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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Haircut

I’ve started cutting my own hair since its so short, and it means I don’t have to go to the hairdresser which stresses me out. I cut my hair yesterday, using my dad’s beard trimmer (not ideal) to do the back and sides and scissors to take an inch or two off the top.

I hadn’t cut my hair in probably about two months so there was a fair amount to take off. It had been starting to bug me in the way that it was getting harder to keep in place, and strange partings were starting to form under hats.

So yesterday I stood in my boxers in my bathroom, ready to attack the mop. I started with scissors to make it easier on the beard trimmer, which although is wide really struggled (sorry dad, but you agreed!). Then the shorter hairs started to rain down on my shoulders.I ended up with it landing so it was sticking to my shoulders and chest with an almost happy trail forming as some managed to reach my stomach. Leaning my head forward to do the back made some of the chest hairs stick to my chin.

It was strange, looking at my reflection. Seeing my body with hair on it made peace with something that I didn’t realise was at war within me- it felt natural and it made sense, instead of feeling like something was off like when I normally see myself.

I finished cutting my hair, pleased with the end result until I remembered that the people at work are going to see it. I feel like it makes me look more masculine now my curls aren’t gently framing my face and are instead shorter and resting on my forehead. I think a lot of my anxiety comes from my previous job where after I cut my hair my boss commented on how it was a ‘boys haircut’ and made me feel bad about it.

Other than that my main issue is how young it makes me look. I look like a prepubescent boy (curse this baby face!) unless I put on a beanie, in which case I look slightly older. I didn’t get ID’d for the first time last night when I was wearing my beanie which I’m glad about- I only wore it to hide the severeness of my haircut as that makes it easier to look like a girl and I wanted to avoid the conversation of ‘that doesn’t look like you’ but as my cousin and sister pointed out later it does well to make me look more my age too.

Its amazing how much your hair can affect your perception of yourself. I love these moments of gender euphoria that I get when I do little things like cut my hair. It makes me more certain that I’m not just faking, which is something I worry about a lot. Yesterday I cut my hair. Today I woke up and I feel real.

Dear Ignorant Member Of My Family

Dear family member,

Last Christmas when you were all talking about how you dress to make your boobs look bigger and I said that I didn’t understand that, that I dress to make them look smaller

Remember how you looked me in the eye and joked about me wrapping bandages around my chest? Remember how we both laughed?

You probably don’t. To you it was just a joke.

I wonder what you’d say if you knew that three months after you made that joke I bought a binder

That I love how comfortable it makes me feel in my own skin.

 

When I told you recently that since I’ve had my hair cut short I feel like myself, that I never liked my long hair anyway

That I now see my face on the screen or in the mirror instead of looking at a stranger

That I no longer cringe at photos of me even if they’re awful

You’re allowed to look surprised or confused, you don’t have to understand

But don’t look at me in disgust

And don’t tell me that not seeing myself in the mirror for the first 20 years of my life is something that I’m making up because “everyone gets that”

Or refuse to listen when I try to explain how this is different, how sometimes I still don’t recognise my reflection but it feels so much more right than it did before.

 

You watched me change from a little girl to a young woman

Will you watch me change into a boy?

Or will you tell me I’m doing it for attention, when you know that I hate having all eyes on me?

I’m not a boy, by the way

Just something similar

My gender is so much more than just pink or blue

So much more than boy or girl

My gender is turquoise and purple, lime green and obsidian

Is made of colours and concepts you wouldn’t even try to understand no matter how hard I tried to explain them to you.

 

Your mind is closed, and with it your heart

And that’s why I’m scared to show you mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance vs Authenticity

 

 

This video appeared in my YouTube subscriptions a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, wanting to write about it but not knowing what to say.

In this video Ashley Wylde makes the distinction between Social and Personal ease- with social ease defined as acceptance and personal ease as authenticity. This difference is something I’d never considered before when thinking about my identity so I thought it was pretty interesting.

For me, social acceptance right now is being seen as female by the people that I know because I am really not ready to come out to anybody yet. But around strangers, I feel more comfortable when I’m seen as male as opposed to a masculine woman. People (moreso strangers than my family) react in really mixed ways if there’s any combination of masculinity and femininity in my presentation, so in order to be accepted I feel like I have to tone down parts of myself and present as one or the other.

Authenticity, for me, is wanting to present myself as masculine. I want to have a flat chest, to have a more square jawline and a deeper voice, to maybe have a bit of facial hair- but I don’t want to give up the ‘feminine’ parts of me. Living authentically would be tweaking my body slightly whilst allowing myself to still enjoy these things.

The balance that Ashley talks about makes sense to me: I sometimes feel like in order to be taken seriously I’m going to have to lose (or at least hide) the parts of me that don’t match up with society’s idea of masculine- my hobbies and even some parts of my personality- which may make my life easier socially but not personally.

This video made some of what I’ve been feeling make more sense to me, so even if this post doesn’t mean anything to anybody else it’s given me a deeper understanding of myself.