I came out as a lesbian in 2009. Not to the public, just to myself. And when I admitted that to myself, that my sexual desire for women was real, and the desire I felt for men had always been a bit forced, I felt a huge burden lift from me. I felt no shame or anxiety; it was like the feeling you get when you procrastinate doing your laundry for a couple of weeks, and then you finally do it, and you have clean underwear, and isn’t that just the best? I was finally wearing clean clothes (to stretch the metaphor) and I couldn’t be happier.
Now, I want to stress that I felt very little internalized shame over my orientation. The few family members I came out to didn’t share my pride, and that did bother me, but I never felt there was anything wrong or dirty about me or my desires.
…That is, until this whole transgender beast started hanging around. I was doing perfectly fine in Lesbo Land, drinking coffee and reading Beyond the Pale and Patience and Sarah (have you seen my reading list?) I went to a Pride parade, and bought one of those necklaces with the two female signs together. I started thinking about “lesbian feminism.”
One day, I was strolling through Lesbo Land when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I would turn my head, but by the time I looked, it would be gone. This went on for months. The little devil was always popping up whenever I least expected it; getting dressed in the morning, going to sleep at night, walking around campus and thinking “I’m a lesbian!” That’s when the beast would appear, and start whispering. It whispered in my ear, and I bought a whole bunch of t-shirts and buried my blouses in the back of my closet. It whispered again, and I stuffed all of my skirts and “girl-pants” in a bag and sent them off to Goodwill. More whispering, and off I went to Great Clips, where after a bit of perusing in a book of men’s hairstyles, I decided on a low fade, with much encouragement from the very kind hairstylist.
Lets take a step back. I’ve always struggled with clothes. As a teenager, I knew what I was supposed to wear, I just never wanted to wear it. I felt awkward and self-conscious in clothes that didn’t feel natural, but the pressure I received from my family insured that I wouldn’t be running around in jeans and t-shirts. To be clear, at that age I never felt unsure about my gender, I just found it profoundly unfair that I wasn’t allowed to perform it the way I wanted to. I went through phases where I would get myself worked up about makeup, or styling my hair, and I was able to jump off that for maybe a week, but I always sizzled down really fast and got bored. So I would stop wearing makeup, and I would tie my hair back with a scrunchie and nothing else. The harping from my friends and family for being “unkempt” and “lazy” soon followed, and the cycle would begin anew.
Flash forward about eight years, and I find myself with a dilemma. I’ve pared down my closet to two pairs of pants and an assortment of maybe six or seven t-shirts. Both pairs of pants are women-style cargo pants and thinner than paper. One day, a huge tear develops in the ass of one of the pants; I try and fix it, and the material keeps ripping through my stitches (why would someone make pants using this kind of material?) I’m reduced to wearing the same pair of pants everyday, which only reach about mid-calf, and it’s the dead of winter. I’m freezing my ass off in my stupid short thin pants, and I need to make a decision: where do I buy new pants?
See, I’m fat. So when it comes to women’s clothes, the vast majority of it is hyper-feminine. Pants, especially, tend to be more form-fitting and “styled,” eg, flare, boot cut, wide leg, etc. They also have smaller pockets, which has always annoyed the hell out of me. So was I going to go to my local plus-size women’s retail shop and buy pants, or was I going to do what I secretly wanted to do but was terrified of: go to a big and tall store/website and buy men’s pants?
To answer the question you never asked, I ended up going to a big and tall men’s retail website and bought several pairs of pants. Which all ended up about three sizes too small and about seven inches too long. After a second round, I received pants that all fit and were only about an inch or so too long, which I could deal with. I put them on and I just felt so…good. I put my hands in the pockets and marveled at how deep they were.
And then? I realized I had come to the point of no return. Here I was with my men’s clothes, and my men’s haircut, and my men’s wallet and my men’s watch…and I could finally see the beast. It was standing right in front of me and holy shit the beast was a man. The man inside me, so to speak. The man that had cunningly shaped my actions over the past months until I was standing in my bedroom and looking down at my chest and thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if those weren’t there?”
He’s a cunning little bastard, I’ll give him that. He knew just what to say to make me come around, and he knew exactly what I wouldn’t be able to resist. I have lived for over 20 years with hair that extended below my waist because everyone always told me my hair was my best feature. Now, I don’t think I could be paid enough to grow out my hair. The thought of wearing women’s clothing just makes me feel sad, while the thought of rocking a men’s suit gives me nervous-happy butterflies in my stomach. I fantasize about being perceived as a man in public, and referred to as “sir.”
So I surrendered. I waved a white flag, and invited the beast into my home. He promptly set up shop; there’s no getting him out now. But when he moved in, he also brought all of his baggage, including (but not limited to) Shame, Fear, Disgust, Confusion, and an oldie but a goodie – Internalized Hatred. Transitioning from straight to lesbian felt like finally getting to eat strawberry-rhubarb pie after a lifetime of eating apple pie; cause apple pie is okay I guess, but strawberry-rhubarb pie is awesome, and fuck apple pie it was never that good anyway. But transitioning from cis to trans is more like…well, it’s like admitting that after a lifetime of being a woman, maybe I’m not. It feels like a big embarrassing failure.
Should I get surgery? Testosterone? What should I do about my boobs? Do I pee standing up? Should I use men’s restrooms? Change my name? Try and deepen my voice? Was I being trans…enough?
And thus I come to the point for why I wrote this blog post in the first place. There is a YouTube community called TransEnough. There is no one user page or anything; it’s just random people posting videos with the title “transenough…” I learned about it through my school’s Queer Resource Center, and watching those videos filled me with peace. Yes, I know that sounds really melodramatic, but listening to person after person talk about their own insecurities and pressures around feeling trans enough validated every single one of my fears. I watched about fifteen or so videos, and I finally started to feel secure in my identity. Maybe I don’t have to bind my breasts, or get injected with hormones. Or maybe someday, if I’m ready, I can.
I embrace the identity label of transgender, while knowing that there are consequences to not conforming. It is unlikely that I will be labeled as “sir” while out in public. People will not address me with male pronouns unless/if I tell them to. Some might even be suspicious of my transgender label, and tell me I’m not trying hard enough to “pass.” Well, I failed pretty spectacularly at ladyhood, so lets see how dude country works out. When is that third gender coming out again?