One year later

As I said in my post about deadnames, there isn’t a distinct line that can be drawn that marks the start and end of my transition. The day that I first started questioning my gender is too nebulous. I look back on the day that I first came out to my then girlfriend with sadness and regret. The day I came out to my wife for good is another possible marker, but even that was more a day of fear and trepidation than one to celebrate. How about the first day of therapy? Well, that’s going to be the subject of another post, but it doesn’t feel like a major step in my transition that should be celebrated. The day most transgender people celebrate, myself included, is the day they started hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Today marks my one year anniversary of starting HRT. When I started this blog, I envisioned this post to be a sprawling epic of the past year of my life, but I kind of did that already. What can I possibly say now, that I didn’t already do pouring my heart out?

Looking back on the last year, and even the past decade and longer, is a strange experience. I remember sitting in a starbucks, anxiously staring at two bottles of pills: spironolactone and estradiol, before messaging my wife for the final okay before I truly started what would be the rest of my life. It’s funny though, because looking back that day feels so uneventful. I took two pills and a few hours later got my ears pierced. That was all there was to it. Even my coming out as transgender post barely touches on the events of that day, because it largely was just another day.

Over the past year many old friends and acquaintances have contacted me, and the conversation is largely the same each time. Usually it starts with an awkward comment about changes, and I get how hard it is to broach the subject of a transition. I promise that it is just as awkward for me to do the same.

“So, how have you been?” they ask.

“Different,” is my usual response, or perhaps “it’s been a weird year.”

The transition is on the tip of both of our tongues, because we both know the glaring difference between the last times we spoke or saw each other. Gender expression isn’t private. It’s not something that you can just ignore. We are conditioned from a young age to react to gender expression and for a large majority of the world that expression doesn’t change throughout their lives.

It’s always hard for me to handle, though. I never know how someone is going to react to such an obvious change from what they were expecting to find. Are they going to be enthusiastic supporters, happy for me to have found my true self? Are they going to simply shrug and move on, as my gender has no affect on their lives or how they view me as a person? Are they going to be allies patting themselves on the back for being decent human beings? Are they going to be judgemental and question my own lived experiences? Or perhaps even recoil in horror that I would dare question or challenge society’s expectations of gender?

I feel like the revelation that I am trans, and that I am a woman, should both warrant more fanfare and none at all. It’s such a major part of my life, but at the same time that change doesn’t, or shouldn’t, affect anyone other than me. I both want to hear that enthusiastic support, as well as have the ability to just move on with my life at the same time. I want to be able to celebrate that change, because of what it represents to me, but every new person I run across is yet another coming out. The same thoughts and worries pass through my head, and as much as I love to hear enthusiastic support, I also love the simple “you do you” response.

What makes the change hardest, is that all of the things that have changed are what are the most visible. My hair is a lot longer, and more red. My skin is a lot softer and less hairy, and of course more tattooed. I have a pair of A cups, that will hopefully keep growing over the next year or two. I have new, more feminine glasses. I have an entirely new wardrobe, consisting of more floral patterns and more shoes than I thought I would ever own. I learned to walk in heels, though I haven’t tried the super thin pencil width heels yet, and rarely can be seen wearing flats or sneakers. I take far more selfies now than I ever took in the past. My five o’clock shadow isn’t as prevalent as it once was.

December 22, 2016 – The last photo I have before I came out as transgender | January 4th, 2017 – First photo after coming out as transgender | March 10th, 2017 – Last photo before starting HRT | July 20th, 2017 – First photo going as myself full time | November 25th, 2017 – I dyed my hair for the first time | March 7th, 2017 – Most recent photo

Then, of course, are the mental changes. Hormones are a hell of a drug, and all of the research and reading I did prior to starting HRT couldn’t prepare me. I can’t possibly describe all the ways that I feel more natural now, but getting to this point has been difficult. The initial mood swings as my testosterone levels were going down and my estrogen levels were rising were the hardest to deal with. It was hard not to feel like I was going crazy at times, because it was such an unfamiliar feeling. As my levels have stabilized, and I’ve been able to get used to the new hormones and how they affect me, things have become much easier. Now, I couldn’t be happier.

Something in my brain just feels right, almost as if someone flipped a switch and everything finally turned on. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but they manifest themselves in different ways. Even when my anxiety is at its worst I don’t feel the same urge to get angry as I once did. When my depression gets really bad I can actually cry, and it fills me with such relief to be able to let it all out.

Most importantly of all, I think the biggest change is that I’m finally discovering who I am. My whole life I’ve tried to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I did things because other people expected it of me. It’s a strange feeling to be freed of those expectations, and being given the ability to find myself for no one else but myself. I have been asked why I can’t just be happy with who I am, in regards to my transition, but to me that’s exactly what I am doing for the first time in my life. Only I can say who I truly am, and everything else is simply other people’s perceptions of who I am, or what they see in me.

One other major change in my life is my looming divorce. I can’t help but look back on my marriage and wonder if that’s how or why it failed, or perhaps more accurately, why I failed. Maybe I was too focused on being the perfect boyfriend and husband, that when push came to shove and I couldn’t manage it anymore, my shell finally broke. Maybe my transition, and rediscovering myself, lead me to neglecting who and what I had directly in front of me. Was it my transition and being transgender that broke things, or was it me?

It isn’t often that I think things through to their natural conclusions, or even about all of the infinite possible conclusions that might come up. I’m an impulsive person by nature. I see something that I want, and I run with it. In a way, the last year of my life was me doing that once again, but this time with an aspect of myself that I can no longer hide away in a closet. It’s something that I can no longer hide in my video games, or my books. It’s a piece of me that now everyone I know can share with me, for good or for ill. I can’t change the past, but I can control how I face the future.

What that future holds I can’t possibly predict. I never could have predicted that I would come out as transgender, let alone actually transition. At my most closeted it was the furthest possibility from my mind. I can say that the possibilities feel endless. That for perhaps the first time in my life I feel like the future is bright, and not some foggy and mysterious cloud.

One Reply to “One year later”

  1. Hi Mattie,

    It sounds as though we are on a similar but different timeline. I started HRT February 17, 2017. I’ve been married for 22 years and have 5 children. I have only come out to my wife, but my younger children still at home have noticed the dramatic change in my appearance. Unfortunately, I don’t see the the same future you do, at least not right away. Thank you for sharing your story of happiness.

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