Gender Defenders

She was the one that kept me hanging on. With one little sentence she got me through a night. A day. A weekend. A week. A month. “I’ll always go to bat for you.” delivered right when I felt like nobody cared. And I knew they were real words. When I asked her if she would come out for me to a coworker because I couldn’t stand being deadnamed one more time, and I just didn’t have the energy to come out to yet another person right then. 

She didn’t have to. She could’ve said no, you have to do it yourself. Or she could’ve just said sure, and left it at that. But she didn’t.  She said, “I’ll always go to bat for you.” We never saw each other outside of work. She was my manager, I was an employee. But she made me feel like I mattered. Like I wasn’t just some inconvenient freak. 
And whatever happens, whether we end up friends, or stay manager/employee, or one of us quits and we never talk again, those words will be important. People like her are important to people like me. They make us feel like someone has our back on a world where nobody has our back. A lot of people say they support trans people, but really, they don’t. They want people to think they do. But people like her, they don’t care if people think they do, and they actually do. If there is a God, if there is a heaven, these are the saints. 
Be that kind of person. Be the one who will say, “I’ll always go to bat for you.” And be the person who means it. Be an ally. Be the person who listens and doesn’t assume. Who listens and accepts rather than argues and tells us why were overreacting or wrong.  The person we feel like we can come to just to talk, and not be judged. 
I can count the number of people like this in my life on one hand.  But even if I could only count one finger, that’s more than some can say. I’m lucky to know people like that. Be that person. Even more, be the person who sticks up for people you don’t even know, just because it’s the right thing to do. One sentence to make someone feel better might make their whole day. It has for me.
Be like that coworker. And bring people up instead of keeping them down.  
The 31st is trans visibility day. So spread some awareness and be an ally. Wear your pink, blue, and white. Break you’re gender roles. Talk about us. 
Don’t wait till you’re tagged in to fight like, and for, a grrrl. 
– Natalie
Update: new boss at my day job. I feel like I lost an ally, and a really good boss, and maybe even a friend, with the other one leaving. And the new lady is terrible. And someone I knew from before. Among other things besides making everyone else do her work and hovering like she’s trying to catch you doing something wrong all the time, I found out yesterday that she’s been using my new name with everyone (including me), except the other guy I used to work with, which makes it a conscious decision, which makes me super pissed and super not trust her. And I can’t even prove it to call her out on it. This is going to be fun. 

Caught in the Middle

Sometimes I pass, I think. Sometimes I don’t. More or less, I’m identifiable as a trans person. Even with my masculine-leaning voice, even with my paw-sized hands, I still get she’d when people decide to gender me sometimes. (A lot of times they avoid gender altogether, which is awkward, but a good sign, I think.) I get called “that person” sometimes, too. But it’s still better than he and sir. 

I’m also getting to the point where some people I know who talk to me are talking to me differently. Talking to me more like they’d talk to female friends. And I can’t help thinking, maybe this is the part where it starts getting easier. Where I don’t have to think so much about being trans, and can think about being me. 
The other day at work was a first for me. A woman and her son (maybe 6 or 7) came in, and the son said something about “did you give it to him to buy?” And I was shocked when she actually corrected him. “That’s a she,” she said. He looked confused, and she pointed out that I had the same name as her. And even though the rest of the day was terrible, I just kept thinking, someone actually corrected my pronouns on my behalf, and respected my identity without me having to do anything. That has never happened before. And it felt really good. I wasn’t even wearing makeup. For once, my name tag helped me out. 
I haven’t worn male-marketed clothes in almost a year, but at the same time, my feminine wardrobe is pretty lacking. I don’t have anything very formal, and I don’t have a very wide selection. Jeans and long sleeve shirts. A few dresses a couple skirts. I find myself trying to buy new things for each season now, trying to feel out what I like and what works for my body type. I like dresses,  but it’s hard to find ones I like because sleeveless still isn’t an option for me. I like skirts, but finding ones that don’t make me look like a stick with no hips is hard, too.  
But being in the middle isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My path is kind of working itself out as I go, and what I need to do next reveals itself as I need to do it. That I’m in the middle now means I’m making progress, and though it’s not as fast as I would like, as long as I’m moving forward things will be okay. 
If youre going to fight like a grrrl, retreat is not an option. 
Update: I’m going for my first consultation for hair removal next week. Sooner than I’d planned, but not soon enough. 
My night boss managed to call me “he” over the radio last night, then correct it, which is in a way, kinda worse because it just draws attention. Then five minutes later I overheard him using my old name with another employee. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard. You can always tell the people who don’t try or don’t use your name or pronouns when you’re not around, because they’re the ones who do things like that. 
The media (TV, radio, magazines) is a transphobic garbage dump lately. Pretty much every time I watch something or listen to the radio I hear a trans joke, anatomy based gender stereotypes (enough with the balls=strong and masculine, and pussy=weak and feminine), or someone mocking Bruce Jenner. I already posted on that, but it bears repeating.  
Here’s hoping next week is better. 

Hello, Old Friend

More and more I see a woman when I look in the mirror. The hormones are starting to do their work. Breasts are slowly developing where there were none before. My hair is long enough to do things with. But all it takes it one bad photo where my shoulders are too wide, one bad angle in the mirror where my 5 O’clock shadow peaks through the makeup, a wrong pronoun, and the image of that boy I used to be is drudged up from the deep, reminding me that I’ll never be a “real” woman. Never the woman that I want to be. 

Hello, dysphoria, my old friend. 

Simply put, dysphoria is a disconnect. The hardware doesn’t match the software. The brain doesn’t know why it’s stuck in the body it is in. Dysphoria is more than just body image issues.  It’s your brain telling you your parts aren’t the ones your brain knows you’re supposed to have. We transition because of it – to get our body to match our brain. Which is why when someone asks me something, like why I wear nail polish all the time even though it gets ruined in a day at work, and I explain it makes me hate my hands less,  and they tell me that their hands are bad too, it upsets me.  My body isn’t the same as my brain tells me it should be. When I see my hands, I see hands that shouldn’t be mine. My brain treats it like seeing a ball rolling uphill – it just doesn’t make sense. When they see theirs, they just see hands they aren’t happy with., but hands that are still theirs. That’s the subtle but important difference between dysphoria and body image issues. 

The DSM V will describe it as such. 
“For a person to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months. In children, the desire to be of the other gender must be present and verbalized. This condition causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Gender dysphoria is manifested in a variety of ways, including strong desires to be treated as the other gender or to be rid of one’s sex characteristics, or a strong conviction that one has feelings and reactions typical of the other gender.”

But it feels like so much more. 

It’s that monster in the closet – different for everyone, but the same, too. If you’ve never experienced it, you can’t understand it. 

It remains now. And probably will forever. But it’s worse before transition. Dysphoria is that whisper in your ear that makes you hate yourself. Makes you feel uncomfortable in your own body. Makes you hate who you are and wish for things you can never have. It’s the feeling of being profoundly uncomfortable with not just your circumstances, but with yourself, both socially and physically. It’s the reason I started getting piercings and dying my hair in college. I was trying to change the way I looked because I wasn’t comfortable. 

It’s the reason a strong support network of people who understand what’s happening is important. Without my former girlfriend’s shoulder to bawl on, her patient ear for the days when all I could talk about was gender (and there were a lot), and encouragement and acceptance, I would not have made as much progress as I have. 

I obsess over pronouns and names. My beard shadow drives me nuts. My big hands, my problems finding shoes that are my size and feminine, my lack of visible breasts and hips make me depressed. I second guess every compliment I get, wondering if they mean it or are just being nice. When someone genders me correctly I wonder if they know and are just being polite. On bad days I stay quiet because I hate hearing my voice. 

The only way to describe dysphoria accurately is unbearable. At best, it’s a puppy nipping at your heals that won’t go away. At worst, a sumo wrestler sitting on your chest, holding you down and not letting you breath, slamming your head against the ground. 

It’s physical, but there’s a social part, too. The degrees of both vary from person to person, as do the triggers.  The desire to be seen as a woman, and treated like one, is social. To be called she. For me, this is a big part of being trans, too. I’m lucky enough not to have physical dysphoria as bad as a lot of people, some of which can’t even shower because they can’t deal with their genitals. For me, the social aspect is the strongest part. I can deal with the body most of the time by just putting it out of my mind.  But I’m always thinking about how people see me. How I fit in as a woman, or how I’m being seen as a man. Whether people are just humouring me or not. Which is why I get really upset when people “sir” and “he” me, and it can ruin a good day. A week. In the end dysphoria is very personal, and very elusive, but trans people have the common experience of knowing how it feels all too well. 

Dysphoria is the hardest thing to explain to someone who isn’t transgender, but the reason that we must transition. I don’t feel like I can do it justice with words, but I felt like I had to try, too. Trying to simplify the feeling and boil it down to a list of traits and imagery just doesn’t do it. You just feel it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, consider yourself lucky. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. 

Sometimes the only way to battle the dysphoria is to focus on the positives, and the future, and to keep fighting like a grrrl. 

– Natalie

Walking the Tightrope

Being transgender is like walking a tightrope. What you say and how you present yourself are always an issue.  And it’s hard to know where that line is sometimes. 

For me in particular, clothing, appearance, and presentation are things I struggle with. In order to even have a chance at passing, I have to wear makeup, do my hair a certain way, and be careful of my body movements and speech. I wear pigtails (even though I’ve been criticized online by the trans community as trying to capture my youth back) because they make me look the most feminine, and I don’t quite pass otherwise. It’s an unmistakably gendered style. I don’t have these luxury of going out in “around the house” clothes and still being gendered correctly.  The more feminine cues I have, the better.  It takes an average of 4 female cues to overcome 1 masculine one. I personally like presenting as feminine as possible. I love pink. I like lipstick and dresses. But then the risk is being accused of upholding the gender binary or playing a chariature of a girl. And a much as I like to tell people I don’t care what they think, it’s hard not to. 
Balance also comes in the form of knowing when to defend your rights and needs, and sucking it up to keep the peace. Insisting someone you will probably never see again use your pronouns when it will make them resent you is fruitless. Insisting people you interact with regularly use your pronouns is much more important. Some people are just transphobic, and no amount of convincing will change that. Some people are just ignorant, and need to be educated.  Knowing the difference is hard sometimes.  Getting my name changed at work was been a hassle. As is trying to keep everyone using the right pronouns.  I try to pressure, and try to let my bosses know what’s important without making them push everything else aside, but I also know they have things going on that are higher on their list of things to do. And it’s hard to know how far to push and how much to pressure when I’m not very good at either in the first place. Getting people to change your information, call you a different name, and use different pronouns without rocking the boat too much is a balancing act. 
But even balance among your support network is important.  Most of the major events in my life for the past year have been trans related.  Facebook is a place to share important life events with friends,  but how much is too much? I worry that my page is just something people get sick of reading because it’s all pronouns this and trans rights that.  But that’s what I care about.  That’s what I want to talk about.  That’s what my main focus is right now, and having the people I care about try to understand my journey is important to me. I need them to know that I haven’t changed,  but I’ve changed a ton, too. I am trans, so my experiences are trans. When I go to the bathroom, I go to the bathroom as trans. When I apply for a job, I apply as a trans person. When I make friends and try to date, it will be as a trans person. Being trans colors everything in my life. When I’m not thinking about it, its a rare moment of relief. But usually I am, because it literally shapes every interaction I have in public. Thinking about how I’m being perceived and what’s safe to do and what’s not, and whether I’m sketching out the other girls in the makeup aisle or the girls in the clothing department think I’m a pervert or not, and worrying about legal issues most people don’t think of like which box to check when something asks for gender but only gives choices for sex. So finding a way to tamp that down is hard. 
And I understand finding a balance is part of everyone’s life, but this is just a little picture of the quest for balance through a trans lense. 
I’ll keep fighting like a grrrl, but sometimes I just want to relax like a girl, too.