Monday, May 4, 2015

5-4-2015 Entry: Homework Assignment #2




 

Hello my dear and precious readers. I figured I’d stop by and drop a note about this past weekend’s homework assignment completion. I cannot recall if I mentioned this previously, but my therapist was so impressed with my efforts on the first assignment that she gave me another, more difficult assignment. Specifically, I was to go out into the world by myself, completely dressed up as Emma, and “take up space” as she put it. What she meant by “take up space” was simply to put myself in the social sphere of everyday life presenting myself as a female in a rather direct and strong way. Instead of just playing with the boundaries of gender norms by having nail polish, makeup, and/or feminine hair accessories on, I had to go full steam ahead. No more sticking my toe in the waters of gender non-conformity, no more testing the waters to see if I liked the temperature; it was time for me to take the deep plunge. The task itself was rather simple. She suggested that I go to a coffee shop, order a cup of coffee, and then drink it there, all while paying particular attention to any emotions that came up (shame, in particular). Since I do not drink coffee (I know, you are suddenly wondering if I’m really a cyborg sent back in time to terminate your views on gender **DUNNA-DUH-DUN-DUH**, but I promise I’m just a weird person who is not addicted to caffeine) I decided to go book shopping instead. I wanted to keep the idea of going to a place where I wouldn’t necessarily have to interact with a lot of people, but also somewhere that a lot of people congregate on the weekend. Also, there was a book I wanted to read and haven’t been able to find anywhere.

So, I began the long process of putting on my female before setting out for the nearest Barnes & Noble. I began by victoriously finishing Operation Chewbacca No More by eradicating the final vestiges of my male-pattern body hair and showered the casualties off. I stepped out of the shower only to discover that I look f’ing weird without a hairy chest and stomach… like seriously, it was kind of jarring to be so… naked. I have had manly chest hair for about as long as I can remember. Pretty much from about the age of 16 or 17 I’ve been relatively furry, but as my wife so lovingly put it, there would be no more fur-sweater for me.

Shaking the shocking image of my gleaming hairless tummy from my mind, I proceeded to get dressed and put on my makeup, which I’m happy to report is getting a lot easier to not HORRIBLY mess up. I Once I’d finished with putting my makeup on I admired my work, although I couldn’t help but feel masculine still. Sure, my face looked increasingly feminine, both from the slight changes it has undergone because of HRT and my adeptly applied makeup, but my hair is ever the culprit in making me feel less feminine. It has been seven months since I last had a haircut and you’d think I’d only just started growing it out, but I digress. Pushing the dysphoric emotions about my hair aside, I finished my outfit and put on my wig.

Guuuurrrlll, I cannot adequately describe what it was like to see myself in full Emma mode. I was just stunned; stunned and speechless as I stared into the mirror. Was that girl looking back at me really me? Was that really what I looked like? It felt so overwhelming to take in the details of her face and hair. She was beautiful… she was amazing… she was… me. I don’t mean for that to sound narcissistic but you must understand that this was the first time, yes, truly the first time EVER that I’d looked in the mirror and seen exactly the person I knew myself to be.

I feel like I’m criminally under describing the emotions this event created in me but how does one put into words the feeling of unadulterated love and joy? How does one articulate what it’s like to go to the moon and back again all while standing in your bathroom, staring into the mirror? How can I put into words something that artists all throughout the history of humankind have never fully articulated? This feeling was staggering, it was monumental, it was gargantuan, it was colossal, it was… too big to comprehend fully. So big, in fact, that I stood in front of that mirror for several minutes just staring at the image greeting me so warmly with her loving smile.

I once had an emailer recount a story of them putting on a wig and just staring at themselves in the mirror for extended periods of time, and at the time of reading it, I didn’t quite understand what they meant. Now I know. Now I know what it’s like to see something so beautiful, so amazing, so moving, and so powerful that you cannot help but stare, awestruck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Vogue is busting down my door to offer me a modeling job or anything, but before Saturday night, I had never felt beautiful. I’d never felt like I was pretty or even worthy of being pretty. I’d always felt wrong, or ugly, or just “off” in some way. My reflection had always seemed like a cruel joke to me, like it wasn’t really me and the gods had just fooled my eyes into never seeing the real me.

I have always felt disappointed when I looked in the mirror, and that disappointment led to me not caring about my appearance. I’m ashamed to say this but there was a period of time where I was so depressed at my appearance and so dejected by the way I looked that I practically stopped showering and taking care of myself. I wasn’t truly bad like some people who go weeks or months on end without bathing, but I would only shower like twice a week. I also practically stopped brushing my teeth too. Sure I’d swish around some Listerine once and awhile, but otherwise I almost never did that. I know, you are judging me so harshly right now, but you must understand what the effects of dysphoria can be like. I stopped caring about the way I dressed, or the way I looked. I let my rosacea get so out of control that it has since done permanent damage, and I also allowed myself to gain over a 100 pounds through the coping mechanism of eating terrible-for-you food.

Hopefully this is needless to say, but I’ve long since changed those habits and take much better care of myself. I shower practically every day, I brush my teeth every day, I tend to my skin as best as I can, I wear either dress clothes or nicer clothing every day (unless I’m sick or something). The point is, however, standing in front of that mirror and seeing what looked like an actual female staring back at me was like a salve being put on angry wound that had long since needed care and attention. It was like my tired, cold, and aching soul had finally been given the opportunity to dip itself into a warm and deep bubble bath. As I stood there staring at that woman in the mirror I could feel the warmth moving back into my soul, could feel the shattered pieces of my long-since broken heart begin to put themselves back together, little by little.
It took quite a bit of motivation to actually leave the house, not because I was scared of going out into the world looking the way I did, but because I was irrationally afraid that if I stopped looking at that reflection, that it would suddenly disappear, never to be seen again. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly felt a bit of apprehension about going out in public as I was, but my reluctance was more from a desire to stay and bask in that gender-appropriate reflection than anything else.

Once I could finally pry myself away from the mirror, I grabbed my purse, which was so exciting to finally get to use, and kissed my wife goodbye. I made my way to the car (which was difficult with heals on) and proceeded to drive to the B&N a few miles away. My anxiety grew with each mile I drove, and by time I got to the store I was rather nervous for what lay ahead. Part of my anxiety came from the fact that I’d had a rather in depth conversation with one of the employees of this particular store just a week or two earlier (work stuff) and I was afraid that she might recognize me, but most of it was just the fear of being read as trans. Sure, I thought I looked amazing and easily passable, but I was also biased, so there was no telling what I’d encounter.

I made my way into the store, and found myself immediately looking to the ground when one of the staff opened the door and greeted me. Why was I scared? Confidence, Emma, we must have confidence, I tried to remind myself. From there I proceeded to search (ultimately in vain) for the appropriate section of books that I was looking for. As I meandered around the store two or three times trying to find what I was looking for I went generally unnoticed by the people I passed by. A handful of them definitely gave me intrigued looks but I suspect they were more taken aback by this 6 foot 3 inch woman who had suddenly entered their lives than any “reading” of me as male. Ultimately, however, no one really seemed all that interested (or disturbed) by my presence.

Deciding that I wouldn’t find the books I was looking for, I decided to wrap my homework assignment up and left the store without buying anything. I walked out to the car and continued to get what I believe were “damn that’s a tall ass woman” looks from the other people in the parking lot, but again, none of them seemed to be reading me.

Disappointed that I hadn’t had the opportunity to actually interact with anyone (I’d specifically gotten cash earlier that day to avoid the whole “your name is Robert?” question over my debit card) I decided that I wanted to keep going. I’d gone to all the trouble to get all gussied up for this outing that it seemed a shame to end it after only 15 or 20 minutes in public. So, I started to drive and immediately spotted a Half-Priced Books store across the street. Figured since I hadn’t found the books I wanted that maybe it was worth it to check out a second store. I drove the short distance over to the other store and went in with less anxiety than before.

I was immediately greeted by one of the cashiers who displayed a rather pronounced grin while greeting me. It was hard to tell if she was just happy to see another customer, or if she’d read me right away. I smiled back and proceeded to look around the store. This time, practically no one took a second glance at me. I think they just legitimately took me to be a woman and moved on with their lives.

I eventually found a book that sounded interesting (The End of Gender) and took it up to the counter where I met the same exact beaming employee who’d greeted me a short while earlier. Again her smile was difficult to read. She was kind and courteous, but her expression was unreadable. Was she just happy in general, did she think I looked nice, or was she reading me as trans? Whichever it was, I will never know, because we transacted our business without much discussion and I went on my way home.

Probably needless to say, I did not want to change out of my Emma getup and kept it on for a few hours after I got home (not to mention a good deal more mirror time). It felt truly disappointing to see my old reflection staring back at me again once I’d removed my wig and washed my makeup off, but despite the disappointment, I knew that woman I’d seen earlier was easy enough to bring back. Nothing could steal away the joy I’d felt after getting to finally experience the emotions of feeling pretty. I now knew that it was not only possible, but inevitable that my reflection would become something I was proud of and happy with. I truly got to live a day as Emma, and it has forever changed my life. Never again will I shy away from her, ashamed at what she might be or look like. Now I know she has all the potential in the world to be beautiful and amazing.

Well, that’s all for story-time my darlings. Hopefully you enjoyed my tale and will take from it something worthy of remembering. Maybe you’ll even share it with others or write to me with your thoughts. Regardless, there is much love here for all of you.

 

-Emma

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