Sister Golden Bear mentioned in an earlier thread that she has something worth celebrating this week. She was kind enough to write up something for me to share. So, without further ado: happy anniversary, SGB!
So this week marks the fourth anniversary of me starting to live as a woman, as my true self.
Fortunately, my co-workers were more than supportive—in fact they asked me to come to work as me much earlier than I’d planned on doing. But I still remember that exhilarating and terrifying moment right before I sent the team-wide email announcing that I was transitioning.
For all its faults, one thing “Happiest Season” absolutely nails is how Dan Levy’s character describes coming out: “Everybody’s story is different. There’s your version [loved and supported] and my version [being kicked out of the house] and everything in between. But the one thing that all of those stories have in common is that moment right before you say those words when your heart is racing and you don’t know what’s coming next. That moment’s really terrifying.
And then once you say those words, you can’t unsay them. A chapter has ended and a new one’s begun, and you have to be ready for that.”
But my co-workers were so wonderfully supportive that they encouraged me to transition ahead of schedule.*
My thoughts from that morning four years ago today, which I wrote sitting in the car outside my office, not knowing what was going to happen next with the rest of my life:
About a dozen years ago, a girl-child finally set foot outside the house for the first time. Literally. After midnight on a black moonless night. Because NO ONE MUST KNOW. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.
Of course, she really wasn’t a girl, she’d been sharing the same body as her male protector for decades. Some of her sisters knew clearly from an early age, who they really were, and what they needed to become. Not this girl, growing up she just knew she was “different” but not exactly sure how — and in the pre-Internet days, assumed she was the only one in the world who felt this way.
Over the decades, she was able to come out every so often to express herself, but mostly sat, as if in a high tower, watching the world outside, waiting. Until that day came when the need to be out in the world became overwhelming.
Like many of her sisters, it began with tentative steps. The late-night drive en femme. Once she became a little braver, the late night walk. Venturing out to meet a similar group of peers who went out for dinners — safety in numbers. She connected with others like her online, she quickly gained the confidence to start going out in public alone.
I’m talking of course about myself. You’ve come a long way, baby. And now I’m facing that feeling that’s both exhilarating and terrifying, as I take the final step to living full-time as a woman this morning.
It’s a journey I couldn’t have made alone. There are so, so many people who’ve helped me on this journey, I can’t possibly thank them all. But there’s some I do want to highlight.
To my namesake, a fierce Femme who adopted me and other of my sisters, when I was just starting get out in the world. We’ve lost touch over the years, but wherever you are, thank you.
Thank you to all the other fierce Femmes who have supported and inspired me.[Various other thanks to thank you to friends whose support had been invaluable.]
One again, thank you.
Ironically, I didn’t really have much time to celebrate at the time. I was due to fly to Buenos Aires on New Year’s Eve for five weeks to do a series of surgeries to feminize my facial features. Yes, part of it was vanity, but part of it was survival. Life is far harder for trans women who don’t “pass” (a framing I hate), i.e. don’t look plausibly cisgendered. Since I hadn’t been blessed by the androgyny fairy and have a body that’s bigger and bulkier than the vast majority of cis woman (my peasant ancestors were built for the plow), it was important to me to have one visible part of my body that wouldn’t mislead people about who I am.
Trump’s election had thrown a huge wrench in my plans. I’d originally planned to travel to Buenos Aires under my male passport. Not ideal, but practical because I’d just gotten the court order changing my legal name and gender the day before, and it would be touch and go whether I could get my password changed before I needed to leave. But there were serious rumors that one of the first acts of the Trump administration would be to prevent us from changing our gender on passports — which posed a danger visiting a number of countries—and I wouldn’t be returning to the States until after the inauguration. So I booked the airline ticket under my new name and gender, and gambled that I could get the passport changed in time. I managed to do so with only two days to spare.
It’s been a long journey since then, partly because of multiple surgeries to make my body congruent with who I am. (I’m extremely privileged to have been able to do so. This is something many trans folks can’t afford to do.) Partly the lengthy recovery from those surgeries, but plus other personal medical issues and personal tragedies. (My mother died less than two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for another major surgery in Thailand.) Partly it was truly learning to move in the world as a woman—moving into the second-class status that women face definitely made me an even more ardent feminist.
I was looking forward to this year as The Year Everything Came Together, where I’d finally moved through all the transition-related stress and would be able to restart my life again. But obviously 2020 had different plans for me, and billions of others. It’s frustrating having the rest of my new life put on hold, but one day the pandemic will end, and I look forward to making up for the lost years—the so many lost years—living my life authentically.
*At the time, the general advice was to give one’s co-workers 2-3 weeks to adjust to the idea before coming to work as your true gender.
**Why Buenos Aires? Because it’s a specialized surgery and only a half-dozen surgeons in the world are excellent at it. I personally think my surgeon there is the best of the best, plus the favorable exchange rate meant I could do it for less than half the cost of doing it in the States, even including airfare and staying in an apartment for five weeks there.