Trying Out A New Name

I wrote just over a month ago about my anxieties about going away. It’s now less than a week until I actually go which is really exciting. I’m pumped to see my friends.

I got a message a few weeks ago from one of the friends I’m going with asking what name and pronouns I’d like to use on the trip, and saying that they’re going to ask to go by a different name and they or he pronouns. I replied with the fact that I’ve also been thinking about it a lot but still had no idea.

A week later they sent a message to the group chat saying that they’ve been going by their new name and pronouns at work and would like us to use them as well. I retreated into myself and spent the morning curled up under my duvet staring at the wall. It wasn’t that I was scared of my friends’ reactions, they responded great, it was that now I felt like I’d be the copycat, and felt pressured to make a decision on whether I actually wanted to go by a different name. I’d had a mental deadline of the end of February to decide and ask, to allow some time for people to adjust before I actually saw them in person, but the message prompted me to do some intense thinking.

I thought about how in my head I’ve been referring to myself as Jasper for a few months. How I feel so good when I look masculine. How my family using my name in public places makes me want to disappear. But how being seen as anything other than female feels like an AU version of me. How the thought of people calling me Jasper, or he, would make me feel like I’m faking.

It was a weird situation.

I voiced some of my doubts to my friend who said that just knowing who I’m not is a great start. That some AUs are better than the original. That its fine to not know.

3 days of deliberation later I decided to go ahead. To ask for them to try out this new name and pronouns, but just in our little group to see how I feel about them. I typed the message, changed it slightly, read through it, and hovered over the send button. But I couldn’t bring myself to press send, to say this seemingly irreversible thing. I had so much anxiety. In the end I hit send and turned my phone off until the next morning when I felt able to deal with the situation.

It’s been a couple of weeks. I’m feeling good. And knowing that there’s someone else in our group in a similar position in gendered situations makes me feel so much better.

 

 

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Dog People, Cat People, Nonbinary People (AKA The Draft For My Facebook Coming Out)

If you ask whether someone is a Dog Person or a Cat Person, most people don’t have to think twice. They’ll immediately reply with which pet they prefer, and quite often the reasons for their affections.

Occasionally you’ll come across a person who struggles to answer the question- they love cats and dogs equally, or don’t like either. Sometimes you’ll find someone who changed from being a Dog Person to a Cat Person, or vice versa.

When I was younger I thought of myself as a Cat Person, but as I grew up I started to dislike the idea of being a Cat Person and the stereotypes that came with it. Right now I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards being a Dog Person.

But why do people get so protective of what type of pet is the best? Why can you only be one? The truth is that some people don’t fit comfortably in either group.

I’m one of them.

The above could easily be about something different if certain words were changed. And it is. Its about gender.

This post is me saying that I don’t feel like I fit into the box marked Girl or the box marked Boy, but Boy feels closer. Jasper feels more like my name than Amber ever has.

Go ahead and tell me I don’t exist, tell me its just a phase. But let me ask you- would your reaction be the same if this was me saying that I feel like more of a Dog Person than a Cat Person now?

Travelling

I’m going to the other side of the world in 6 weeks.

I’m excited.

I’m also scared.

I’ll get to see some of my friends that I haven’t seen since July, get to explore Australia’s East coast and New Zealand, get to make some fantastic memories.

The trip’s going to be great, we’ve planned to do some really cool stuff without spending a ton of cash. We’re going to go into the Daintree Rainforest, see the Great Barrier Reef up close, climb glaciers in New Zealand. I’m so excited for it all. For my birthday I got a polaroid camera and I’m planning to take a picture (or more!) every day of the trip. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with them all when I get home, I’ll probably make a scrapbook. Even if I do nothing with them, it’ll be a cool project to work on.

The photography aspect of the trip is something I’m really looking forward to. I don’t have a great camera, just a 5 year old point-and-shoot but it can take some pretty decent photos. My phone camera’s also not half-bad. I love taking photos, I just don’t often go out and take them.

We’ve booked some of the places we’ll be staying and its a combination of budget hotels and youth hostels. The hotels are fine, the hostels are making me nervous. I’m scared of gendered situations because whether I pass or not is really hit and miss. The rooms are all mixed, so that will be less scary than entering a girls dorm but the thought of interacting with strangers…I don’t know whether to introduce myself as my birth name or not.

I’m probably going to end up using public bathrooms a lot too, seeing as we’ll be outside for most of the day. At least I’m with friends, so that until I judge which bathroom seems safest for me to use I can go with somebody into the womens to (hopefully) reduce the hostile looks. Unless I can find a gender-neutral bathroom, or a disabled one (although I hate doing that).

Seeing as I’ll be gone for almost exactly two months I’m half considering coming out to my family before I go or just after I’ve gone, to let them process it before they have to see me again. I’m also thinking about asking my friends to use my new name on our trip- asking them a few weeks beforehand so they can get used to it before having to use it in person (they all know I’m questioning my gender and are accepting of it).

I’m going to the other side of the world in 6 weeks.

I’m excited.

I’m also scared.

 

Looking Around The Table

The holiday season is a time for family get-togethers. Christmas day I spent with my mum’s side of the family, Boxing day with my dad’s side, and last Saturday with family friends. They’ve been friends with my parents since they were at school and I’ve grown up with their son as a ‘cousin’, so they feel like family. At all of these gatherings I found myself looking around the table and doing  a mental count of family members I’m likely to lose if I were to tell them I’m not a girl.

There were certain moments that stuck out for both good and bad reasons on all evenings.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day I wore a t-shirt with a button-up over it. The t-shirt was patterned heavily and disguised my binder pretty well. After our meal, I was in the kitchen getting a drink with my cousin when she turned to me and asked quietly “Are you wearing a binder?”. I took a long drink, steadied myself. “Why?” I asked back. “Just wondering” she replied, “so, why do you wear it? Do you just want to look more androgynous?” I told her that I don’t know, but it makes me feel comfortable and I’m figuring stuff out. That I feel like I’m old because other people know when they’re a kid and I didn’t. That I feel like I’m faking my gender for attention. There was a pause.

“I don’t think you’re faking”

I hugged her.

“You do whatever makes you feel comfortable. And if you ever want to use a different name, just say. I don’t care, you’re still the same person”

*****

My dad commented on the size of my boots, and asked if they were men’s. When I said yes he laughed, joked that “She wears men’s shoes as well as men’s clothes”.

I couldn’t help but think that if I was a boy wearing dresses he’d be far less accepting.

*****

My uncle said that it was funny, you could see the divide in the room with the presents. All the women got toiletries, all the men got alcohol and chocolate. I gestured to my pile and nudged him. “I’ve got both” I said. “Not many bath things in there though” he replied. He was right, the majority of my gifts weren’t pink or girly at all. That made me happy.

I’m pretty sure that my cousin and her mum would be fine with me. My sister too. My grandparents and dad…not so much. My other aunt I’m unsure on.

Boxing Day

We played the game where you have a post-it note on your forehead and have to guess the person after dinner (I can’t remember its name). Because there were so many of us (I think there were 16 people) it was hard to remember the questions you’d asked when it got back around to you. There were several instances of people forgetting the answers to the questions and thinking that their person was the opposite sex, which led to comments “not unless she’s just come out of hospital” and “not the last I heard”. It made me uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant in an offensive way.

*****

My dad asked my great-aunt about her uncle and why he’s so different to the rest of us in terms of the way he speaks and how cultured he is. She was telling us his story and said that he told her years ago “I’m not gay, you know”.

“Not that it matters at all. A person’s a person and it doesn’t matter who you love as long as you’re happy”. I love her so much.

This side of the family I found hard to predict, although I’m 90% sure they’d all be completely accepting (but would probably make jokes because that’s the kind of banter that occurs when we all get together).

Saturday

I haven’t had a job in almost a month now so I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my Etsy. When my aunt asked what kind of things I make and I showed her, she pointed at the trans flag and made a comment along the lines of “You’ll do well if you can get into that market. It’s a big thing in America” which made my skin crawl. I don’t think she meant it to be hurtful, but to me it just sounded like she was calling it a trend. She was telling me about how she watches I Am Jazz and that it makes her so happy that such a young child is able to transition and be happy…but then she came out with

“You can’t tell she was born male. She has a friend though that started to transition when they were older so you can tell that he was”

Yikes. Again, its coming from a place of ignorance, not hate.

My cousin’s friend has only had girlfriends but is bisexual, so the family were saying how its him looking for attention. My cousin stood up for him and said that he believes him which the adults sneered at slightly. Then I said that I’ve never had any relationship and asked what that makes me. They then conceded that history doesn’t mean anything (though I was internally laughing because my history totally represents my orientation).

Looking around this table I saw no split (other than my dad). They’re all accepting of people in conversation so I hope that would hold up to real situations. I get the impression that they wouldn’t be openly judgemental at least.

 

Overall my Christmas was pretty good and I had a lovely time seeing family that I don’t often see throughout the year. I don’t know how accurate my read of my family is, but I like to think that I’d keep the majority of them if I decide to come out.

Connecting With Words

I don’t know if there’s a word for the feeling you get when you hear a word for the first time and for some reason it feels like home. Something that you connect with instantly. I’ve experienced this feeling a handful of times but often initially rejected the word that speaks to me.

The first time I was probably about 8, sat in the school hall for assembly. The headteacher (or whoever was talking) was reading a poem or story or something and mentioned the mythical Griffin. The description that followed captured my heart and to this day if someone asks me for my favourite mythical creature my instant reply is that of the half-eagle half-lion. I can still picture the initial mental image that I had of the beast flying, and the joy that it gave me. It’s a strange example, but its the first time that a word really resonated with me and claimed a place in my heart.

Another time was coming across the word ‘asexual’ on tumblr. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, only that I became aware of the concept and immediately started reading more and questioning whether this was me. I rejected the label for a good few months because it just didn’t feel like I was feeling anything different to anyone else. I find it easy to talk yourself out of asexuality, easy to dismiss yourself.

The same denial process happened when I came across the word ‘transmasculine’. It was a similar situation, coming across the term along with the definition and how transmasculine is different to transman. Instantly I was intrigued. I felt like this was something I wanted to know more about, so I did some reading before deciding it wasn’t me. The concept stayed with me though for almost a year as I started to become more and more uncomfortable with my assigned gender, until I revisited it and it felt like a warm hug.Looking back its strange to me that I didn’t take the label right away, but its a process and I think the fact that my labels spoke to me long before I incorporated them into my identity says a lot.

I feel like there’s probably a word out there, maybe not in English but in some other language for the concept of connecting with a word instantly. And thats why labels are important.

New Boots

I’ve wanted a pair of military-style boots for a while since I only ever wear trainers and a pair of shoes that are (slightly) more formal would be handy.

In an online sale, a pair I’d been admiring was half price: £29.99 instead of £59.99! I jumped at the chance and ordered them, and spent the 4 days waiting for them to arrive like a kid waiting for Christmas. They arrived today and they’re absolutely perfect, everything I hoped they would be (I mean the lining on one is slightly damaged meaning that the spongy filling is poking out a little bit, but its not going to spread).

I also ordered a few bits for myself while I was doing Christmas shopping at an online store that sells branded items for a fraction of the price. Riding the high of my boots I tried on the t-shirts. Two fitted perfectly, one was tight around the hips. Strike 1. Moment of disappointment that quickly passed because this happens all the time when you try on mens clothes.

The pair of board shorts fitted perfectly and did an excellent job of covering the curves but as I was looking at my reflection I got hit by how my face looked. It was not the right face. Strike 2. I wanted to cry, to stare at the face until it changed to how it should look. Breathe. Collect yourself. Tell yourself its just because you messed up your hair under that hat.

The button up looked great, especially tucked into my jeans (otherwise that too was tight around my hips), but that meant that my butt was more visible- I tend to wear a t-shirt or something that hangs to at least partly cover the curve. Strike 3, you’re out. Sit on the floor with your head between your knees.

The jumper I got is great. I’m wearing that and the boots as I sit here with a mug of hot chocolate that is probably 50% mini marshmallow. Someone said in a YouTube video that once you accept that you’re trans/decide you want hormones/surgery the waiting really begins (I can’t remember who). I didn’t realise how accurate that was. I guess now I’ve come out to myself though, so everything’s a bit different.

The problem is that I don’t know if I want to take hormones, its a big step that I’m not ready for. But I don’t want to live like this. And I know that I’d be so much happier with a more ‘masculine’ figure. With facial hair. With a deeper voice. But I’m scared.

At least I have the boots though. They’re great and I feel so powerful and confident when I put them on. It’s the little things.

 

Do I Want Surgery?

Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is my family and how they may react if I came out. Also I’ve been thinking about jobs- my current contract runs out soon and I’m going to have to find something else. It’s got me thinking that I’d probably actually prefer to be passing as male before using male pronouns, at least to strangers. I feel like my family would take me more seriously too. In addition,  I got emailed a link to a guide to sexual reassignment surgery by junomedical a few weeks ago.

This led to me sitting down and really contemplating what I want for me, and what I want for ease of acceptance (which I talked about in this post). The guide was useful in that in broke down all possible procedures that are available in a concise bullet pointed list, which a) opened my eyes to procedures I didn’t know existed and b) gave short but effective definitions for things I was aware of but had never looked up the details of the procedure as it wasn’t something that I felt I wanted. If nothing else its a good starting point for anyone who would like more information on either FTM or MTF procedures.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I will probably consider starting HRT at some point in the future; the fat redistribution is something that I would really like (I’ve never liked having a butt or narrow waist), and facial hair would be pretty neat. Actually, just a more masculine face would be great. I’d like to like my voice for once. But it’s not something that I feel is right for me right now.

With regards to top surgery, I’m undecided. I’d like a flat chest, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about the loss of a part of my body. I don’t know that I’d be happier with scars than a slight chest. I think this is largely due to the fact that with regards to my chest I experience gender euphoria much more often than gender dysphoria, so its not at the forefront of my mind unless I wear my binder and see myself, if that makes sense?  Bottom surgery is, at the moment, not something I can see myself being interested in. Genitals freak me out and I tend to ignore them as much as possible- which would be quite  a lot harder with external anatomy!

If I decide to have surgery, I’m pretty sure I’d save up and go privately- I’d feel bad for using the NHS. The junomedical guide I was sent showed the variation in cost in different countries- I knew that American healthcare was expensive but the bar chart was a shock! I think personally I’d stay in the UK so that I’d be close to home, but for other people looking abroad may be the better option.

Right now to try and separate what I want from what would make my life easier I’m asking myself what would I want to look like if I was stranded on an island and nobody was ever going to see me again. I think I’d like complete androgyny. If I could customise myself like a video game character I’d have a flat chest and a bit of facial hair. A youthful male face. Based on that hormones are at the top of my list of possible steps, followed by top surgery, and bottom surgery being out of the question. But that means I’ll have to come out to the people I know, and I’m really not ready for that.