Time for another barometer of life at the moment. Prior to going full time (a.k.a. starting my real life experience; a.a.k.a real life test) I used to think a lot about where I was at the moment compared to where I eventually hoped to be. These days I don’t consciously think in such terms very often. But it’s still an interesting reflection.
I now stand at a point roughly four months into life as Diana – and no one else. I haven’t bothered presenting myself as “male” to the world since the early part of September. I haven’t experienced the slightest inkling during all that time that I would like to do so.
I don’t believe I’m exaggerating by saying I wouldn’t know how to present myself that way any more. Most who knew me before have a hard time understanding this, but it never came naturally. I maintained it by rigid adherence to a set of habits. Don’t use your hands this way. Don’t walk that way. Don’t use that word. When you’re uncertain how you’re being perceived, do this. Stand like this. Pretend to be interested in those things. Ignore these other things. Feign distaste for that. Act aloof. Pretend not to notice emotions. Pretend not to care. Etc. etc. ad infinitum.
I can’t pretend I’ve been able to drop all my old habits so easily. But it’s been easier than I thought it would be. Until I lost the need for them I never realized how much constant effort it had required to keep up that facade. I honestly don’t think I could muster the effort needed to take that all on again. And the intense anxiety and violent visceral revulsion I feel at the mere prospect tells me I’d better not attempt to find out.
Odd things have changed about me without requiring any effort at all. My walk is different. I expected to need to re-learn how to walk in a more feminine way. I didn’t. I actually only needed to stop forcing myself to walk in a way that never actually felt natural. When walking through crowds I used to wonder why I walked faster than almost anyone else. Now I know. I was forcing it. Easier to hide a non-masculine gate if you were practically running. Another one of those habits adopted to hide the female within. When I stopped doing that my natural gate needed little further coaching.
I wish I could say my voice was similarly easy, but on the other hand it hasn’t been quite as difficult as I’d feared. I’ve been paying some attention to it, but not nearly as much as I expected I’d need. And yet in person I rarely if ever get “read” on the basis of my voice. On the phone it’s about 50/50 whether I get “ma’am” or “sir.” Having a cold, as in the past week, drops that a bit. However if I introduce myself as Diana, that seems cue enough to make the voice acceptable to whomever I might be dealing with.
Another strange discovery is that by nature I’m an optimistic person. A closeted life made me so pessimistic and cynical I’d truly forgotten. My outlook on life isn’t Polyannish, but it is definitely on the sunny side of realism. I see the good side in unpopular people, the silver lining in dark events; the hope inherent in the future regardless of the despair in the present.
Speaking of optimism, the most successful areas of life are the two I had been most pessimistic about going into transition: family and work. In both cases I’m now thoroughly integrated back into normal life as a woman. Each one has their own unique quirks, and I can’t pretend I’ve mastered them all. But doing so is now a matter of living rather than an explicit matter of transition.
The family aspect has been strange and wonderful. The kids were young enough when we told them about my transition that I hoped they would be able to roll with it and adjust. That has proven true. In fact they’ve said many times that they like how I’m so much happier and more involved in their lives now. And I truly am more involved. E has been gradually pulling me in to sharing the load of assisting with homework, shuttling them around to their various events, taking them to school, making plans with other parents. It’s hardly glamorous, but just feeling part of a functional family again has a wonderful quality all the same. And it’s something I never had before.
Work is a different matter. I spent a lot of time and effort achieving a very good professional reputation and I feared losing it. That has definitely not been the case. All the people who held me in high regard before do so now. If anything they were a bit impatient for all this transition stuff to be out of the way so I could keep doing the job they’d come to expect. This past week I got another stellar performance review, and have been assigned additional responsibilities (with no extra pay, but we don’t do pay adjustments until next quarter).
The relationship with E is something we both get asked about a lot. Yes, we’re still married. This is certainly so in the personal sense, even if it’s a bit of a legal gray area. But the nature of our relationship is evolving. Now that there are no gender-divided expectations for us, we’re free to negotiate what works for us. This is very much a work in progress, but it actually feels like progress. We’re sharing more, both objectively in terms of household and family responsibilities, and emotionally in that we communicate SO much better now. Socially we’re coming to terms with the fact that we’ll be perceived as a lesbian couple, and we’ve decided we’re okay with that. Getting the extended families to roll with that is another hurdle, but it’s one we’re undertaking together.
Overall life has changed quite a lot, and all for the better in my view. I went from being a checked-out, socially isolated, suicidally depressed loner to being an integrated member of society with a loving family and a rewarding career rather than just a paycheck.
I’m not a finished product yet. The need for confirmation surgery presses on my mind more and more the longer I wait. The financial impact of that event is going to be a burden of its own. E and my coming to terms with our new social identity as lesbians is one thing. Pretending society as a whole treats such people as full equals is something else. The damage done by my years of depression and social isolation has yet to be fully healed. I could use more friends and fewer “causes.”
But overall, life now feels like something worth living. I can now envision a future with me in it. I’ll have challenges to get there, but who doesn’t?