I had spent most of my life struggling with them. They asked a lot of really good questions, too: how long have you known? which pronouns do you prefer? are you going to tell mom and dad? All in all I was profoundly grateful to have such wonderful people as siblings.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, Jamey went and got out a bunch of her makeup stuff! And as my brother turned his attention to some boring video game, me and the sis-in-law played around with mascara and liner and eyeshadow! She tried to teach me how to do a smokey eye look, but I'm really bad at it.

Jamey is the first girl I've ever told. Before yesterday the only person I was out to was a close male friend. I deeply appreciate him as well, but being out to a girl opens up a whole world of useful makeup advice and possible shopping trips! Especially a girl like Jamey, who actually works as a sales assistant at a clothing store and as such has helped plenty of crossdressers put outfits together.

One of the best parts of this whole thing is the huge boost in confidence I've recieved by having the support of two of the most important people in my life. I now feel like I could tell just about anyone! I am so lucky to have those two in my family, and I am so glad I told them, and I am so thankful they accept me as they do.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Three years of matted hair!

[EDIT: In the time since writing this post I've come to recognize that it's problematic and culturally appropriative for someone like me to use the term "dreadlocks" to describe my hairstyle. However, I've decided not to change the wording of the post, (except for in the title), because it reflects the understanding I had at the time.]

Three years ago today I sat in a chair for seven hours while my friends backcombed my hair with a metal flea comb. And I haven't touched a hairbrush since! This was the process of beginning my dreadlocks, and since then they've grown thick and started to actually look pretty good.

Here's what they've looked like over the years (most of these pics are boy mode):
One month - still just kind of a mess

Eight months - starting to take shape

Two years

Now (and in girl mode!)
Because I've had dreads for longer than I've known I was trans, I've never had a chance to wear wigs when I crossdress-- (I can barely fit a bicycle helmet over these things, I'm pretty sure wigs are out of the question!) On the one hand I love the idea of using my real hair, and it's convenient that dreads are a unisex style. On the other hand, I'm missing out on playing around with more feminine styles.

Three years is a long time to have the same hairstyle. I'm not ready to cut them off yet, but maybe soon I'll try dyeing them pruple or something crazy like that!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

My queer-ness is showing!! Yay?

It's only been a few months since I accepted I was trans-something-or-other and started cross-dressing properly. Almost immediately I noticed a whole bunch of areas besides dress where I had been forcing myself to conform to the masculine gender norm. Things I say, how I walk, talk, sit, etc. I determined I would start just being myself in those areas, too. The result, I suppose, is that even in boy mode I now come across as a lot more feminine than I used to.

Last Friday I was making small talk with a co-worker, (a straight male), and he asked me casually, "So, do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?" It was the first time in my life someone has made it explicitly clear that they're uncertain what my orientation is. (For the record, I like girls). I smiled and said, "Nope, no boyfriend, no girlfriend!" Which, you know, didn't exactly clarify things.

At first I was quite pleased by this. I liked the fact that someone had noticed my "queer-ness," even if they misunderstood its exact nature. I told myself I would rather people mistake me for gay than mistake me for cisgender.

However it slowly dawned on me that perhaps everyone I work with thinks I'm gay. And the more I thought about it, the more it started to bother me. I'm honestly not even sure why. I really, really hope it's not due to some latent homophobia buried somewhere deep in my psyche. I'm ashamed to admit that I used to be quite homophobic back in my days as a fundamentalist Christian, though that feels like a different lifetime now. I will have to take some time to think about what this means.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Obligatory Introductory Post (that no one reads)

[EDIT January 2016: If you're going back and looking at older posts, I hope it's obvious that this one, being the oldest, was written very early in the process of me questioning my gender identity and does a poor job of reflecting the understanding I have now.]

Ahoy! My name, or at least my boy name, is Tyler, and I am a tomgirl! You may be unfamiliar with that term, but, as you can probably figure out, it means just the opposite of tomboy. I'm a boy that likes girly things. The terms transgender, transvestite, crossdresser, dual gender, non-binary, androgyne, and numerous other labels probably apply to me with varying degrees of accuracy as well. I like the word tomgirl in particular because it seems vague enough to describe something as vague as my gender.

This is my third attempt at starting a blog. The last two slowly withered and died, so we'll how long this one lasts. Currently, it's titled Fjärilar och Zebror. This is Swedish for "Butterflies and Zebras," which is itself a Jimi Hendrix reference. Why would I choose so unwieldly a title for a blog? The answer is simple: I'm just really, really bad at thinking of blog titles. My previous blogs were called It's a blog! and Aaaaiiiqqqaahhh!!!, so, yeah...

Don't be surprised if I change the title at some point.

I wanted to try writing a blog again becasue, as I struggled to come to terms with my gender, I benefited tremendously from blogs written by other trans folk. They showed me I wasn't alone. I'm also hoping that writing about it will help me to continue figuring this stuff out, as I'm still a long way from fully understanding it. However, I'm hoping this blog will be about more things than just tomgirl stuff, as I am a lot more things than just a tomgirl. For starters, I'm an amateur musician, an aspiring scientist, and a generally barefoot hippie too. So I don't intend for every single post to be gender-related.

I mentioned that Tyler is my boy name. I would like to have a girl name too, though I haven't 100% settled on one. It's between Tiffany and Ashley at the moment.

And that, I suppose, is the obligatory introductory post! Yay!