Transition: Just a walk in the woods?

I’ve become increasingly aware of a behavior I have that is ultimately damaging to my self-esteem and my spirit overall. As a transgender woman, I’m find that I’m often quite desperate to find other trans women that I can identify with. I’m looking for women who’ve had the same experiences I’ve had and then I compare myself to them. I think to some degree this is a part of the human condition but at times for me (and other trans women I know) it becomes almost obsessive.

We create these Facebook groups, online web forums and other social media interactions so that we can find people similar to us. We’re looking for support, we’re looking for assurance that we’re not alone in our experience, or maybe we’re just looking for people who will understand us. We use each other’s experiences to guide our decisions. All this is good and I believe it helps us as transgender people work through the very difficult process of transitioning.

However, where I think the damaging element comes into play is when we start comparing ourselves and our journeys to those of our peers. For me at least, I’m always trying to find that person who’s just like me. Had the same disposition pre-transition, was the same age, followed the same steps. I think the truth is, however, that person doesn’t exist. The reality of this process is that we each have our own journey and it is unique to us, just as unique as our face or our fingerprints. So while we don’t want to feel alone in our journey, we are walking a path that no one else has or will ever walk.

An analogy comes to mind here. Our transition journey is like walking through a large forest. There are countless ways we can enter the forest, once inside there are paths that have been created by others that we may follow for a time. They might start as an established trail, but as we go on, they branch off into many smaller individual paths. We make choices, we go different directions. We choose one because the going looks easier than the other options. We might choose another because it will get us where we want to go faster even though it will be more challenging. We might even choose not to follow someone else’s path and go a new way because we want to check out an area that no one has been to before. At times we may rejoin a larger path and follow it for another length of time until we have to choose again. Our transitions are no different.

So the issue I’m realizing in myself is that despite the fact that we all take different paths in our transitions, I try to look at those whose path is most like mine and then I compare the progress. I look at how much their bodies have changed, how many surgeries or electrolysis sessions they’ve had. How have their breasts grown compared to mine. How is their family life, their dating life, etc.? How open and well known are they in our community? Are they involved in activism on behalf of trans people? The truly damaging part of this comparison is that, like we humans tend to do, I become focused on the ways I perceive those people have progressed farther than me but I forget to acknowledge the ways that I perceive I have progressed farther than them. I also fail to take into account the unique hills, obstacles, and delays that I have encountered on my path that they may not have run into on their path.

The result of all of this is that I put a lot of pressure on myself. I become anxious and impatient. I want all the things and I want them now. I started my transition mere months before my 40th birthday. I did my research. I saw the articles about how much harder it is to transition after 40, how much more limited the body changes can be. So like so many trans women, I want to maximize the changes, I want to have the “best results” I can get from all this that I’m putting my body through. I want to be as beautiful as I can possibly be. Sometimes I feel like I started a marathon 10 minutes late and now I’m trying to catch up to the pack.

It also goes beyond making the physical changes. I also want to maximize the time I get to spend being my authentic self. There are so many things I would have loved to have experienced as a 20-something or 30-something year-old female that I simply have to accept I’ll never get to experience. I know 40 is the new 30 and all that, but let’s be real here. There are those behaviors, those discoveries, etc. that young women go through that women my age are no longer a part of.

Often, I get pulled into looking back on those things, I feel the regrets. I feel the “what-ifs”. However, I again fail to put things into context. Sure I could have transitioned 15 years ago. But while yes I might have a more close to “ideal” (whatever that is) appearance and I’ve have gotten to live in my 20’s and 30’s as a woman, other things would have changed too. Society in general wasn’t as educated or willing to accept transgender people. One of my three kids would have not even been born. My then wife wouldn’t have had nearly the understanding she did at the end of 2016 when I came out to her and our divorce would have been far messier than it was. My career likely wouldn’t have been as successful either. I gained a lot from my white male privilege and from hiding behind that male façade, and I have to acknowledge that too.

I don’t know where I’m headed with this blog other than to acknowledge these feelings and behaviors and the effect they have on me. I’m sure if I’m experiencing this, other trans women are as well. I’m struggling at times to find a true sense of self-love. Sometimes I struggle to just live in the present moment and be happy and content with who I am right now. It’s improving. More and more I find myself able to just live and be a woman in this world without constantly thinking about everything I have to do to feel comfortable out in public, without obsessing over all the steps I have yet to tackle on my journey. Sure as I tackle each new challenge it becomes easier, but somehow I want to find comfort in the unknown of what the future holds for me. Rather than try to plan each step and make it perfect, just take things as they come and live in the now being authentic to who I am. That is my goal, that is my true journey, and I hope I can fully connect with it.

An Open Letter to Dysphoria, Dysmorphia and All Women

Dear Dysphoria and Dysmorphia,

The two of you are a most fiendish pair. Conspiring and working in conjunction to make me, and the hundreds of thousands of transgender women like me, feel worthless, ashamed and isolated for decades and likely even centuries. You leave a trail of ruin in your path, many times a trail that leads some to end their own lives. Your place in this world is only to tear down and destroy. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Dysphoria, Dysmorphia and All Women”

Hello Dysphoria My Old Nemesis…

Today something happened and I don’t know why. Dysphoria came back in a really strong and acute way, something I haven’t felt for a very long time. I had simply decided to change out of my workout clothes that I had been wearing since I went to the gym this morning. As I was changing my underwear, I removed the tight briefs that I wear when I work out (help with the tucking as I work out in leggings) and was going to put on a much more comfortable pair of everyday panties.  That’s when that demon that so many transgender people know all too well, decide to rear its ugly head.  Welcome back dysphoria, you sinister bastard. Continue reading “Hello Dysphoria My Old Nemesis…”

Judges and Clients and Doctors…Oh My!!

So it’s been a really long time since I wrote my last blog.  I could probably write 10 separate blogs (and I still may) to cover each of these topics in their entirety, but for now I want to give everyone and update the crazy myriad of things that have occurred since my last writing.

Since the end of August, I’ve hit some major milestones.  My legal name change was completed at the end of October.  I elected to petition the court for a confidential change meaning that I would not have to publish an ad in the newspaper announcing my name change prior to the court date. It also meant that the court records and my updated birth certificate would be sealed once the case was closed. However, there is an added burden as well.  In Wisconsin, a confidential change requires you to prove that publishing the ad would likely endanger you. So I went into court that day armed to the gills with evidence of harassment I’ve received, general stories & statistics of transgender violence and even supporting letters from my therapist and doctor. Continue reading “Judges and Clients and Doctors…Oh My!!”

Why Now?

“Why Now?” Shortly after I came out to my family that I would be transitioning, my father took me out to lunch and asked me that single solitary question. On the surface it seems like such a simple question and that it should have an equally simple answer.  But the question and the response to it are so much bigger than they appear on the surface. Continue reading “Why Now?”

Explaining Dysphoria: What is it, How does it feel

I received a couple of messages following my last blog post asking about dysphoria.  One came from a cis-gendered person who wanted to understand more about what transgender people experience.  Two others, trans sisters, expressed a frustration that I share; how do you explain dysphoria to someone who has never experienced it?  Gender identity is such an innate thing, so inherent to our very essence that most people never have to think about it.  It just is.  Unfortunately, herein lies the issue. Continue reading “Explaining Dysphoria: What is it, How does it feel”

A return to the dysphoria

My transition continues to progress, every day I’m living more and more as my authentic self.  However, I’ve not yet reached the date where I plan to go full-time.  There are still aspects of my life (work, other hobbies) where I have not yet transitioned and thus must return to a fully male presentation.  Last night I was thrust into one of those situations.  While painful in the moment, in retrospect it was a really good experience for me that taught me a few lessons about myself. Continue reading “A return to the dysphoria”

Of Strength, Confidence and Courage…..

As a transgender woman progressing through my transition, I often hear comments about how strong or courageous I am. I’ve never been very good at taking compliments but these statements in particular I’ve found difficult to believe. I feel like I’ve been a scared little girl, hiding in shadows all my life. Even as I creep out now, I fear that one wrong step, one ill-timed event, might send me running back to the relative safety of that hiding place once again. A few recent events allowed me to really analyze the realities of the strength, confidence and courage it takes to be successful on this journey we call transition. Continue reading “Of Strength, Confidence and Courage…..”

Passing? Blending? At what cost?

Browse any transgender focused support forum on the web and you’ll see countless threads with various questions and advice about “passing”.  First, let me say, I hate that term as it applies to the transgender person.  “Passing” is, of course, the idea that we can move through public spaces presenting as our authentic selves and be believed to be someone who was born into the gender we are presenting as. The problem is, the word “passing” suggest that we are “passing” ourselves off as something other than what we are.  I believe this term originated this way in the cross dressing community where the goal of the activity is to appear as something they’re not for a limited time before returning to their typical life. Continue reading “Passing? Blending? At what cost?”