Monday, April 27, 2015

4-27-2015 Entry: My Reponse to Bruce Jenner's Interview


This past Friday marked my 9th week on estrogen, which has been an interesting journey to say the least. I have noticed increasing changes in the shape of my face, in the growth and development of my breasts, changes in my behavior, in the way I think, in the way I process the world around me, and in the way I feel things emotionally. I have felt my skin become smoother and my hair growth change, slow down, or stop altogether. I have been becoming, systematically week by week, increasingly female. I’ve watched as strangers around me begin to have different reactions to me and start to give me that, “is that a man or a woman?” look with increased frequency. I have also seen the scowling looks and judgmental expressions of strangers who see me breaking gender norms in simple ways like unashamedly sporting my colored toenails and/or fingernails in public, wearing a headband intended for females at the store, or, god forbid, wearing makeup without shame or fear. I have experienced a great many things since I began my journey into the dark and widely unsearched realm of gender transition some 7 months ago.

It was with all of those experiences that I went into watching the ABC interview with Bruce Jenner with a reluctant sense of excitement. I, having seen the effects of female hormones on a person, both personally and through my exposure to other transwomen, already knew without a doubt that Bruce Jenner was going to announce his transition (as an FYI, I’m keeping with the chosen pronouns of the interview). More than just seeing physical indicators, I saw something in the way he carried himself, in the way he’d allowed his hair to grow out, in the way he wore earrings, and in the way his eyes told a much deeper and sadder story than even the interview would reveal. I knew the sadness in his eyes because it is a sadness that so many of the transgender community experience and understand all too well. It is the sadness that comes from years of knowing that what’s on the outside is wrong, painful, and sometimes downright suffocating. It is the sadness that comes from having to live a double life, of having to ashamedly hide your true self from the world and those closest to you because they cannot truly understand. It was the sadness of never getting to just be the person you’ve always known you were on the inside because of the perspectives and expectations of others. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Bruce was going to tell the world, once and for all, that he was really a she, and had been all along.

As I watched him try to stifle the tears and the fear of finally outing himself, I felt a deep sense of resonance with him. I knew all too well how difficult it was to finally open the door to that closet and say goodbye to it forever. I know from personal experience that his closet was probably a safe home, a kind home, but always too small of a home to truly live or breath freely in. I felt strong emotions pass through me, therefore, as a timid, fearful, and worried Bruce Jenner finally accepted that it was time to forever leave that all too familiar closet and admitted for all the world to see that he was a woman, and had always been one. Both my wife and I cried tears of sadness and joy for him as he did this, and those tears would not be the last as we watched the 2 hour special.

Through the course of the interview I felt ups and downs as Diane Sawyer traveled into Bruce’s past with him and analyzed it piece by piece. I felt so many similarities to my own story, and found so many commonalities of experiences with Bruce that it was almost difficult to watch at times. I remember the first time I snuck into my mom’s closet and put on some of her clothes, just like he did. I remember feeling those powerful and yet, deeply confusing emotions that accompanied the experience. I remember not really understanding why I was doing it but knowing deep down that I truly wanted to do it. I recall going to such great lengths to conceal my cross dressing proclivities that I, like Bruce, would even specifically remember where the clothes had been hanging so that I could put them back exactly as they were before. I also recall experiencing, and even still experience to this day, a tendency to be shy and fearful of social interactions because I didn’t/don’t truly fit in with everyone else. The list of commonalities goes on and on, too, and were I ever given the opportunity to meet Bruce Jenner in real life, I expect we would share a great many tragic stories of a repressed gender identity and would possibly both feel a bit less alone in the world. I don’t expect that that shall ever happen as he is a famous (and reclusive) TV/sports personality and I am but a lowly writer.

Regardless of the nearly impossible odds of us ever meeting in real life, I feel as though I know Bruce Jenner in ways that I never expected, and while I do not mean for this to sound pretentious, I believe that any transwoman who watched that interview knows Bruce on a deeper level than any of the other viewers. His plight, while different in specifics, timing, and location, was a rather typical experience for a transwoman born in his era. Many of his trials and tribulations have been experience by a great many transgender individuals over the years and I am deeply grateful for his willingness to so openly talk about his repressed gender identity. I am grateful that while ABC and Diane Sawyer seemed to operate on a transgender 101 level in their discussion of transgender topics, their efforts were well executed. I am thankful that they made the point, again and again, to explain that sexuality is separate from gender identity because that is one of the biggest misperceptions that cisgender people make. More than that, however, I appreciated that they expanded the discussion of transgender topics to encompass a greater spectrum of understanding and experience than just Bruce Jenner’s life and story. I believe they could have done a great deal more on that front than they did, but am thankful that they made the effort that they did. All was not roses and rainbows, however.

There were many portions of the interview that seemed questionable, and other portions that I felt detracted from the overall experience by upholding common cisgender assumptions about being transgender. While post-filming production made a strong point to discuss the difference between sexuality and gender identity, the initial interview by Diane Sawyer was painfully reminiscent of common cisgender misperceptions. She asked, I believe, no less than three separate times about his sexuality and seemed genuinely confused by his assertion that he was attracted to women. It was almost as if she went into the interview believing that all transwomen were attracted to men, and it wasn’t until they’d finished filming and began post-filming production and voice overs that she bothered to research into the subject. Why they felt it was important to keep showing her questions about his sexuality (even when they made voice over remarks about sexuality/gender identity differences) is beyond me, but I couldn’t help but feel that this just furthered the stereotype and common misperception that transwomen are always attracted to men and that it is appropriate to so blatantly ask about a person’s sexuality.

While I understand that this was an interview and that Bruce Jenner opened the door for prying questions, I am worried that some of the content of Diane’s questions have bolstered the commonly held misperception that it is okay to ask deeply personal questions of a trans person simply because they are transgender. It is a very common result of cisgender privilege (whether it is known or not) that being transgender often means you have no right to privacy and no right to become upset when asked deeply personal or prying questions. I don’t make a practice of dubiously questioning each one of my cisgender friends/coworkers about their sexual preferences simply because they are cisgender and I feel entitled to know. Can you imagine the reactions I’d get if I did that? I probably wouldn’t make many friends, would I? The point I’m trying to make is that while it is okay to ask questions when the answerer has given permission to discuss such sensitive and personal subjects, that doesn’t mean that every transgender person you meet is going to want to discuss who they want to sleep with, let alone the dysphoric experiences they’ve had over the span of their life. Many of them probably don’t want to talk about their gender identity at all and just wish people would get over it already. It’s important to remember that transgender individuals are not strange specimens to be examined under the microscope of cisgender privilege, and I sincerely hope Diane’s interview doesn’t give the impression that that behavior is okay or acceptable unless otherwise stated by the individual in question. When in doubt, ask if it is okay to ask about it before you kick down the door of social graces and demand to know if we like to play with penises, vaginas, or both.

The final part that got under my skin a bit was the question about whether or not Bruce was doing this so that they could promote viewership of their reality show. This question got under my skin for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the disrespect that was shown to a person in a deeply vulnerable position. While I can understand the worry that the interview itself was offered for the sake of publicity, the idea that a person would undertake the painful, difficult, and commonly misunderstood process of gender transition for publicity reasons is just ludicrous. The question bordered on wildly inappropriate and was disgracefully tactless given the vulnerability that Bruce was showing with his willingness to discuss something so deeply personal and painful. Dennis Rodman wore a dress for publicity sake; notice, however, that he didn’t spend 18 months on female hormones (which wasn’t the first time in Bruce’s case) and undergo medical procedures to feminize the body. Transition isn’t a publicity con and the fact that Diane felt pressure to even ask such a question just goes to show how desperately we need proper mass education on transgender issues.

Overall, however, I believe the interview will do a great service to raising awareness of the transgender plight and will only further the trans revolution’s cause. Millions of people who have likely never thought about trans issues will now be discussing and thinking about them this week as they return to work and gather around the water cooler (so-to-speak). That is a huge step in the right direction, but we have to keep the momentum going. We have to keep pressuring the television networks to continue offering up information about transgender issues. We need to keep spreading awareness of the oppressive environment our trans children face as they enter into school, work, puberty and adulthood. We need to keep mourning our lost trans youth who turn to suicide rather than face the daunting task of living in such a hostile world. We need to publicly stand up to the injustices trans people all around the world face, not the least of which are the political injustices of transphobic laws and bills. In the U.S. we need to plead with our lawmakers to make gender identity a protected class so no one who is trans will have to choose between living as their true selves and holding a job, or having a home. We need to pressure the health system and the insurance companies to provide more comprehensive health coverage and education for the millions of trans people all around the world.

Let’s take Bruce’s widely watched coming out interview and use it to fuel the fires of change we are all longing for. Let’s make sure he fulfills his stated desire to help others like him by openly confronting the transphobia we have running rampant in our society through education and visibility. Let’s break down the walls of gender norms that have boxed so many of us into expectations and roles that don’t fit us by encouraging our children to pursue their dreams, regardless of their sex. Let’s stand up to fear by giving love, respect, and acceptance to those who have a non-conforming gender identity. Let’s conquer oppression by lifting each other up and coming to the aid of those in need. Last of all, let us never forget all those trans people who’ve departed this world because of suicide and transphobic murder, so that their deaths will never be in vain as we work to make tomorrow a better place than yesterday. Thank you, Bruce, for your courage and your example. I hope you will continue to stand proudly as the woman that you are, so that others may be brave enough to follow in your example.

-Emma

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

4-22-2015 Entry: Shopping Spree!!!

Hello my precious and adored readers! I am writing today because I have had a fabulous week so far and really want to share it with everyone. Now, I might have mentioned this previously but during my session with my therapist last week she essentially gave me some homework to complete before our next session. Sadly that session probably won’t be until next week, as she called today’s session off do to feeling ill, but regardless I am happy to say I’ve completed her homework, and I believe I’ve done so with flying colors. What was this homework?

Well, she essentially told me that she wanted me to try to spend more time out in the world presenting as Emma instead of Robert. One of the specific things she mentioned was that she wanted me to go to Torrid (essentially the big and tall of the women’s clothing stores) and at the very least just shop around for clothes. She said I didn’t have to buy anything, but she just wanted me to at least go, look and maybe even try some stuff on. Well, my lovelies, I did even better than that! I bought not one, but essentially three outfits from Torrid on Sunday!!! I got two skirts and two tops, so with mix/match possibilities I have a total of three different outfits (one of the tops would be truly horrific with one of the skirts, otherwise it would be four outfits, but I digress).

Not only was the experience of actually obtaining women’s clothing exciting and fun, but the process of shopping was awesome! This is how it went down:

 My wife and I both went to the store Sunday evening, and upon walking in we were immediately greeted by one of the two employees working. The store was completely deserted because it was close to closing time (which we were unaware of, actually), so my wife and I were the only customers. The girl who greeted us was a younger woman, probably around 21, and she had bright teal/blue hair, which I though was a good sign. As she approached she asked if there was anything we were looking for. As she got closer to us she started to give my wife a rather worried look and was likely thinking that there would be no clothes that would actually fit her skinny ass (okay, I’ll admit that I’m a bit jealous that she’s already at her goal weight and I still have like 38 pounds to go, but anyways…). As this look of worry spread across her face and I could tell she was about to warn my wife about their clothing’s plus-size nature, I decided to be brave and said, “Actually, we are looking for clothes for me.”

You should have seen the shocked look this teal-haired twenty-something gave me after my bold declaration that I was the one who was shopping. I just have to laugh as I write about the experience because I really don’t think she was at all prepared for an assumed-to-be-male person to so boldly declare their intentions to cross dress. She, however, recovered quickly and stammered, “Oh, okay, sure! Did you have anything in particular in mind, or were you just wanting to look around?”
I told her I just wanted to look around because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. She said okay, gave the typical, “let us know if you have any questions” line that every sales person ever has said a thousand times (I know I did when I worked at best buy), and quickly retreated back to the counter where she’d been toiling away a moment earlier. The second sales clerk was at the counter too and although I didn’t hear the conversation that ensued, I can only assume they were discussing the fact that the alleged male customer who’d just walked in with a female companion was the person who was looking for clothes. I tried to ignore what was being said and started browsing through some of the tops with my wife’s assistance. I found one or two items I was interested in before I was introduced to sales clerk number 2.

Whatever was said in the aforementioned hushed conversation seemed to prompt the second clerk to jump into excited action. She was a similar aged woman who was quite tall with long brown hair tied up in a knot and was rather… robust. I suspect that she is one who probably benefits quite a bit from her store discount, if I had to guess, and just so we are clear, I’m not saying that in a catty or shaming way, I know all too well what it’s like to be the large person of the group, I simply want you to get an accurate picture of who I was dealing with. Instead of taking the more timid and slightly caught-off-guard approach to interacting with me, she was eager to set me up with some great deals.
She approached after a few moments of me looking around and excitedly asked if she could help me. Her demeanor was so friendly and eager to be of assistance that I caved and admitted that I had no idea what I was looking for as this was my first visit there (not completely true, the infamous Halloween costume that had me mistaken for a female several times was purchased at Torrid, but she didn’t need to know that).

She quickly pointed me to the clearance section where they had a special going on that if you bought one item at a discounted rate, you got the second one half off (or something similar, I forget now). From there she started asking me what kinds of things I thought I’d be interested in trying on, and I suggested skirts (which is what I really wanted) and boy did she go to town helping me. After that we picked out a few interesting pieces and she happily escorted me to the nearest dressing stall and opened it up for me. As I was about to close the door she asked me what my name was (I’m guessing for anti-theft purposes) and I decided to just tell her my true name, Emma. She smiled knowingly and told me to let her know how everything fit and that she would be happy to grab a different size if needed.

I closed the door, feeling quite happy that I was being treated with such kindness and without any form of visible judgment, and began to try on the items I’d picked out. Long story short, I tried on about a dozen tops and four or five skirts/dresses until I’d narrowed my selection down to the four items I eventually bought. The second clerk was super kind and helpful as I looked for different sizes in some of the items I liked and even helped me check out. When I paid she offered me the obligatory sales pitch to join Torrid’s rewards program but actually seemed to believe I’d really want to come back to buy more clothes. I can’t explain it, and perhaps it is silly, but it felt welcoming to me that she seemed so willing to have me be a return customer. She could just have easily thought I was strange or weird and not offered me anything with the hopes that I wouldn’t return, but that’s not how her demeanor was at all. She was even kind enough to ask me if I wanted my name to be Emma on the membership (yes I signed up, because let’s face it, I’m definitely going to go back and buy big-lady clothes. HRT won’t cure me of my 6’1” height or broad shoulders/chest). I make that remark because it was obvious that she knew, or at least suspected, that I was an early transition transwoman.
The great thing about the experience was that even though the first clerk had a caught-off-guard reaction to me wanting to buy women’s clothes at first, by the end of the interaction she was just as excited for my purchase and accepting of me as Emma as the second clerk (she was at the desk when I checked out). Needless to say I left the store with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. At long fucking last, I had women’s clothes, and they weren’t for a costume; they were mine, all mine, meant and intended to be worn out in public; not just on Halloween. (don’t worry, there will be pictures soon enough, after some much needed hair removal efforts… damn you back hair! You are a blight upon my body that must be purged!!)

Oh, but wait, the fun doesn’t stop there. Once I got home I realized I had some great outfits but I didn’t have any shoes to wear with them. I wasn’t about to rock the tennies + skirt combo, and as much as I love my adidas soccer slides, they don’t really scream high fashion. So, Monday was spent scouring the internet for shoes large enough to fit my ski feet (seriously, I’m a size 15/16 in women’s shoes) that weren’t hideous, super painful looking, or so-called unisex, which is really a misnomer because unisex shoes are just slightly less boyish guy shoes IMHO. The search was long, and not-so-surprisingly difficult, but I was victorious… at least I hope I was. I waded through the oodles of dominatrix pornstar boots (and there were about a million), clear heeled pumps, and ordered a lovely pair of low heeled black shoes that will hopefully ease me into the heel-wearing realm of ankle-breaking-peril. They might be too small, so we will have to wait to see if I was truly victorious or not. (you can see them here: http://www.shoebuy.com/fabulicious-belle-309/679979/1392217?cm_mmc=googleproductads_pla-_-none-_-none-_-none)

I actually just checked the shipping and they have been sent, so I will have them by the end of next week, but hopefully sooner than that. Again, pictures will be posted, fear not my darlings.
So, new outfits… Check! New shoes to match the outfits… Check! What’s missing? Well, my darlings, the answer to that question leads me to the A+ section of my therapist assigned homework completion. What was missing from this shopping spree and from my life generally was a purse!! I have always, always, always, ALWAYS, wished I could wear a purse around. I even, as a teenager, fell in a deep denial-based love with one those old school mini backpack purses that were so popular with young women in the late 90’s/early 2000’s a la: http://tenbags.com/images/purse/mini-backpack-purse.jpg (oh yes! Just imagine teenage Robert, rocking out his mini backpack swearing to everyone that it’s not a purse while his mother and father are like DAFUQ is wrong with my child??)
So, my lovelies, today Emma put on her brave pants again and strolled as plain as day into Macy’s purse section to find the perfect bag. I won’t lie. I got eyed up and down by the other women who were looking for purses, and they were not welcoming looks. They were definitely, “what the hell are you doing in my purse section, you weirdo!” looks, and were not limited to the other shoppers either. The lady working that section of the store, I swear to god, was convinced I was either lost or about to shoplift a purse, because she was hovering around me like a fly on dog poop. She rather brusquely asked me if I needed help finding anything (AKA a more gender appropriate section of the store) but seemed to chill out a little when I smiled nicely and told her I was just looking for the moment.
I eventually found a lovely purse that was not only exactly what I was envisioning when I went into Macy’s but was even 40% off!! Add to that the fact that I was carrying a $50 gift card on my person and you will be impressed (I hope) to know that I managed to purchase a $100 purse for a meager, $13! You should have seen the look on the clerk’s face too when I walked up to buy the bag. I suspect she just figured it was a gift for someone else, but I refused to be shamed by her or any of the other scowling women I encountered, because I belonged there just as much as they did, even if they couldn’t see it.

So, my lovely readers, your self-proclaimed transwoman extraordinaire Emma now has three gender appropriate outfits, will soon have a pair of darling shoes, and her very own denial-free purse! But more than just the clothes, shoes, and purse, she has found a deeper degree of confidence in who she is. It’s not easy to stand up tall in the purse section and boldly go where no man generally wants to go, nor was it any small task to openly admit to a complete stranger that I was in the market for plus-size women’s clothing, but all of that was necessary for my progress to becoming fulltime Emma. The cherry on the confidence milkshake was that I even told my mother about my shopping endeavors. I felt inclined to spare her the awkwardness initially but decided it would be better for her in the long run if it wasn’t kept a secret. There is nothing to be ashamed about, and I refuse to keep hiding my female gender or desires from her like I did for so many years.

I wish I could say she was excited for me, or enthused with me about the successful adventures, but she wasn’t and didn’t. If anything she was taken aback by the news and didn’t really know how to react or what to say, which was painfully awkward. I wish she could overcome whatever resistances she is harboring to this transition, but I suppose I must still wait for that day to come.

Well, that is all I have for this post. Thanks for stopping by, and remember, if you are an ally or trans, or even confused about your gender, please feel free to email me any time at rtedwins@gmail.com. I’m finally starting to have some time to check that email again and always enjoy hearing from my readers for any reason. Whether it’s a question, an idea, as a person to vent to/commiserate with, or best of all loving fanfare, my door is always open. (haters need not email because it will just be mocked and/or ignored before being deleted).

Much love to all of you!

-Emma

Friday, April 17, 2015

4-17-2015 Picture Entry: 8 weeks on HRT

Okay, the long awaited pictures are here. I apologize for my somewhat disheveled appearance, what with my rosacea acting up and me wearing a drab white T-shirt, but I wanted to take pictures last night since I won't have an opportunity to do it today (the actual 8 week anniversary of HRT). I thought about putting on a different, more appealing shirt but was afraid doing so would ruin what was mostly a decent hair situation. (I'm such a girl, aren't I? refusing to change for fear of how it will effect my hair) I would have put on makeup to cover my permanently rosy cheeks, but my makeup is still packed away.







The drastic emotional effects of going onto a higher dosage of HRT have subsided somewhat. I have been a bit more in control of my emotions than at previous times during the transition but my mental health has deteriorated somewhat over the last few weeks. Even my therapist has noticed the change and even went so far as to suggest I consider going onto anti-depressants for awhile. I haven't decided if that is something I'm going to do or not, as I have a deeply ingrained distrust for big pharma and their mental health drugs. I will keep that suggestion in my back pocket for the time being and may talk to my doctor about it when I go back for my 3 month check up.


As for physical changes, not much has really changed in the last few weeks, if I'm honest. I can tell that breast development has gone into high gear since doubling my estrogen intake as the entire area is generally sore and I often experience aches and random shooting pains. Since I am already overweight, I had a bit of a man-boob situation going on, so it's difficult to tell if they have increased in size or not. I believe they have, at the very least, stopped shrinking as I have continued to lose weight.


I do believe my face has started to change ever so slightly to a more feminine fat distribution pattern, although I think there is a long ways to go. Every story I read about HRT described a softening of the skin, and I honestly can't say if my skin is softer or not. I never really had very course skin as it was, so noticing a difference has been difficult. I am disappointed to say, however, that my body hair has not really changed much. I'm not covered in fur jacket of hair like some men, but I do have a significant amount of dark chest/stomach hair and some shoulder/back hair. I've read that as other MtF's have gone through HRT that their body hair thinned and eventually fell out, being replaced with finer blonde hair (like most female bodies would typically grow), but I have yet to experience that. I think that some of my chest/stomach hair might have thinned a bit, but not enough to even pretend like I wouldn't have take significant measures to remove it before I could wear anything too revealing (V neck shirt/blouse, dress, ect.).


Well, that's all I have. Hopefully my pictures aren't too scary looking. I'll try to post again in a week or two.
-Emma



Thursday, April 16, 2015

4-16-2015 Entry: Moving in and Meeting the Neighbors


Hello my dear and beloved readers, I have returned! Well, I’ve returned as much as life is currently permitting me to. My docket at work is still a bloody nightmare and although the moving has been completed, the unpacking is still far from finished. Nothing quite like living in a half unpacked house for a few days. I wish it was as easy as just unpacking the remaining boxes and bags of crap we have sitting in our living room, but unfortunately we have to buy some additional furniture to accommodate what’s left (book cases, dressers, and armoires). Overall, however, the move was a success and living in our new house has been exciting.

Despite the excitement, It’s taking some getting used to; what with the extra space but limited closet situation, the longer commute to work, a dog who is so terrified of the backyard that she refuses to poop, a cat who doesn’t understand why she’s been suddenly given an entire upstairs to run around in instead of a shelf and bookcase in the living room like before, leaking faucets, and a broken ice maker in the fridge. Needless to say we overcame one stress (buying a house) only to take on a whole new stress (owning a house), and it’s taking some adjustment.

Part of that adjustment is meeting neighbors who are, more or less, permanent additions to your life. Unlike apartment living where your neighbors come and go every few months and generally stay inside their unit without much opportunity for socialization, house neighbors are very interested in meeting you, learning your names/professions, and telling you about the neighborhood. This generally wouldn’t be a problem, except I’m somewhat forced to introduce myself as Robert to them instead of Emma, which creates a problematic dynamic down the road. When I start dressing, looking, and presenting more and more like a female, these neighbors who know me as Robert are going to become quite confused. If we were in the apartment still, it wouldn’t really matter much because those neighbors would likely be gone within a year or so, or wouldn’t notice enough to care. With house neighbors who will likely be living next to us for as long as we own the house, they are absolutely going to notice and may even be so bold as to ask me what’s going on at some future time. My therapist is convinced that Minnesotans are too nice to actually ask or make a big deal out of it, but I’m less convinced. If I was a cisgender person living in a house and had new neighbors show up (a man and a woman) and then all of a sudden the man I met the first week started wearing wigs and dresses all the time, I would be legitimately confused/interested/curious/disturbed/etc.

I don’t mean to whine or complain, because it is what it is, but it’s definitely something I didn’t really consider before moving to the house. I knew I’d have to meet the neighbors at some point but I wasn’t expecting to meet so many of them right away and be forced to choose whether I was going to come out to them right away or introduce myself as a man. I wish I could say I stood strong and proudly announced that I was Emma, an early transition transwoman, but even I, transwoman extraordinaire that I aspire to be, caved under the social pressure to conform to the easiest label for them to understand. I guess it just means I’ll have to reintroduce myself at a later date, probably much to their confusion, but nothing can be done about it now. I think the hardest part about these social interactions and the pressures that came with them was the fact that the three neighbors I’ve met so far were all men above the age of 40 (one might have been in his late 30’s), two of which were retired. I have found through my travels in this transition period that the hardest people for me to come out to are men, and I believe I know the reason for that.

Because men are higher on the social pyramid of power game as it currently stands in our society (this is changing, but slowly), I feel additional pressure to conform to their assumptions about me being male. If I choose to reveal myself as a transwoman instead of a cismale, then I automatically become the disempowered party in the exchange (assuming we follow the “rules” of the pyramid game). By willingly revoking my male standing and invoking a non-conforming gender instead, I automatically slide down from the top of the pyramid as a white, educated male, to the very bottom of the pyramid as a gender nonconforming individual. When this happens a power imbalance is activated whereby the empowered party (the male I’m meeting) feels socially privileged to either pass judgment upon me or ask me invasive/inappropriate questions. This doesn’t necessarily happen every time because not every top’o’the-pyramider elects to utilize their socially accepted privilege, either because they believe it is rude/unkind to do so, or because they reject the pyramid game altogether (whether they are aware of it or not), but the chances of them using that privilege is quite high.

With women, a group of people who are inherently lower on the pyramid in this power game simply because they were born with a vagina instead of a penis (not saying it’s fair or that I agree with it, but it is what it is), it’s less of a concern that privilege will be elected. Generally speaking (there are exceptions of course) a group of people who have experienced the shitty end of the power game (after centuries of patriarchy) are less likely to inflict the same privilege on others because they understand what it’s like to be judged and disempowered by something completely out of their control. As I said, there are exceptions, many of which are a result of religious belief/privilege (the “god made men and women, which means I, as a woman, am safe and right and true while you are wrong and a sinner” mentality) but I haven’t run into much of that in real life. The internet is different, of course, because people aren’t afraid to be completely awful towards others when they cannot see the person they are discriminating against, but I digress.

So, what to do? How do I overcome my fear of being the disempowered party when presented with the social pressure of choosing to come out to a male I don’t really know or choosing to continue to pretend to be cismale? I honestly don’t really have an answer for that question. An obvious solution would be for the social power pyramid game to change so that being transgender didn’t mean you fell to the bottom of the power schema that most people adopt, but I don’t forsee that happening anytime soon. How can we, as trans individuals, overcome the this dynamic in a safe and positive way? Sure, I could say fuck it and just throw my gender identity in the face of everyone I meet for the first time like a punch in the teeth, but do I really want to be THAT person? The one that everyone is like “Whoa, calm down dude, I just said hello. No need to go full gender rage on me.” Won't that mentality lead me to greater conflict with those I meet instead of greater harmony?

Where is the happy medium between being respectful towards others (have to show respect to receive respect in return, right?) but also claim personal power against everything the other person has been pre-programmed with? I don’t believe it is enough for me as an individual to deviate from the rules of the social power game if I can’t coax others to come along with me, at least partially. If I did that, then I would just be a rebel, and “normal” people despise and push against rebels. There must be a way to accomplish both personal validity and empowerment, while not disempowering the other person by spitting in the face of their accepted social programming. Just because I believe and know gender to be something that is infinite in nature (not a binary), doesn’t mean they do or even want to believe the same thing.

Is the answer to just be so happy and positive about your gender non-conformity that they have no choice but to accept you? If such confidence is the greatest way to accomplish a positive interaction, then how does one build that confidence?
I believe that's what I must work on: building my confidence. I must learn to be unafraid to tell the truth about who I am when I’m asked. How I will accomplish that, I’m not certain, but I believe it’s the most appropriate course of action. Perhaps the best thing to do with regards to my neighbors is to reintroduce myself again sooner rather than later. Perhaps the next time I have an opportunity to speak with any of the three I’ve met so far I will tell them the truth about myself. I will explain that although I introduced myself as Robert, that I'd really actually prefer it if they called me Emma and she/her.
I won’t lie, that idea isn’t super comfortable for me, but in order to build confidence I believe I must break free from my comfort zone. I must learn to not shrink back, but to stand tall and proud of who and what I am. I am at the forefront of human evolution and there is no shame in being different from others; no shame except for what we impose upon ourselves and I refuse to impose any such shame on myself for who and what I am.

 

Well, that's all I really have for now. Thanks for reading, as always, and I’ll try to blog again soon.

-Emma

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4-7-2015 Entry: HRT Update, Going on 7 Weeks


Hello all! I’m returning again because I promised an update on how the HRT is going and what changes have occurred in recent history. I know I haven’t posted any pictures in a few weeks but that’s because by time I get home from work I’m so tired and disheveled-looking that I do not feel at all like taking a picture. The weekends would provide an ideal time to pretty up for a photoshoot, but again, with all the packing and chores that have been going on I look even more tragic than during the week. I do want to post some new pictures soon though, because I believe I’m beginning to see some changes in my face. My features are beginning to soften some and sometimes when I look in the mirror and see those changes coupled with the ever-growing hair, I can really see how I will eventually look as a female and I don’t think I’m alone. The frequency with which I’ve been getting the “is that a boy or a girl?” look has increased dramatically, going from basically never happening to at least two or three times a week. I have even had a waitress mistake me for a female when she first came to our table before she eventually corrected herself (which was a bit annoying, but I digress). It probably helped that I was wearing makeup and was surrounded by 4 other women, but the fact that she thought I was a girl, even for a brief moment just made my heart sing.

 It is really quite amazing how much emotion can be felt by something so simple. It’s like I’m being seen for me for the very first time. Even though she eventually corrected herself and apologized for her mistake, there were a few seconds where I finally got to exist in the world as I’ve known myself to be on the inside for so long. I sincerely hope that this trend continues to grow more and more, because I really am so excited to start my life as Emma the female. I’m eager for the hormones keep changing my face to look increasingly female, for my hair to keep growing until it’s long and flowing, and I hope the extreme aching in my chest area means I’ll at least have some decent breast development I really don’t want to have to go get implants, because I have rather intense reservations about plastic surgery of any kind.

So, setting the reflection and social aspects aside, let’s talk about the HRT directly. I went to the doctor last Tuesday and she seemed pleased with the way things were going for me. There are some minor concerns about my body’s reaction to the Estriadol patches (itching, rashes, etc.) but unless they become too problematic we are going to continue as we have before. She did double my doses on both Spiro and Estriadol, which has been rather interesting. As far as I understood from what she said, this will essentially be my permanent dose of estrogen and anti-androgens throughout the rest of transition, but we will have to see. She wants me to come back in a month to do some more blood tests to see where my levels are, and if they are in the green then I will start to see her less often (3 months, and then 6 months).

I did get an opportunity to ask some questions about the patch and dose levels that I believe I mentioned here in a previous post. The patch I’m on is .1Mcg (now I wear 2, so .2Mcg) per day, which you might recognize is much lower than the pill or shot form (those are more like 3Mcg to 5 Mcg), but it turns out the dosing is very different when using the patch. As it was explained to me, the .1Mcg I’m getting from a single patch is being released approximately 24 times a day (every hour or so) so in reality, I was getting about 2.4Mcg per day, not .1Mcg (not sure why they label it that way, but I digress). That means that I am now around 4.8Mcg a day worth of estrogen, which I believe is around the max dose they generally give transitioning MtF’s. It was explained to me that the estrogen patch works differently, and evidently more safely, than the pill or shot form because it’s a constant small amount that goes directly into the blood stream as opposed to a large amount being processed by the liver and stomach (which is much harder on the body and has an increased chance of causing stroke/heart attack). So, if you are considering going on HRT you will hopefully have a greater understanding of the patch systems to consider as you make a decision about what delivery method you want to sign up for. I find the patch easy enough, although the patches do have a tendency to itch from time to time, and usually leave adhesive residue that’s rather difficult to get off. I’ve found that alternating between my left and right side reduces the irritation of the skin, but then you have little rectangles of adhesive residue on both sides, so… just FYI.

As for the Spironolactone, I am now on 200mg a day (2 pills in the morning, 2 at night) and I can’t say I’m excited about that. Spiro has a tendency to not only make me tired/lethargic, but can also be a bit of a depressant. I’m hopeful that I will one day be able to drop the dosage back to 100mg, because I can take that once a day (at night) and feel just fine. Unless I’m mistaken, once I have SRS (which I have no idea when that would be) I won’t have to take the Spiro anymore, so that’s comforting at least.

Overall, the doubling of my meds has resulted in some rather painful aching in all the sensitive areas. Forgive me if this is TMI, but I want to document this transition as best as I can, so try not to cringe too much. My soon-to-be breasts ache like crazy, even more than they did when I first went onto Estrogen. My nipples are so sensitive that even an unfriendly wind or an accidental grazing by one of my arms is enough to make me want to cry. I would be worried that this was a bad thing but the doctor warned me that things were going to be increasingly sensitive/aching. Also, with the increase in spiro, the man parts are really unhappy too. Again, the boys downstairs just ache and ache, and I’m fairly sure my prostate isn’t pleased with me either as there are occasional shooting pains in that region. All in all I’m discovering just how uncomfortable and painful this physical transition really can be. I know most of it is temporary as my body undergoes the changes of a, more-or-less, second puberty, but that doesn’t make the discomfort feel any better. Okay, that’s enough TMI time for one post.

Moving on, we close on our house in about 48 hours, so I’m not sure when my next entry will be as we will be spending a good deal of time both painting and moving over the coming days/weekend.  I’m very excited to finally be so close to done with this damned house buying process and will likely post pictures of our house. Well, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for checking in and much love to you all!

 

-Emma

Monday, April 6, 2015

4-6-2015 Entry: Moving, and Overcoming Transphobic Bathroom Policies


Hello all my lovely readers! First, I want to apologize for how AFK I’ve been over the last two weeks or so as my docket at work exploded and packing has taken over my life. Our apartment is officially a disaster zone with piles and piles of boxes crowding every inch of the living spaces so that even doing something simple like watching TV has now become an exercise in claustrophobia training. Give it another week and I might just qualify to go on a manned space mission to Mars! In addition to the mountains of boxes, between which is only a slightly traversable walking space, all of our shelves and bookcases are completely empty, with the exception of dust and cat hair, of course (seriously, how can a 10 pound cat produce so much damn hair?) The cabinets are all but empty, with the exception of a handful of bowls, plates, and glasses. Really, the only things that haven’t been packed, aside from essential dishes/cookware, are the TV’s and Xbox’s.

We close on the house 72 hours from now (almost exactly at the time of this writing) and good God it cannot come fast enough. Our apartment has always been rather small and somewhat crowded, but this current living condition in mountain’o’box town has got to end. The dog is officially freaking out because she doesn’t know what the hell is going on at all. The cat genuinely DGAF, except for when she’s derping out over all the empty boxes she can play inside. In fact, the sound of something being knocked over in the middle of the night by the cat playing amongst the packing rubble has become so frequent that neither my wife nor I care enough to get up to investigate it anymore. CRASH! THUD! Frantic escaping by cat = MEH, ZZzzzz…ZZZzzz…

As I indicated a few days ago with my brief pop-in post, some issues came up with the house that were not so awesome. Part of our contract with the sellers was that they were to take full responsibility for any and all assessments that were currently levied against the house. They, of course, didn’t read the contract closely enough to realize this and found themselves in dire straits when it became obvious to them that they were going to have to fork over a great deal of cash at the time of closing because of existing assessments on the property. So, upon further negotiation (which we were not obligated to even do because they’d already signed the contract) we decided to be nice and assume half of the assessments for them. I’m hopeful that doing this nice thing will bring about further positive Karma in this transaction and will compel the sellers to make additional efforts to effectively clean the house before we do the final walkthrough. So far they have been rather nice and fair with us, so I’m hopeful that that mentality continues, even when they don’t have to maintain it. Overall, this assumption of half of the assessment will raise the cost of our monthly payment by about $20 a month for a few years, which isn’t great but it isn’t a tragedy either.

Okay, so now onto the big news! At my last writing my work was still sticking with their initial decision to not let me use the women’s bathroom when I went full time, even though the building manager had told me directly that they’d changed their policy. I was, more or less, in a holding pattern, waiting to see what my employer did. I knew the HR lady was in contact with the building manager, I knew the building manager had told her about the updated bathroom policy, I knew my HR lady had asked the building manager to keep their correspondence confidential (seemed a bit suspicious), but I didn’t know if my work was going to change their policy to reflect the building’s policy. I left work on Thursday not having heard anything from HR and began my early weekend (took Friday off for mental health purposes, mainly to reduce stress levels and have some quiet alone time) wondering if I was going to have to involve a lawyer in my problem. I actually spent most of the weekend trying not to think about work at all (it just seemed too depressing), so when I came into work on Monday to find an email from my HR person saying that the building had changed their policy and that my employer was going to honor that policy, I about fell out of my desk chair.

I was so elated after reading that email that I could hardly function for most of the morning. I’d won. I’d been told no and refused to take no for an answer and had ended up winning! The building manager looked further into what their policy should be because I was bold enough to write her a letter expressing who I was, what I wanted, and why I wanted it. I could have been too afraid to stand up against my employer or the building by assuming that they had the power and I didn’t, but choosing to do the opposite netted me exactly what I wanted. I wanted there to be a set-in-stone policy that said I could use the women’s bathroom once I went fulltime because I never wanted to be harassed about my decision to do so without having a solid foundation to come back at my harasser with. If anyone at my work tries to say I shouldn’t be in there or that I can’t be in there, I now have both the building management’s and my employer’s permission to protect me.

I know I’m at risk of spraining my arm muscles by patting myself on the back too enthusiastically but I want everyone to know what this victory feels like for me. I’ve spent the last few months seeing all of these stories and issues about transgender people in bathrooms and it just sickened me. It made me so sad that other parts of the world and my country weren’t as accepting as my state is (we have gender protection laws in MN), but then, out of nowhere, the same thing was happening to me. I had laws that were intended to protect me from discrimination but I was being told, like so many others, that I couldn’t use the correct bathroom for my gender because of rules set in place by people who aren’t transgender and who don’t understand gender dysphoria. I mean, the amount of anger, frustration, and despair I felt about this subject can never adequately be put into words, and it would have been so easy to just give up. Every defense mechanism inside of me wanted to just give up. I even honestly considered quitting HRT because of this bathroom decision. I use the restroom at work so many times a week that the thought of doing that in the men’s room while presenting as increasingly female, was enough to drive me to completely second guess everything.

The whole surety I had as a transwoman, every ounce of confidence I’d accumulated about this new identity as Emma was shaken and called into question. Was I really going to go through with this if I was going to be treated like a man nonetheless? Was it really worth the pain and agony of undertaking and patiently waiting through HRT transition, if at the end of the day, I was still going to be treated as if I were male? Wouldn’t my life be easier if I just quit while I was ahead, if I just decided to live my life as Robert, the effeminate man instead of Emma the transwoman? My mother sure would be happy. My wife would probably feel somewhat relieved. My employer sure would feel better.

I cannot put into words how difficult it was for me to sift through all of that doubt, anger, and fear to find a frame of mind that permitted me to reach out to the building manager in an effective way. I could have raged, I could have been pissed off (I certainly felt that way) and written a rather scathing email to her or my HR person about how bad and wrong their policy was. I could have gone straight to an attorney to see if I could file an EEOC claim. I could have done so many things in my reactionary state of mind, but instead I decided to try to approach things diplomatically. If I could appeal to the building manager in such a way that I displayed how human I was; if I could show her how I had feelings, desires, and fears then maybe, just maybe, she would reconsider her position, and it worked. By bringing a visible, human element to a policy decision instead of it being an objective decision about someone she didn’t know and would never meet, I was able to change her mind, or at the very least second guess her initial decision. And that is what I hope everyone who reads this blog post retains from it, that when we as transgender individuals willingly divulge ourselves, our feelings, our desires, and our fears, we are met with compassion.

 I believe that so many transgender and non-binary people are inherently afraid of coming out, of being exposed, of allowing people to see beyond their defenses. I believe that so many are worried that if they show any degree of weakness, any degree of fear or pain or anguish as a result of their various oppressions, then they will only be further oppressed. I have found, however, that the exact opposite is the case. Oppression, in every form, comes from the dehumanization of those being oppressed. When transgender and non-binary people are invisible or only on the periphery, it is easy for those with privilege and the social power of being “normal” to dehumanize them. It’s easy to see TG/NB people as weirdos, or perverts, or sexual predators when they are invisible and misunderstood, but once they become visible, once they are seen and understood on an emotional level, they are given human status once again.

I know it’s scary out there, I know it’s hard to have someone say no or reject something so important to you like this bathroom issue was for me, but we cannot give up. We must keep trying, if not for ourselves, then for the transgender and non-binary children born every day. We must work to make the world a kinder place for them so they don’t have to experience the trials we did and do.

But we cannot cry foul and then villainize those who’ve wronged us either. We must stand tall and show those people that we have hearts, and souls, and minds too, in addition to our confusing body conditions. We must show them that we have feelings and emotions just like them, because in their hearts, they do not want to hurt us. In their hearts they are suffering themselves (from fear, or anger, or pain), and when they see our suffering in such a raw and human way, they are given the opportunity to connect with us, and that connection has great potential to change them forever.

Perhaps my example will never be something people look up to. Perhaps my words will fall on deaf ears, or only be heard by a select few. Perhaps I am one of the lucky few who can claim victory over ignorance and transphobia, but regardless of how much clout I ever achieve in this trans revolution that’s going on right now, just know that my heart goes out to each and every one of those trans/non-binary people out there fighting to be recognized. My heart goes out to all the supporters and accepting friends/family members of TG/NB people, because you serve as the greatest example for the cisgender population. Every time you stand up for us or we stand up for ourselves, we gain more visibility, and slowly but surely we change the world around us for the better. Every day is getting better and better because of our continuing work towards recognition.

-Emma

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

4-1-2015 Entry: Sorry for Being AWOL


Hello my dear readers. I wanted to pop in for a brief moment to say that my life has been far too hectic as of late for me to really write. I’m even, sadly, having to take a bit of a hiatus for a while from responding to emails sent to me by the gender therapist I volunteer for. But, despite being “I want to blow my brains out”  busy, important things are still happening in my life that need to be blogged about. I won’t be able to go into anything in detail with this post as I must get back to taking care of the seemingly insurmountable amount of work I have to do, but I wanted to create a bit of a topic list for when I finally do have a minute to breathe and write.

There have been updates on the bathroom policy situation at work, and the news is quite good.

There have been updates with regards to my HRT, and the news is, again, pretty good.

There have been updates with regards to moving/buying our house, which aren’t so great.

And a whole set of other things that I can’t think of right now.

So, all in all, just know that I have not abandoned you, my dear friends. For those who email me at rtedwins@gmail.com for advice/venting/general friendship, please also know that I’m still going to respond to your emails; you have not been forgotten and never could be. Your emails to me truly are one of the best parts of my life, so don't ever think you don't matter because I'm busy with life. Okay, I have to get back to chopping wood and carrying water, so to speak.

 

With much love,

-Emma