Friday, May 29, 2015

5-29-2015 Entry: To Grad School, or Not to Grad School



Hello my darling readers! I’m so glad you stopped by again to take another tour through Emma town. Unfortunately for today’s tour we will have to be battling these pesky black anxiety storm clouds that keep threatening to rain all over us. I hope you brought your umbrellas along with you because depending on how the wind blows today we could get drenched!


Okay, jesting and cheesy tour guide intro aside, today is a very nerve wracking day for me. I was informed a few weeks ago that the University I applied to for their M.A. in Family and Marriage Counseling would be setting up interviews with the first wave of candidates. I was informed that the candidates lucky enough to pass through the first round of rejections would receive a phone call by the “end of May” to set up the interview, which you might note is most likely today. True, the last day of May is Sunday, but I hardly expect a university admissions office to be working on the weekend (having been a University employee for a number of years myself I know schools pretty much shut down on the weekend). As of writing this on my lunch break on Friday May 29th, I have not yet received a phone call. One of only a couple explanations seem to exist for why this might be.


 


  1. I did not make it past the first round of eliminations and won’t receive an interview invitation.
  2. I did receive a phone call during the last week when my phone was constantly dying on me but they didn’t leave me a message, or worse, they DID leave a message and my voicemail isn’t functioning/didn’t save the voicemail (I have reason to suspect this but I won’t bore you with the details).
  3. They are behind schedule (again I have reason to suspect the possibility) and aren’t setting up the interviews yet or haven’t finished picking candidates.
  4. I will receive a phone call later today.


 


My only recourse in this time of high anxiety of trying to understand what reason exists for me not receiving a phone call is to:


 


  1. Completely freak out, assume the worst, and allow the tears that are just dying to get out to start coming
  2. Email the program director to find out WTF is going on.
  3. Call the program director like an overly attached girlfriend and be all like “why you no love me???”
  4. Drink myself into a stupor.


 


As of now, I have elected to go with option “b” because I don’t want to assume the worst and I don’t want to come off overly attached, but I reserve the right to elect any of the other three options should I receive no response back from the director. I think I will likely call him if I don’t receive a response by about 130pm as that would have given him over 3 hours to respond and he typically is pretty responsive. Knowing my damn luck he will probably have taken the day off and won’t get my email until Monday.


As you might imagine, I am nothing but a ball of stress and potential tears right now. I probably didn’t write about this here because I haven’t been posting as frequently over the last couple weeks, but I had a really bad night not so long ago where I made a plan/decision that if I didn’t get accepted to grad school that I was going to go through with suicide. I know that sounds so stupidly over-dramatic but I’m not kidding. I even told my best friend that I was going to do it.


I can’t say either way how I feel about that decision right now. I don’t think that I still feel that way, but I can’t say with 100% certainty that I won’t warm up to the idea should I be denied. I know what you are thinking, “Emma, you can just apply again next year! You can try a different school! You don’t have to give up!” and I know that you are right, but I’m ready to do this NOW with this program. I cannot keep working as a paralegal. I just can’t keep doing it, not without something giving me hope that it won’t be a permanent job.


I know, I’m probably tragically revealing my relative young age with all of this but I’m 5 months away from my 30th birthday, and if I don’t start moving in the right direction now, I’m afraid I’ll never have the chance. One day I will die, and I refuse to look back on my life and see nothing but years and years of doing what other people tell me to do for the profits of private companies that may or may not benefit or improve the human condition. I want to look back and see a life filled with actively engaging and helping people. I want to look back and see that I made a difference in people’s lives, not a billion dollar companies quarterly profits.


I love writing to the people who email me with their questions, fears, worries, and concerns about their gender identity. I love hearing their stories and having the opportunity to connect with them and, hopefully, help alleviate their suffering. I want to do that for a living. I want to devote my life to that work! But I can’t do that fully unless I go back to school in a program like this.


I know the urgency maybe doesn’t make sense to all of you out there, but I’m not getting any younger and someday soon, my wife and I may have children who suck up all of my free time and money. I don’t want to put school off until it’s too late. I don’t want to wait until I’m 50 before I have time again without kids at home to hit the books and make an impact in the world. I want to do it now, today, not next year or the year after that. I want to graduate with a master’s degree before I’m 35 and maybe also be licensed by then too. If I got accepted to this program and started in the fall, I could feasibly do that.


Okay, I know this post has almost nothing to do with being transgender or living as a transwoman, but I just had to write about these feelings. I can’t keep all of this inside of me, not when it’s threatening to wash over me and send me spiraling off into the deep end. I just can’t even function right now without knowing what they are going to decide. Even if they deny me, I just want to know!! I hate this limbo they have me trapped in. It’s like I’m suspended in space and I’m swimming as hard as I can but no matter what I do, I just end up spinning around in the same spot, going nowhere. I’ve tried being content. I’ve tried being positive. I’ve tried accepting the fact that there is nothing I can do except wait for an answer, but it still isn’t helping soothe this anxiety. I don’t know where my life is heading right now because I cannot see the path ahead of me. All I can do is wander around in the dark until the sun rises again, either in its magnificent glory to illuminate the world around me and show me the dew-covered trees with their green leaves and the chirping birds, or to slightly brighten a dark storm covered sky. Which dawn awaits me remains a mystery but all I can do is keep walking, hoping for the best.


I’ll write again soon. I have loads to tell you about new experiences and new clothes, but I just can’t do it right now, not with this hanging over me. I promise, for now, that I won’t kill myself.


 


-Emma

Monday, May 25, 2015

5-25-2015 Picture Entry: Being Outed at Work and Being Correctly Gendered in Public

Hello my lovelies, I hope my U.S. readers are enjoying their holiday weekend. I know that I've enjoyed my four day weekend, although I’m sad to see it is already 7pm on the last day I have off. Tomorrow I must return to the realm of toil, which means I must also shed my Emma clothes, hair, makeup, and nail polish to live as Robert once again. Thankfully those days are numbered, and after the shopping trip I had yesterday, they are fewer than previously thought. I now have enough of a wardrobe that I could feasibly go to work as Emma 5 days a week and never wear any of outfits more than once. I would still have to mix and match the tops and bottoms, so I would likely have to wear a few of the items at least twice in a given week, but that wouldn’t be so different than what is already happening with my current male-themed wardrobe; but I may getting ahead of myself as there are several things to discuss before we get to the shopping trip or the pictures I took the day before the shopping trip.

I should probably begin with the bad, or at the very least, the difficult to experience. On Thursday, the final day of my workweek as I took Friday off, I got to experience being outed by someone I thought I could trust to a handful of people (a still undetermined number) that I had no intention of telling until everyone knew. I think the most hurtful thing about this experience was that the person who has been outing me to others was literally the only person I had actually asked to not say anything until I came out to the whole firm. Perhaps then I knew she wasn’t to be trusted, but the damage has already been done, if it is, in fact, damage. I’ll try to spare the grueling he said/she said details because they are enough to confuse anyone I work with, let alone you lovely readers. Suffice it to say that the woman who is most notorious at my firm for gossiping said something to one of my friends (who already knew) about me being trans. This ultimately led to the discovery of how she’d found out along with the discovery that she wasn’t the only one who’d found out.

So, when I discovered this unfortunate news, you can probably imagine my anger, disappointment, and fear. I had strived to great length to keep my transition from becoming a subject of rumors, whispers, and gossip, so to watch all of that evaporate the same week I was painstakingly coming out one on one to the attorneys I work with was extremely disheartening; never mind the fact that I was only a couple weeks away from officially coming out to everyone.

Given all of these factors I decided to go straight to HR with the issue. I wanted nothing more than to confront the perpetrator of this broken trust and these possibly damaging rumors, but I knew I had to handle things appropriately. I wasn’t about to allow someone who’d already broken my confidence to also steal my patience or moral high ground. I had done nothing wrong, and if anything, I’d painstakingly made sure I did everything right or as right as one can in a smaller law firm that has never had a trans employee before.

When I went into HR’s office, I was livid and fuming. I was nearly ready to tear this rumor-monger limb from limb in a verbal onslaught she’d never recover from, but after discussing the subject with my HR lady, I soon came to my senses and calmed down. As the cards were, I had no formal recourse for this person’s actions basically because I’d been the one to tell her about my trans identity in the first place and it isn’t a violation of workplace policy to reveal information willingly given. I could, of course, confront her directly, but what advantages would that really offer? It certainly would not undo what she’d already done, and it certainly wouldn’t be a merit towards my credibility if I flew off the handle about it. Approaching her would likely just feed into whatever thrill she got from divulging my entrusted information. If it was her way of retaliating because of some of the issues we’ve had at work, then me verbally berating her would only escalate the conflict.

In the end, everyone was going to know anyway, and they were all going to know within a few weeks at that. Was it really worth getting upset about them finding out earlier by less reliable channels? Ultimately, no. That doesn’t mean I will forget or even really forgive this person for what they did, but karma always comes back to haunt a person and you better believe I’ll never entrust her with anything ever again. Maybe that’s petty of me but if she thinks it is okay to tell people my big news against my wishes and without my knowledge, then she has proven unworthy of my friendship, my trust, or my time. All I can really do is stand tall and be proud of who I am. I’m not afraid to be me and I’m not afraid of what her gossip group thinks of me. They can hate if they want to, that’s their karma. I’m going to stay fabulous and they will just have to deal with it.

What I did end up doing, however, was to go to the third party who’d said something to my friend (see, I told you it was confusing) and talk to her directly. I told her that I didn’t know who’d told her (even though I did) and said I didn’t care (again, even though I did), but that the only thing I’d ask was that she keep it to herself for the time being. I let her know that there was a plan for me to officially come out within a few weeks and that there would be a firm wide announcement, either by HR or myself. She actually seemed to legitimately agree to my request and admitted that she felt more comfortable just having heard it directly from me that I was, in fact, transgender. I think it probably helped quite a bit that she’d just recently completed a CLE (continuing legal education) course on employment law where they specifically discussed transgender rights and forms of discrimination against them. After I spoke with her, I felt quite a bit better, although I am still not completely over the trauma of being so unexpectedly outed.

My only warning to any trans individuals reading this is if you are going to make an on the job transition like I’m about to do that you be extra careful about who you tell and ideally, don’t tell them too far in advance. If I would have waited to tell this person until I was closer to the actual transition, I probably wouldn’t have had this problem at all. Just tread carefully if you wish to avoid this experience, and I won’t lie, it really sucked. It won’t kill you, like it didn’t kill me, but it might bring you to your knees for a few minutes and will require a great deal of patience and a calculated response to come out of it mostly unscathed.

Moving on to brighter subjects I had an awesome experience the very next day. My wife and I decided to go grocery shopping after she got home from work and I decided that I wanted to take another trip out into the world as Emma. Since I didn’t really feel like dressing up too much I decided I would go to the store dressed in my more typical weekend ware (black nylon athletic shorts and a t-shirt). The pictures you’ll see below document that outfit, and yes, that is an awesome TMNT t-shirt with matching purple and green eye-shadow. What you won’t see in the picture, because I’m a lady, is the gaff I constructed to help prevent any prominent displaying of the man-bits that my nylon shorts are prone to doing.

**(For those who are interested, I simply took the tube part of a tube sock, cut it from the foot of the sock and ran one of those large black stretchy headbands through the inside of it to fashion something similar to a jock strap. It’s not super comfortable as it crams everything together real tight, but it was cheap, easy, and did a rather convincing job of making it look like I had lady-bits downstairs).

Overall I would say the outfit was a success because people seemed to notice me quite a bit less than they had during my previous Costco trip. Whether that was because I wasn’t wearing heels that gave me another 2-3 inches or because I wasn’t wearing a more formal dress, I’m not sure. Regardless of the reason, more people seemed to just accept me as an irregularly tall female (I say this because there were fewer prolonged stares or “wtf?” looks). This hunch, I believe, was validated later on, but more on that in a moment. We went about our shopping with relative ease and I found most everyone rather nice or friendly towards me. We, of course, pigged out on the free samples and naturally bought a couple things that we tried that we might not have otherwise.

Once we finished spending entirely too much money there (per usual) we decided that we wanted to order pizza for dinner (isn’t that how it always go? Spend a bunch of money on groceries, and then order a pizza?). We have a local mom & pop pizza place a few blocks from our house that has an amazing veggie pizza (since we don’t eat meat) that we are horribly addicted to, so we decided to stop there to pick one up. Once we arrived there, we ordered the pizza and sat in the waiting area looking over a travel trip brochure we’d picked up at Costco. Envisioning some fabled trip to Hawaii or a cruise around the Caribbean, I noticed a woman sitting in the dining area to my right who kept giving me strange looks.

Whether she was staring because Sarah and I were sitting together in what she might have perceived as an openly lesbian relationship, or because she was reading/clocking me as trans, I cannot say for sure. All I know is that I found it a bit unnerving. Luckily however, my anxiety was about to completely disappear. Our pizza was finally ready after about 15 minutes of waiting and the large, almost gruff man who’d taken the order and cut the pizza handed my wife the pizza box and said, “Enjoy your pizza ladies!”


(let’s just take a moment to revel in that…)


Even just thinking about it now brings the biggest of smiles to my face. A complete stranger (well, maybe not complete, we’ve been in there before, but never while I was presenting as Emma) verbally gendered me correctly!! That has never once happened in my life. I have been sir’d, Mr.’d, buddied, duded and bro’d by strangers in every interaction before this one, but for the first time ever, I actually felt good about the gendering label. Needless to say, I was so over the moon with being properly gendered (and I’m about 98% sure he legitimately saw me as female, not as trans person he was being polite to) that I nearly tripped and killed myself on the entryway as I went to leave. Some poor elderly woman making her way into the store nearly had to catch me. So graceful, I know.

When we got out to the car both my wife and I reveled in the gender labeling. I was a lady, finally. After all these years, a man I don’t know and couldn’t even tell you his name, made my life and transition complete in a way I didn’t know anyone could. 5 years ago when I first started wondering if I was transgender, I was so convinced that no one would ever see me as female, and yet, I was completely wrong. The full effects of the HRT and all the procedures I’m going to have in the future haven’t even happened, and I was able to pass as female to a countless number at Costco customers and to a pizza man. I just want to stress that. All of my politics about passing aside, it was amazingly easy for me to pass as female, and all I was wearing was some makeup, a wig, a gaff, and a purse. I wasn’t even wearing lady clothes.

As you might imagine, this experience had me singing and dancing with joy for most of the weekend. It was also a great help in bolstering my confidence when two days later (Sunday) my wife and I decided to go clothes shopping at old navy (judge me if you will, but they have cute clothes that are rather cheap, which makes building a wardrobe on a budget a lot easier). This time, however, I did dress up a bit so that I looked more the part of a typical female. I also got to sport my new flats which are darling, but are probably a half-size too small for my feet and definitely need to be broken in before I can comfortably walk in them for prolonged periods of time.

Shopping was rather fun and I found a handful of clothes which increased my wardrobe by about 4 or 5 outfits, although I’m fairly sure a few people very obviously read/clocked me as trans. One of the store clerks even went so far as to sort of follow me around as if I was possibly shop lifting and made a blatant point to come harass me to see if I “needed help finding anything.” I only allege her less that friendly intentions because of her general disapproving demeanor and accusatory tone. I suppose she could have just been having a bad day or dislikes her job, but compared to any of the other girls working in the store, she was definitely not as friendly or accepting. The dressing room girl was super friendly and nice to me. I suspect she read/clocked me but didn’t seem at all bothered by it.
Overall it was a huge boon to my confidence to have gone clothes shopping while presenting as female as it was one of my fears. Not sure why it was a fear, given the pleasant experience yesterday, but it was. I’m just happy to be able to check it off of the list of “fears to overcome.”

Since this post is so long already, I’ll hold off on the HRT effects for a later day. Not much has changed although the breasts are still growing little by little. I think I’ll be fortunate in that department unlike so many transwomen but only time can tell for sure. Well, without further ado, here is my rocking ninja turtles slacker outfit that was paradoxically passable (sorry that some of them are blurry):








Thanks again for stopping in. There is much love here for all of you. **MUAH**
-Emma

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

5-20-2015 Entry: New Developments


Just a quick check in. Not much has changed since my novel-length post on Monday except for three very exciting things. The first is that my wife has finally decided it is time for her to start applying to other jobs! I know that probably doesn’t sound all that exciting but I am so relieved that she’s finally come to this decision. I have been urging her to do it for months because she has been downright miserable with her job, but for some reason she just kept holding on to it. You should see the difference in her demeanor, just having made the decision to apply to a couple places. It’s like all of the resistance she has been accumulating over the last 18 months or so has finally been released. She’s back to being the happy, wonderful, beautiful, and amazing person I knew she was inside. It’s amazing to see how much of a difference a decision as simple as looking for a new job can change a person’s attitude.

I am very eager for her to find a new job, ideally one she likes more than the one she currently has because I suspect our marriage will start to function better. If she manages to find work she is more in tune with AND she starts to make even more money, things can only get better. She can go back to being the happy easy going lovable person she is capable of being instead of this tense ball of anger, frustration, and depression. I won’t lie, it has been hard to be around her in recent months, simply because of her drained state of being. As a natural empath, I tend to absorb other people’s emotions and can easily be pulled into their dysfunction if care isn’t taken on my part to avoid it, so if she is operating at a higher, more content level it will be easier for me to stay in that range myself.

I’m just over the moon about this, if you couldn’t tell. She needed to get out of there, and to see her finally progress to the point where she is ready to leave it behind is very fulfilling for me. In many ways I can identify with her position because after about 2 years at my first professional level job I was the same ball of stress that she has been and it took a lot for me finally walk away from that job, so I know how big of a growth step this is for her. The mark of true love in a relationship, at least to me, is wanting to help your partner grow and achieve their potential. So, my dear readers, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that she finds a good job that she will like more, making more money!! =)

The second bit of news is that I finally worked up the courage to come out to one of the male attorneys that I work with on a daily basis. Since my HR person has informed me that I’m responsible for talking to the attorneys I paralegal for (all men), I decided that it was important for me to try to talk to these people well in advance of my upcoming on-the-job transition (the end of June). I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy and it took about a week of working up my courage to do it, but I am so happy that I did it! His reaction was amazing. He asked me if it was appropriate to tell me congratulations, which I found rather funny, but I told him that it was perfectly appropriate. It takes a lot of courage to do what I’m doing, so why not congratulate me on my decision? =P::

He went on to say that he would do his best to never be insensitive or to say the wrong thing, and told me that if there ever was anyone who gave me a difficult time about it that I could talk to him about it (he is a partner). He continued by saying that he would be very disappointed if I had any problems with my coworkers and that he would make sure it didn’t happen again if I did. It was just awesome and has given me the courage to talk to the second of three attorneys, either today or tomorrow. The third attorney will have to wait until next week because he isn’t real impressed with me given some recent issues at work. Nothing too bad, so don’t worry, Emma won’t be unemployed, just sort of on the shit list for a few days. He always has a shit list, but it seems to only have one or two spots on it and also has a high turnover rate, so it won’t be long before I’m not on it anymore. The upcoming three day weekend will help him forget, I’m sure.

The third bit of news is that I have officially started my memoire. A big reason I created this blog was to provide me with at-the-time material for this memoire so I can very accurately describe my experience. I’m not completely sure why I’ve started it but I felt an overwhelming urge to begin it two nights ago and I’ve already written the first chapter. I think the ensuing chapters will have to unfold as I make my transition at work and as my life continues to change but I suspect I will complete it within perhaps a year (or two at the most). All the memoires I’ve come across are written well after transition and I want mine to be written from the perspective of before, during, and after transitioning to female full time. I think that might give readers a different kind of perspective than the long after the fact memoires on the market now.

I haven’t decided if I will self-publish this the way I self-published both of my fiction novels or if I’ll try to get it traditionally published. I have definitely seen both the positives and negatives to self-publishing as compared to traditional publishing, so there is a lot to consider. If I had to guess, I’ll probably try traditional publishing this time around before resorting to self-publishing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I may or may not post excerpts of the memoire here, but we will have to see how things go and how quickly I end up writing it.

Well that’s all I have for today. Thanks for checking in. I do plan to write a follow up post to my deconstruction of passing, because I don’t feel that the conversation on that subject has been exhausted yet. The next post, however, will likely require a bit more research than the last one, so I don’t know when it will be ready.

Much love for all of you here, and remember, if you ever feel like reaching out to me for any reason, you can email me at rtedwins@gmail.com (haters need not email)

-Emma

Monday, May 18, 2015

5-18-2015 Entry: Saying Goodbye to a Friend and Overcoming Fears


Hello my dear readers, I’m hoping you all had a lovely weekend. I certainly did, although calling in sick on Friday so I could go back to bed instead of work might have helped add that extra something. Really the end of last week was pretty good for me, despite one glaring detail of sadness. My darlings, Emma is now alone at work. Her close and beloved lesbian friend, the very first person Emma actually came out to as transgender, has left the law firm and is going to be moving away from Minnesota. Needless to say I have been quite heartbroken ever since she informed me of her decision.

From the day I met her, we just seemed to click in a way that you only find in very rare instances. In fact, we both had this surreal experience of feeling as if we had known each other forever, despite only just meeting. I cannot explain it except to guess that she and I knew each other before this life. I, like billions of others, subscribe to the concept of reincarnation. As such, I believe that there are people in our lives who travel into this physical realm with us, almost like a group of souls who’ve grown to love each other and enjoy the game of jumping in and out of lives together to see how they can play with one another in the physical realm. That is what this friend was to me. More than that though, I believe that she was meant to come into my life exactly when she did, because she, like an angel, provided me with a light and love and warmth that likely saved my life.

I know that sounds pretty melodramatic, but it’s not much of an exaggeration. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her being there for me when all my denials about my gender fell apart. Had I not had the unconditional love and support of this person in my decision to transition to female, I honestly don’t know if I could have done it. I believe, now that I have been given the gift of hind-sight, that she came into my life precisely when she did for that very reason. My angels knew that I was going to need someone like her, and perhaps on some ethereal realm that the human mind can hardly grasp, she and I struck a bargain before we entered our physical lives. Perhaps her soul, knowing the difficult and arduous life I was about to live, promised to come to me when I needed her most.

In some ways I can see no other explanation for her brief, 8 month stint at my law firm. I know I probably sound horribly self-centered about all of this, and I’m certain her entrance into my life was just as much for her benefit and evolution of spirit as it was for mine. I, however, do not have the luxury of knowing what her time here meant to her or how it may or may not have changed her life. I only know what my path has been and the part she played in it. I’d like to hope that I played a similar part in hers.

 I know that before her employment at my firm she’d had a bad run of luck with people being really mean or petty about her sexuality. Hopefully my equal and loving acceptance of her as she was helped heal the wounds of her past. I am hopeful that her experiences here with me, and others, restored her faith that she could be accepted for who she was, and that it wasn’t necessary to hide a big part of her life in order to find friends. Whether or not that is true, I will likely never truly know, but I can hope, at the very least, that her time here was not without benefit.

So, this morning, as I sit in my cube at work, I am grieving the loss of a coworker, an ally, and a friend. I am thinking about the path that is still ahead of me and wondering how I will navigate it without that person to stand by my side. I know that her departure was also meant to be, not simply because it has already happened, but because it’s time for Emma to take flight on her own. My friend came to me at my time of greatest need and supported me along as I limped ahead until I was strong enough to walk on my own. I think it is no coincidence, then, that as I make my final preparations to begin my life living as Emma full time, both at work and at home, I find myself alone again. I, like the baby bird who has grown strong while being fed and kept safe by its more experienced and knowledgeable mother, the time has come for me to leave the nest and learn to fly on my own.

Sure, I have the support of several of my hetero-cisgender female coworkers, and their support is greatly appreciated and will likely be a saving grace in the weeks and months to come, but this departed friend understood my struggle on a different level. Sexuality and gender are not the same thing, but often they share the same burdens when they do not conform to the hetero-cis-normative standards.

As a lesbian this friend understood what it was like for others to potentially hold moralistic objections to something that came so naturally to her. She understood what it was like to never know if the people she met would understand or be accepting of her. She knew the fear that comes with being “different” from others, and because of that, her support meant something more to me than the others. We shared, at least in my mind, a sort of unspoken comradery that no one else could really grasp or understand.

My only hope is that I now have the strength to carry on alone. I believe that I have developed the courage of my convictions enough that I’ll be able to weather the storm of my on-the-job gender transition without my more experienced comrade to guide me. If the past seven days are any indicator of my progress, then I think I may just have what it takes.

Over the last week I have faced a handful of truly deep and powerful fears that I’d been dreading for some time. The first of these fears was vanquished on Wednesday, after my appointment with my therapist. My wife had taken the day off and was toiling away in our yard when I arrived at home in my new dress, heels, and wig. She informed me that we needed to go to Home Depot (AKA the Temple of MURICAN-Hetero -Masculinity) to pick up a few things. Part of my ongoing homework with my therapist is to stay in full Emma mode all day on Wednesdays after my meeting with her, so I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I knew that I was dreadfully afraid of venturing into the kingdom of middle aged bearded guys who love tools while wearing my lady clothes and wig, but I also knew that I would eventually have to make this trip as Emma. We definitely went to that store way too often for me to be able to avoid it forever.

So, I decided, “fuck it! Go big or go home, right?” and told my wife I wanted to go dressed as I was. She accepted and we left right away. A few minutes later we arrived at the Temple of Masculinity and I walked in with my head held high (even though everything inside of me urged me to be timid and downcast). That’s not to say that there weren’t several awkward interactions and “wtf?” looks cast in my direction upon entering the store, or that I wasn’t terrified out of my wits that something bad was going to happen; but nothing did, at least, not really.

There were definitely a handful of people who read me right away, but there were also a handful of people who I don’t think read me at all, which I take to be a good sign. There were also quite a few unsure looks that lingered longer than they might have were I dressed as Robert instead of Emma, but no one said anything. The only “bad” thing that happened was an interaction with one of the employees. We couldn’t find something we were looking for, so I approached a man who worked in the appropriate section to ask for his assistance. He was probably around 50 years old, and was a few inches shorter than me (even without my two inch heals on). He had a portly middle aged man who never exercises and watches too much football kind of figure, and a bristly beard filled with grey and white hair.

The look on his face when I approached to ask my question was just unbelievable. You would have thought he’d seen the boogey man or something like that. He was so taken aback by my sudden, and clearly unwelcome, appearance that he totally blew my question off with a cold “no” and rushed off like his mommy was calling him home. You see, I’d asked if they carried organic weed killer, which they totally fucking do because we found it a few minutes later, yet he was so disturbed by this transwoman talking to him that all he could do was lie about it and flee.

At long fucking last Emma has finally developed the ability to drive away shitty old men!! Oh, how I’ve longed for the days when these portly, middle-aged, small minded idiots would stop assuming I was a chummy fellow interested in admiring their experienced manliness. Now they flee upon sight and want nothing to do with me. The funny part about it is that he probably doesn’t realize that I was relieved by his reaction. I’d asked him a question a few days earlier (as I said, we go there way too often) and he’d been nothing but a pompous ass about his answer, so to see him fleeing like a scared child was almost vindicating. So much for his all that pomp and manly condescension. In the end he was just a scared little boy, so insecure about his supposed manliness that he couldn’t even handle the sight of a person breaking gender norms.

I’m sure you are wondering why I wasn’t more disturbed by his reaction, but I’m not sure I can really explain it. I guess, on some level, his reaction was the worst kind of reaction I really expected to receive, and having finally faced that reaction up close, I realized there was nothing to fear. If anything, HE was the one who was afraid, not I. The negative emotions that were experienced were more on his end than mine, which just shows that we are all the bearers of our own karma. I felt, perhaps, slightly affronted at his lack of willingness to do his fucking job by helping a paying customer, but I really didn’t take it personally.

Regardless of why I had a positive reaction instead of negative, the interaction set a whole different tone for the rest of our shopping experience. Instead of worrying that someone might freak out because I was a transwoman who’d been brazen enough to show her face at the Temple of Masculinity, I walked around like I owned the fucking place. Every time someone started to read me or give me that prolonged and probing look, I made absolutely sure to make eye contact and smile at them. Some looked away, but many of them returned the smile.

By time we left the store I was no longer afraid and my anxiety was almost completely gone. I realized that my fear was really of my own making (I knew this logically already, but knowing something and experiencing it directly are two different things). By worrying so much about how people might look at me, I created the fear and anxiety I felt. Once I stopped caring and just started living regardless of whatever anyone else thought, I felt empowered and proud of myself. I was Emma, transwoman extraordinaire, and if they couldn’t handle all the fabulous that was walking past them, then that was their problem, not mine.

The fun, however, didn’t stop there. The second fear I got to cross off my list came almost immediately upon leaving Home Depot. My wife asked if we could go to Costco to pick up the things we were going to need for our upcoming house warming and I was so excited about surviving the Home Depot trip with minimal scars that I said sure, why not?

So, we went grocery shopping at the ever busy Costco and I got to further experience the relief of just being me out in public. The anxiety decreased with every minute we were there and my confidence soared. I definitely got read by a few men, some of whom were not even afraid to keep staring despite me making eye contact and refusing to look ashamed of myself. It was glorious. I know it probably sounds truly terrifying and in some ways it was, but it was also liberating. I stopped caring what they thought. I stopped worrying about what they were thinking. I stopped feeling the desire to shrink back or to hide who I was for the sake of their discomfort. By time we were picking up our final items for the trip, I honestly wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. I was just at the store with my wife, like I’ve been a thousand times before, and nothing felt out of place. My feet hurt like an SoB because my shoes, while adorable and pretty, are little more than friggin torture devices, but other than that I wasn’t even worried about it anymore.

In the span of about 2 hours I went from being terrified of going out into public dressed in my gender appropriate clothing, to not even feeling the slightest of anxiety. Every person who saw me as Emma, whether they assumed me to be female or read me as trans, was another small victory. Each time I walked past someone I didn’t know with my head held high, my confidence grew a little more until I remembered that it was all in my head anyways. They were going to love me or hate me regardless of what I did, and the only way that could possibly affect me was if I let it.

And that’s the truth about shame and fear of breaking social norms. They are rules only for as long as you choose to play by them. They only have power over you for as long as you allow them to. Sure, there might be consequences to breaking those rules (like the employee at Home Depot who refused to be of service and fled out of childlike fear), but so what? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s a law of physics. Just because there will be a reaction, doesn’t mean it’s  going to be the end of the world, or even bad at that. The equal and opposite reaction to me breaking gender norms and not caring what people thought ended up being an enormous boost to my confidence. I turned society’s shame into my strength. Some people stared at me, trying to shame or judge me, and in the end, all they accomplished was to give me the attention necessary to overcome my fear of their condemnation.

The more people stared and the more they judged, the less I cared and the more I felt free to just be me.  I wasn’t attacked, I wasn’t berated, I wasn’t mocked or made fun of. I was merely looked at with either confusion or disapproval, and I believe that’s because I refused to be ashamed. I refused to be defeated by their stares, and so they had no power over me. Had I walked in and lowered my eyes and acted like I should be an outcast or a freak for breaking their norms, things might have gone differently, but because I was unwilling to waver in my confidence (whether it was just for show or because I actually felt confident) no one could touch me.

I know that approach may not always work, and there are a lot of factors that were to my benefit (location of the stores, my skin color, my height of 6’3” with heals on, and the fact that I was with my wife), but the principle can be applied to most situations. Confidence is always key. Act as though you are supposed to be there and 99% of people will just accept that you are supposed to be there and the 1% who don’t will likely be too afraid to call you out on it; although there are some crazy people out there, for which I would recommend some mace, a taser or even a gun to assert your belongedness. >;)

Anyways, onto my third and final fear, which was overcome a few days after the events of Home Depot and Costco. Saturday was our house warming party, as mentioned previously, and we had about 20 guests over, which included a mixture of coworkers, family members, and friends. In this grouping of guests, there were at least 3 or 4 people who either for sure didn’t know about me as Emma, or probably didn’t know about me as Emma. So, it’s probably no stretch of the imagination to figure out what my predicatment was. Did I dress up as Emma for my house warming party or not? On one hand it was my house and I am Emma at home. I’m really only still presenting as Robert at work and occasionally in public, so it would feel strange to present as Robert at my own home. On the other hand, it would inevitably be a shock to those who didn’t know about my gender issues to see Robert wearing a dress, wig, and makeup, and was I certain I wanted to do that to them? On a third hand (for those keeping count) some of my coworkers would be there, and despite all of them knowing about my soon-to-be transition at work, none of them had really seen me dressed up. On a fourth hand, because apparently I’m Goro from Mortal Kombat, my nieces and nephews would be there, and I wasn’t sure if their mother (my sister in-law who knows) had explained the situation to them. Would I be putting her in a difficult position? What about me? Was I really ready to come out in such a significant way to all of these people and answer all the potential questions that might come up?

I wish I could say that I threw caution completely to the wind and hosted my party in fabulous Emma transwoman extraordinaire mode, but I didn’t, at least, not fully. After struggling with it and mulling it over for a couple days I decided to make a compromise. I wanted nothing more than to host the party in full dress, wig, and makeup, but I also didn’t want to give some of my guests heart failure or to make it too awkward for them when they realized they’d been invited to the Rocky Horror House Warming party! Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have been THAT much of a shock, but these are people I care about after all (unlike Costco and Home Depot customers) and I definitely want them to feel comfortable coming back.

As a result of these somewhat conflicting desires I decided that I was going to present as Emma, I was going to wear my new dress, I was going to put on makeup and nail polish and I was going to wear a matching headband (I had lots of pink going on, and I loved it! sorry no pics, but I will try to recreate the outfit for this upcoming picture update). The compromise, however, was that I wouldn’t wear my wig. This was mostly for the sake of those who didn’t know so they wouldn’t see me as this COMPLETELY different person, but was also partially because the wig is a huge pain in the ass to not only eat with, but to clean should I get food in it or should I spend too much time around the fire pit we were planning to use. All of these reasons coupled together made me decide to keep Wiggy (that’s her new name BTW) on her Styrofoam head in our bedroom.

The party itself went off without a hitch. Everyone who showed up complimented me on how good I looked or how much they liked my dress. The few people who were in the “didn’t know” or “might not know” category either revealed that they did know (good ol’ grapevine for ya), chose not to discuss the matter at all, or in one case, admitted with a nervous chuckle that I looked very different than they were used to seeing me (one of my wife’s coworkers, her only coworker who didn’t know). Otherwise though, it wasn’t a big deal at all. Everyone was so kind and nice. My coworkers didn’t seem all that bothered by my appearance and were even happy for me that I’d decided to present as Emma.

My wife’s grandfather was the only one who seemed a bit awkward about the whole thing, but that only manifested in him taking a defense strategy that one might adopt should you suddenly encounter Medusa (AKA avoiding all eye contact, even when speaking to one another). Otherwise he was just as cordial as he ever is, which, just between us, isn’t all that cordial but I digress.

So, in the span of about 4 days, I worshipped at the temple de masculinity while transgressing their primary tenet (thou shall not be lady-like), I bought groceries in ad absurdum size at Costco, and I entertained friends, family and coworkers, all while rocking a dress (and sometimes heels and a wig). Overall, my confidence level as Emma has skyrocketed. I think that I’m truly ready to start coming to work as her on a daily basis and to become her full time. I think I’m finally ready to put Robert to rest.

All that is left to do is to keep accumulating clothes for my new life as a transwoman, which is going along swimmingly so far. I’ve ordered two pairs of shoes that I can wear to work and two bras!! I’m really excited to have my own bras, like stupid excited. The girls have been growing and developing a bit faster that I would have suspected after only just a couple months on HRT, so I’m almost to the point where I really should be wearing a bra. Luckily (or not so luckily) I’m still somewhat over weight, so my breasts don’t seem all that out of place when I dress like a male, but I only have to worry about that for a few more weeks.

I cannot recall if I posted about this on here, but I’ve made a decision that my on-the-job transition is going to commence in approximately a month. I haven’t picked a hard date yet because I still need to purchase more clothes to wear to work and want to keep things flexible in case I need more time, but it will be no later than July 1st. Ideally it will be June 22nd, but we shall see.

Okay, that’s enough for one post. This is why I shouldn’t go so many days without writing on here, because then I have way too much to talk about for a single post. Anyways, thank you for stopping by. I promise there will be more pictures for the 13 week HRT update, but things were too busy for me to do a 12 week picture update this weekend.

 

Much love,

-Emma

Monday, May 11, 2015

5-11-2015 Picture Entry: HRT 11 Weeks



Hello my darling readers, well it’s that time again, the HRT/picture update. It’s been 11 weeks since I started hormones and I can say for certain that I’ve noticed some changes. The initial effects of the estrogen in my system were rather pronounced, especially when it came to emotional capacity (it was dramatically increased, for those just tuning in), but those effects seemed to have leveled off over the last month or so. Whether that just means I’ve become accustomed to them as the new normal or my body is just regulating them differently after 11 weeks is difficult for me to say. My hair, which you won’t see in these pictures, is continuing to grow slowly but steadily and there are brief moments when I can see my hair as feminine looking instead of masculine. Regardless, I have taken to wearing my wig with increased frequency, as you will see below. I still have only worn it out in public two or three times now, but I’m growing more and more accustomed to seeing myself with long hair. I’m not sure my real hair will ever look quite as substantial or nice as the wig does, as the effects of my male-pattern balding have permanently reduced the amount of viable hair follicles in the crown/bangs area of my scalp, but I guess I just have to accept that. Despite being told that HRT wouldn’t reverse the effects of male pattern balding I was still hopeful that maybe I would see a difference, so the disappointment is really my own fault for setting up unrealistic expectations, but I digress.

My skin has definitely softened quite a bit over the last few weeks. I frequently find myself amazed at how soft and smooth areas of my skin are, despite my criminal lack of moisturizing. My face is continuing to change and I think I’ve noticed a marked difference in the shape of my eyes. More often than not my eyes looks more feminine than masculine to me, although it’s impossible to know how much of a bias there is in my perceptions. The facial hair is still growing at approximately the same speed as it has been, although I think the hair is starting to change some. It is starting to lighten in the areas where it was already lighter and is becoming more fine. Unfortunately the area where my goatee used to be is not seeing any such lightening and has a perpetual five o’clock shadow effect. I went to the Laser Hair removal place in town and met with one of their specialists to talk about the possibilities of LHR. Unfortunately the bill for such a procedure is quite substantial. For seven treatments on my face and neck over the span of a year, it was going to cost me a little over $3100, and that was after substaintial promotional discounts (supposedly, although I suspect there is a raise the price so you can appear to discount it factor at play, but I can’t say for sure). They offer interest free financing to help ease the blow, but the payment per month would have been about $130, which is currently a bit out of the realm of possibility for me. Needless to say, I was a bit heartbroken as I was expecting the cost to be like ¼ of that and was hoping to sign up for the treatments that day by paying for the whole thing on my credit card. Maybe I can sign up for one or two treatments instead of seven, just to reduce the hair to a certain degree, but I’ll have to look into it.

Mental/emotional state has been a bit better lately. I suspect the acquisition of the wig and some lady clothes has helped soothe a bit of my anxiety, not to mention the diminished stress from no longer having to buy a house or move, but it hasn’t stopped the depression from wreaking havoc. Last night I spent the last hour before I fell asleep crying and considering just ending it all. Again I found myself praying to god to just put me out of my misery, and started imagining ways I would take that matter into my own hands. I’m not trying to be melodramatic, it’s just the way I feel/felt. It took everything I had this morning not to call into work sick for a mental health day. I probably should have done that given my general lack of motivation to do anything right now, but I think part of me was afraid that if I stayed at home by myself, that I might have done something I couldn’t undo.
I think most of my depression spawns from my high dissatisfaction with my current job. I truly hate being a paralegal and working at a law firm. I desperately hope the graduate school application I just filed two weeks ago is accepted and I can find a way to afford going back to school so I can leave this profession for one I think I will enjoy much more. I think my greatest fear, and therefore my darkest motivation for suicide is that I won’t be accepted into the program, or worse still that I will be accepted but won’t be able to afford to go. The thought of having to stay in this job forever, or to find another equally meaningless job is just too much to bear. I’ve already failed in great part to become a self-sustained fiction writer, despite writing two books that have gotten nothing but positive reviews, and I feel like a failure of a legal professional because I settled for paralegal instead of going to law school. If I also fail to become a therapist, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle the disappointment. No amount of HRT, wig-wearing, makeup or clothes/shoes will make up for that.


I sense this post has taken a tragic turn into bummer town, so I’ll put it to rest and assure you that despite falling to the dirt and desiring to just give up, I’ve staggered to my feet and will live to fight another day. All I can do is try to find the motivation and hope to keep going. I may be a failure, but I refuse to also be a quitter, at least, for today. Hopefully my pictures aren’t too tragic. I really like the outfit I’m wearing in these, it’s definitely one of my favorite so far.


Much love to all of you,

-Emma






Friday, May 8, 2015

5-8-2015 Entry: Being Transgender and "Passing"


To Pass or Not to Pass

 

So I recently read an article on my friend Dara’s website (www.darahoffmanfox.com/) about the concept of “passing” as a transgender person. The article itself was rather good but it, along with some of the comments made by other readers, has gotten me thinking about the concept of passing. As a deconstructionist at heart, I feel a strong desire to take this concept of passing apart and examine how it works. I wish to know where all the pieces came from and how they function in tandem to create this social phenomena, and it truly is a phenomena. You can barely read anything related to gender identity and transgender topics without stepping in the proverbial muck of passing or not passing. It is everywhere, but why? Why is the concept of passing so important or so pervasive to the conversation of gender identity? Why do we as transgender and cisgender people feel a need to analyze a person’s passability or non-passability either in thought, in conversation, or in practice?

I find even myself critical of whether or not my exterior is passing or not passing, but where does this mechanism of self-criticism come from? Why are so many of my fellow gender non-conformists so concerned with the same self-criticism?

There are a great deal of questions to be asked and to be answered around this subject, but let’s begin simple and just define passing. Wikipedia defines it as: “[referring] to a person's ability to be regarded at a glance to be either a cisgender man or a cisgender woman”. The Queer Dictionary defines it as: “to be perceived as the gender you identify as. It’s typically, but not always, used in the context of a trans* person discussing their experience in the public world”

If we can accept that those two definitions roughly describe what “passing” is about, then the next step in our deconstructive efforts is to look at the individual parts of that definition. The key, I believe, to both definitions is the concept of perception. Passing is an effort for a person to be perceived as a desired something (passing can refer to other social situations separate from gender, such as social/economic class, race, etc.).

If passing is the effort to be perceived as a certain something (in this case a man or a woman), then does that mean that a transgender person doesn’t pass as the man or woman that they are aspiring towards until someone else enters the equation? Can I “pass” as a woman when I am by myself, or must I enter into a social situation before passing or non-passing becomes a factor? When I look in the mirror and I see myself in the reflection, I know that the person I’m seeing is a female. I know her name is Emma and that she has always been a female, but does that mean I’m “passing” as a female? The logical answer, at least to me, is no. The reflection I see is the person that I physically am, and that person is a female. I cannot pass as something when I’m inherently already that thing. I can’t pass as an American when I am already an American. So when does passing or non-passing arise?

I conclude, and I don’t expect that it is a stretch of the imagination for anyone else to conclude that passing only becomes an observable phenomena when another person or people is/are perceiving me. Passing, therefore, is based completely on the perceptions of others, which means that it is a social dynamic. If the phenomena ceases to exist when one is alone, then that means it is a socially constructed phenomena. Now, I can probably hear some of you saying or thinking, “but Emma, you can still worry about passing or evaluate passability when you are alone,” to which I respond, yes, passing can exist when one is alone, but only when one is assuming an outside perspective, thereby artificially creating a social situation. When I look in the mirror and I evaluate whether or not my appearance is passable as female I must create a lens of socially constructed gender norms that I’ve accumulated throughout my life experience in order to do it. I must, essentially, evoke a hypothetical social situation before “passing” can be evaluated.

Think about it this way: If I was the only human on earth, then my definition of female would be the “normal” definition of female. I wouldn’t have to “pass” as female because I would just be a female; there would be no need to alter my appearance to adhere to some socially agreed upon standard of femaleness.

So, why is it important for us to understand that “passing” is a socially constructed phenomena? Understanding that passing is a social construction/phenomena tells us quite a bit about it actually, but what are social phenomena?

 

Ask.com has a great definition: “Social phenomena are any external influences on living organisms. These influences include behavioral influences, historical influences and developmental influences. They have been observed in humans and animals. Social phenomena change the way an organism behaves. Due to external influences an organism, including humans, may change or adapt their behaviors. Over time these changed behaviors can become permanent and become a part of the organism's life and their DNA” They cite Markey as the basis for their definition, which you can read more about here: https://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Markey/Markey_1926.html

 

So, taking that definition of a Social Phenomena to heart, we can see that the concept of “passing” is an external behavioral/historical/developmental influence on a person. In short, “passing” is something that society has created, which in turn changes the way an organism (in this case a transgender person) behaves. I know you might be thinking, “but Emma, this isn’t really all that profound,” but I really want you to think critically about this for a moment. If “passing” is a social influence that changes the way a transgender person acts, then doesn’t that mean that “passing” is a socially constructed manipulation by the gender binary system to be or act a certain way?

In other words, isn’t the standard of passing just another binary-based social control over what is and isn’t male or female? On the surface that might not seem all that dangerous, but if you are willing to get your hands a bit dirty by digging into this idea, then you’ll quickly find that all is not as “okay” as it might seem. The gender binary social system is the very same system that has ostracized and dehumanized transgender and gender non-conforming individuals for as long as we can recall. It is the system that has basically set up a huge social power differential between those who conform to their assigned gender and those who don’t. These power imbalances manifest in higher murder rates, in higher poverty rates, in higher suicide rates, and  higher workplace/housing discrimination rates for transgender/gender non-conforming individuals vs. cisgender/gender conforming individuals. People who do not conform to the gender binary have, historically, been viewed and treated as lesser than those who do conform. Passing is simply an extension of that very same power imbalance.

A transgender individual who does not adequately “pass” hetero-cis-normative standards for their identified gender is viewed as lesser than a transgender person who does “pass” the hetero-cis-normative standards. They are subject to increased bullying, increased risk of depression and suicide, and increased risk of assault or even murder, all because they don’t “pass” well enough.

If “passing” is really just a social manipulation from a system of power disparities, then why do we as transgender individual place so much emphasis on it? Is passing a personal preference to conform to a socially accepted and propagated ideal, or is it simply an effort to reduce risk of injury/oppression? Where does the realm social coping mechanisms end and personal preference begin? Can they even be separated, or are they mutually dependent?

I, personally, believe they are mutually dependent. Passing is a personal preference to aspire to an accepted ideal which spawned from a social coping mechanism. When one chooses to adopt and adhere to a standard of passing or not passing, then one is setting out a personal preference to cope with socially constructed power imbalances, but is that our only option? Do we, as transgender individuals, have to make that choice? Do we have to worry about whether or not we pass? Only the individual can truly decide for themselves, but my answer to those questions is no, I don’t have to worry about passing.

If I permit myself to stand on the slippery slope of the passability standard then I am, in effect, upholding the very system of power imbalances that has dehumanized and ostracized people like me for centuries. By accepting their standards for what I should look like, then I am also saying that it is okay for social norms to dictate what is male and what is female, instead of relying upon the self-efficacy of individual preference and identity.

By agreeing to the binary social contract of passability, am I not giving away my social power by subjecting myself to the perceptions of others, perceptions which are not only impossible to predict and frequently change from one era to the next, but are downright frustrating to even try to define? If passing is the ultimate social control of cisgender norms and expectations, then the gender binary says that I, one who is identified as “not male”, must therefore begin to display mutually agreed upon social queues, actions, and clothing of their definition of female (the only accepted gender when one is “not male”) before I will be socially validated. If I choose to be “not male” and “not female” by playing with the boundaries of gender identity or carving out a space for myself by rejecting their tenets of gender absolutism (the idea that male and female genders have an inherent and definable existence), then don’t I forfeit my right to social acceptance, power, and resources in their system? Why must my gender identity be an all or nothing game of social acceptance? Why must I conform to the norms of others who do not understand and can never experience this gender identity that I have?

To me, accepting passable and non-passable as benchmarks of my social and individual validity as a female or a male is akin to the impoverished people of a third world nation worshiping an unruly and oppressive dictator as being just and kind, even as that dictator carries on a lavish and rich lifestyle of never ending food and drink. (I admit this may be a radical opinion, but bear with me). By adhering to the standards of acceptance orchestrated by a system that has historically done nothing but delegitimize people like me, are we not laying the groundwork for further oppression? The more transgender individuals spend their time, energy, and money desperately trying to “pass” the standards of commonly accepted man-ness or woman-ness, the more stratified this benchmark for legitimacy becomes. The more transgender and non-conforming individuals who willingly carve out a space for themselves and claim self-efficacy of identity, regardless of hetero-cis-normative standards, the less stratified the benchmark becomes.

In other words, the more trans individuals resist the urge to cope with social power imbalances by conforming to the standards of the system that created those imbalances, the more legitimacy they can ultimately achieve outside of that system of imbalances. When power is achieved outside of the system of imbalances then that imbalanced system must then either falter (which it probably won’t, not for a long time, at least) or it must evolve to more adequately accommodate and balance those new positions of social power.

Has anyone else noticed that the more open transgender people have become about who they are and what kind of respect they require, the more the trans revolution (my term) evolves? The more icons we have in the media who brazenly admit that they are transgender instead of trying to “pass” under the radar of gender policing, the less power those gender police have. The more we come out of hiding and say, “I’m here, I exist, and I am just as important as anyone else, regardless of my gender identity or your standards about it” the more the cis-normative social structures start to crumble. We start to see increasing numbers of gender neutral clothes, advertising, bathrooms, sport policies, and employment/housing availability. The more we claim our own legitimacy instead of adhering to the standards of cis-normative legitimacy, the less powerful cis-gender legitimacy standards on gender become.

This conversation isn’t complete, however, unless we address the personal choice aspect to passing and not passing. This social contract exists, at least in part, because transgender individuals have a desire to be seen as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. I, being mostly female, do aspire to look much more like a typical female, but I believe there is an important distinction that must be made about the motivation behind this aspiration. It is one thing to change one’s appearance to soothe gender dysphoria, and to create a reflection of one’s self that one can feel happy and proud of and another to seek acceptance by adhering to social norms. I wear a wig and makeup because I enjoy doing those things and enjoy the way I look in them, NOT because I’m trying to achieve social acceptance as a female. I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking I’m a cisgender female, I’m simply acting out behavior that I find enjoyable and appropriate for the gender I know inside. I do it to gain a degree of emotional relief from the oppressive feelings I have about my body.

The important difference between what I am doing, and what one is doing when they are trying to “pass” is that were I ever to be approached about my gender or asked about my gender, I would never tell them I was a woman (ciswoman). I would tell them I was a transwoman, because that noun gives me a different kind of social power and puts me in a different social context. I am not a person who is trying to deceive others into thinking I was born a female because I feel compelled to do so in order to gain social validity; I’m upholding and asserting a non-conforming gender identity that suits my own needs and desires. Acceptance has then become something that isn’t asked for, but is asserted or demanded. I’m not opening the door for them to argue that I’m not a woman or that I will never be a woman, I’m telling them that I am a transwoman, a gender identity that they cannot assert doesn’t exist or isn’t valid.

I understand that this choice I’ve made won’t work for everyone. Many transgender individuals wish nothing more than to live a life as the gender they identify as and I can’t blame them. Many of them want to adhere to the cis-normative passing benchmark, for any number of reasons. I’m not saying that what they are doing is wrong or bad. All I am saying is that there are other options, and those other options have a greater chance of achieving social viability for every transgender person instead of just an individual. No, I’m not saying they are selfish for making their decision to aspire to individual social acceptance in the cis-normative system, I’m just saying that what they are doing might not be the best way to advocate for other transgender people to gain the same level of acceptance outside of that system, and that’s okay. Aspiring to be a gender outlaw like I do isn’t the road for everyone, and I’d never shame anyone for making the choice to adhere to the passing benchmarks; I’m just hoping that the social standards and consequences of “passing” passes away during my lifetime and people like myself and countless others won’t be delegitimized for looking like something other than the “either or” standards should we have to or choose to.


-Emma

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5-7-2015 Entry: The Increasing Difficulty of Coming Back


This transition is starting feel a bit like I’m an inter-dimensional traveler in a science fiction story. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch of my ever vivid imagination (have to have one to write sci-fi/fantasy novels, right?) but in some ways that’s how I feel. Every time I dress up and go out into the world as Emma, it’s like I’m taking a brief trip to another dimension, one that’s amazing, exciting, and rapturous. There are amazing sights, and the air around me smells sweet and fresh. Time seems to work differently in this other-worldly place, and I feel as though I could stay there forever, but I know that I can’t, so I’m forced to make the trip back. Upon reentering this world (the world of Robert) I’m immediately struck by the suffocating drabness of everything. Time slows down again and I’m filled with a deep sensation of longing to go back to that other place, and each trip makes this sensation all the more pronounce. It’s literally becoming harder and harder to come back to this “real life” experience of Robert, an early transition, partially in the closet sad person.

I know it might be a bit confusing for me to refer to myself as both Emma and Robert, but in all reality I am living a double life. Because I still must present to my work as Robert, I cannot see myself as fully Emma yet. When I dawn the full regalia of Emma, clothes/wig/makeup/etc. I only get to temporarily suspend Robert from my mind. Robert goes away and I get to be completely Emma, but so far those trips into the dimension Emma are short lived, and the more frequently I go to that place, the harder it is for me to come back.

Yesterday was my typical Wednesday session with my therapist (which had actually been cancelled, but due to lucky and forgetful happenstance, we were able to meet anyway), which meant that I got to dress up as Emma. I left work early, orchestrated a quick wardrobe change, and became Emma, the skirt wearing transwoman extraordinaire (and OMG I loved my flowy, flower and polka-dot patterned skirt. Don’t worry, there will be pictures of it soon enough). I got to show off my new wig, which my therapist just loved. I asked her if it was strange to see me with the wig and she said that it actually felt amazingly natural to see me like this. She even went so far as to comment that the only time it was strange for her to see me was when I still had facial hair (Side note, I have a laser hair removal consultation scheduled this Saturday, so facial hair is soon to be bye-bye on a more permanent basis).

During the session we chatted about the bookstore adventures I blogged about a few days ago, and she assigned me additional homework. This time it was a simple addition of doing the same thing, or something similar to the bookstore adventure, except to try to prolong the time out in the world even more. I was excited at this new homework because, as I’ve been alluding to, these brief periods of Emma-ness have been truly amazing and fun. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do but I will inevitably blog about it.

We wrapped up our session and I took my leave. Taking to the street to walk back to my car was much less anxiety inducing than the week before because I had the wig on (it’s amazing how much my dysphoria diminishes with the wig on, I strongly recommend getting one to any MtF’s thinking about transition or in early transition). I walked with my head held up and a bit of swagger in my walk (AKA trying not to kill myself in heels). I got in my car and took to cruising through the streets of Minneapolis, eager for as many people as possible to assume I was a woman. I drove from my appointment to the pharmacy (more on why in a bit) and when I got out of the car to go into to get my prescription something amazing happened to me.

There has not been a point in my life where I truly felt proud or happy with my reflection, as I’ve described in previous posts. Part of that displeasure in my reflection often manifested in the worst fashion when I caught a glimpse of myself unexpectedly in public. You know what I’m talking about, you walk past a building with highly reflective windows or through a store that has mirrored pillars. Those occasions were always the most traumatic for me and often would drive me into a downward spiral of self-loathing. Well, yesterday was the very first time I had the opposite reaction to seeing an unexpected reflection.

As I walked into the pharmacy, I looked to my left and was delightfully surprised to see this tall, relatively thin, long-haired, well-dressed woman looking back at me. I wish I could adequately describe the glee and pride I felt knowing that that woman was me. I felt so happy and so excited at that random reflection that by time I actually entered the pharmacy building, I felt like I was on top of the world. I looked good, and I felt amazing to have looked so good (I know, this probably sounds so narcissistic, but dammit Jim, a girl’s gotta feel good about herself sometimes!). Instead of walking through the waiting room for the doctor’s office (pharmacy and Doctor’s office are in the same building) worried about what people were going to think about me, I didn’t care. I was looking good and there wasn’t anybody who was going to tell me otherwise!

I made my way into the pharmacy and stood in line like a model might stand for a photoshoot. There was a Somali man in front of me and he definitely stared at me for a bit longer than he probably would have otherwise, but his expression didn’t seem to indicate any degree of disgust or displeasure. If anything I think he was just stunned by this tall ass lady who’d just walked in behind him and may have even checked me out, which I won’t lie, was kind of flattering. I’m not attracted to men at all, but if a presumably straight cis-male is finding Emma attractive enough to check her out, then I think that can only be seen as a good sign.

Being passable is a huge thing in the Transgender community, but my aspirations to be seen as or assumed to be a woman don’t come from a desire to hide or promote the idea that I was born with a female body. I aspire to look more like a female because it makes ME feel good to be seen as and assumed to be female, not because I want to pretend to be something I’m not. I am not afraid at all (well, maybe a smidge, if I’m honest) that people are going to discover that I “used to be a man” or anything like that. I have no plans to expunge my first 28 years of life from the record so people just know me as a woman. I am proud to be a transwoman. I am proud to be someone who was born in a male body but to have a female or mostly female gender identity. I’ve gotten to live both sides of the fence, and that perspective is worth more than my weight in gold. So please do not mistake my enjoyment of a presumably straight cis-male checking me out as a woman as some aspiration to conform to society’s standard of gender legitimacy.

Sorry, felt a need to expound on that point before continuing the story. So, after getting checked out, I went up to the counter and told the pharmacy tech the name on the prescription. She was legitimately confused for a few seconds when she saw the name Robert and looked up to see this 6’3” blonde lady in front of her, but her confusion was short lived. The puzzled look quickly morphed to a knowing, and I would even say an impressed smile. She’d seen me at least 4 or 5 times before, always dressed as Robert, so I think she was happy for me to see me dressed as Emma (the Rx clearly states that I’m taking estrogen and this clinic/pharmacy does a great deal of work with the trans community, so I’m sure this isn’t her first encounter like this).

I paid for the pills, spoke briefly with the pharmacist about the new Rx, and then went on my way back out to the car. As I mentioned above, I have decided to make the switch from using the Estradiol patch to going onto estrogen pills. I was having a rather adverse reaction to the patches which were causing me to develop very itchy rashes where the patches were; rashes that didn’t go away for days at a time. I will try to document here if there are any side effects of switching from one method of delivery to another, but today is the first day on the pills so I have nothing to report yet.

I left the pharmacy, still feeling fabulous and pretty, and drove to pick my wife up from work. The whole drive back to our house was filled with me smiling to myself as I recalled that random reflection I saw. It just made me so happy and I just wanted to go out into the world some more. Sadly I couldn’t convince my wife to go to the mall to buy clothes, so we just went home. that’s when everything turned for the worse.

Taking off my clothes and wig, was like I’d been transported back to some horrible reality I didn’t want to be part of anymore. I wasn’t Emma anymore, but had become Robert again, and the emotional fallout of that transformation was pretty intense. I didn’t want to be Robert again. I didn’t want to wear boy clothes and have short hair. I didn’t want to be a guy again. I felt like a child who had been forced to wear terrible clothes and an awful hairdo to school for picture day, despite how uncomfortable and dorky they were.

My therapist warned me that it would become harder and harder to go back, and I was feeling that right away. Getting up and coming into work this morning was as difficult as it ever has been because all I wanted to do was come in as Emma. My therapist has always warned me that the day is quickly approaching where I won’t be able to tolerate the going back at all; that the distress of having to return to the world as Robert will be too great a burden to bear anymore. I can feel that day approaching. I can feel my need and desire to come to work as Emma growing ever stronger. I don’t have a plan for when I’m going to do that now, but I believe it is coming within the next month or two. I want to have at least the initial laser hair removal appointment behind me before I commit to it, and I desperately need additional clothing to wear to work. Three outfits and one pair of shoes is simply not enough, but my disposable income is limited, so it might be awhile before I can accumulate the necessary clothing for the transition. All I know is that once you start going out into the world as the gender you’re meant to be, going back becomes harder with each trip, so be prepared for that if you follow in my shoes.

Well, my darling readers, that is all I have for today’s episode of the Life and Times of Emma Extraordinaire. Tune in next time for some more random stories from transgender town! =p::

 

-Emma