A couple of weeks back, I had a really great day with my family. We went to a Minnesota Twins game at the new ballpark. The middle child – B – was part of the school choir singing the national anthem (how cool is that?!). The whole family went along, stayed for the game, and had a terrific time.
I didn’t glam myself up for the event. I wore a big Twins t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, hair pulled back in a ponytail, no makeup. The thing is, I don’t really look like a guy any more in that sort of attire. Even in a sports bra the boobs are a little too prominent to disguise these days. The lack of beard shadow and long hair throw very non-male gender cues. But I decided that I just didn’t care. I didn’t take any of my usual steps to present as “male,” like I still do for work. Nor did I take any extra steps to present as a “woman,” like it was something I was not.
The day was great. No ugly incidents or nasty glares the entire time. E thought I presented as too gender ambiguous for most people to clearly read. Maybe so, but I didn’t seem to get a lot of stares for that either.
In any case, going out without making an effort to present myself as either gender – just being me and letting the chips fall where they may – was an incredibly liberating feeling. Previously I always had to either pay close attention to my behavior so I presented as male, or pay close attention to my appearance to present as female. I don’t mean just recently. This kind of active thought process has been part of my inner dialogue constantly since I was school-aged at least. This day may have been the first time since early childhood when those kinds of gender concerns weren’t constantly on my mind.
When I got home I tried to describe how great I felt to E. Struggling for the words to describe it all I blurted out “I feel like a person!” We both chuckled about the strangeness of the statement. But I was trying to convey something important.
When you have gender dysphoria it’s always with you. It’s like a constant pressure weighing on your mind which never stops – and usually feels more intense when you’re in a public place. You’re constantly wondering how people are perceiving your gender, because it takes effort to hide your mind/body gender conflict. It is NOT as easy as it looks for a transsexual born male to act like “one of the guys.” It gets easier with practice because you learn to be good at it, not because it takes less effort. As I’ve mentioned before, it feels like a rigorous acting role for a woman cast as a man. During transition, when we start trying to express ourselves as women, the shape of our bodies, the depth of our voices, and our lack of female life experience creates a whole new set of gender cues we need to monitor.
What I encountered that day was a state of mind we are trying to find after transition – normalcy. I finally felt what it’s like to live your life without that constant inner gender battle weighing on every moment. The pressure that characterizes gender dysphoria just… wasn’t there.
Unless you’ve experienced this I cannot adequately describe how amazing this feels. It’s like that old joke “Why are you hitting yourself on the head with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.” The hammer stopped hitting me that day. And I realized that this, not the way I’d felt before, is how a person – any person – is supposed to feel.
I’m still not permanently there yet. I’m still going to work as male, and have plenty yet to learn to present as the woman I want to be. But now I’ve caught a glimpse of the promised land, and I finally believe I’ll live to see it.
So is all the pain and struggle of gender transition worth it? Can all the “hostility, ridicule and financial ruin” possibly be outweighed by any upside? Oh my god, yes. Yes a thousand times over. From getting to experience it for ONE day I know I could never turn off of my transition path again.
Our reward is something other people take for granted. As their birthright, they don’t understand how truly valuable it is. But it’s something no person should have to live without.