Bathrooms: Number One

It is time I came clean. I am not really transgender. I always knew the day would come when lawmakers like Fla. State Representative Frank Artiles (R) would see through my ruse and decide to propose legislation that will protect the sanctity of bathrooms from progressive thinkers like me. His law would make it illegal for trans people to use restrooms that correspond with their gender. In other words, I could be fined, jailed or both for using the woman’s room if this bill passes. At least in Florida.

I hatched my plan decades ago. All I had to do was feign dysphoria, struggle with addiction, attempt suicide, come out to my friends and family, convince psychological and medical professionals I was trans, get my blood tested, start hormone replacement therapy and wait for the hormones to start showing some results, become sterile, grow boobs, get my beard lasered off, learn to apply makeup, buy a bunch of new clothing, lose my muscle definition, work on my posture and voice, start this blog, give up my male privilege… etc. and after all that, I would be able to go into the women’s room whenever I wanted, you know, just to hang out and pick up chicks.

The beauty of my plan was its simplicity.

Ah well…

It was fun while it lasted… hiding in stalls, waiting for just the right woman to step inside. Not just any woman, mind you, I had to reject many and just keep waiting. Imagine their disappointment, the ones I rejected. After opening a stall door (keep the door unlocked, this is key) and discovering the majestic me, in all my glory, hunched on a toilet seat like a sexy gargoyle, so neither my head nor my feet were visible, only to be sent on her way to look for another stall, an empty stall, because she was not good enough for me. It was worth it though, because eventually, sometimes minutes, sometimes hours later, the perfect woman would enter my stall.

At these times, I typically like to start with a joke. Something to win her heart, “Hey baby, you come here often?” or sometimes a line even more clever than that.

Every time I have done this, the woman of my choosing swoons and moves to me for an intoxicating embrace, immediately forgetting why she came into the bathroom in the first place. She’s under my spell, at least until I reject her a few days later and go back to work, stalking female restrooms for my next.

It is so simple, my plan. Elegant. Seductive. Effective.

At least it WAS, until Representative Asshat, and others like him decided to ruin it for people like me.

I guess it is time to give it up, before I get into legal trouble. Hard to imagine after all this time, there were never any laws already in place to protect people who use restrooms from this type of behavior…

So, I am sorry to my friends, family and wife. I am sorry to all the followers of this blog. I misled all of you, just so I could use the women’s restroom… and I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for these meddling lawmakers.

It is time to pack up my dresses and makeup and donate them to some worthy cause. It is time to stop taking my hormones. It is time to return to life as a man.

Aloha,
Steve

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First Traniversary

One year on hormones. Wow. In many ways, it feels like a decade. A mostly happy decade.

First off, thank you readers. This blog began as a public journal so I could educate and explain things to those people close to my heart. Many told me I was the only trans* person they knew. More than one requested I help them understand what my life has been and currently is like.

Over time, readership has increased and many people I do not know have started to follow the blog. Several are transitioning themselves. Many others are considering transition and have reached out to me in the process. A large percentage are just reading the blog out of human interest. Your feedback and support have been the wind in my sails. Thank you all.

Now, I get to write this blog for many different audiences. They come in all shapes and sizes. Weeeeee!!!

One reader kindly suggested I take this transition thing up with, “Jesus of Nazareth”. Well, according to The Bible, Jesus’ father put us all here. My life is mine to live as it was given to me. We can tally our collective sins when this life has passed, if it comes to that. I do not claim to be without sin and, I do not intend to throw stones. Transition has kept me alive. I gladly embrace the extra time it has given me, and vow to continue learning how to be a better person in this life. Perhaps that effort and the renewed love of living afforded by transition will be rewarded in the next life. No living person knows for sure. That is why we have this wonderful thing we call, “Faith”.

Perhaps, consider the parable Jesus told in The Gospel of Luke about the man who was robbed, beaten and left by the side of the road. A priest and a man from the tribe of Levi walked right past him. It was a man from Samaria, or if you will, not a REAL Jew, who finally decided to help this victim.

While on the cross, Jesus forgave a criminal nailed to the cross beside him and promised they would each see each other in, for lack of a better term, Heaven. Jesus’ last reported words were a request to God, his father, that he forgive those who had crucified his son, because they didn’t fully know what they had done.

Jesus did not seem like the type of person who would really mind my transition, and if I ever need to take it up with him, I will do so with my head held high. Until then, I will live the life I have been given to its fullest, and I am excited to see how it all plays out. I promise to do my best with what I have been given to work with. That is all any of us can really do. If it comes back to haunt me in the afterlife, please do not gloat. Gloating is SO unbecoming.

Moving on…

I wish to review many of the changes, experiences, ups, downs, and all arounds that encapsulate this transitional past year. This will not be as linear as some of my posts, sometimes it will be more like a checklist. It is not my preferred style of writing but a story type post would be too redundant for my tastes. I have already told the best stories of the past year in prior posts.

Also, you may notice, I am blogging less frequently lately. There is simply less to report right now. Sometimes things happen and change at a rapid pace. Sometimes they do not. Transition ebbs and flows. Big things lie ahead but they do not all happen at once.

Time has slowed down because I have stopped to smell the roses. I enjoy life so much more now, so I do my best to pay attention rather than letting it slip through my fingers. In many ways, it is like I am a teen again. I am going through another puberty. The one I always wanted. Yes, puberty sucks. Yes, I decided to have another one.

I am getting used to this whole transition thing so I am not as amazed by every little new thing. Getting softer is not as groundbreaking as feeling soft for the very first time. Getting big boobs is not as amazing as feeling the first signs of breasts budding.

Speaking of, let’s talk boobs, shall we? They are getting pretty big. My wife took me to Victoria’s Secret to get measured and I am sized at 38 D. I bought a C, but my boobs are at least four inches wider than the rest of my upper torso. It is kind of frightening believe it or not. I always wondered if they would be big enough for my liking, now I fear they may never stop growing. Be careful what you wish for. These genes are boob genes it seems. The boob fairy has blessed me. There is a pride and a legitimacy that comes with breast development. “Oh, you think I should use the men’s room? Suck on these, bitch!”

We always find things to complain about. My boobs are no exception. They are not yet mature and they don’t exactly point straight ahead (bras help). Also, much of the fat is deposited on the side boob so they don’t look quite as large as they are. It is hard to explain. Still, boobs are cool.

They often hurt like Hell, so they are not done growing. Eeeeep! At the same time, they are just boobs. After the newness wears off, they are just kinda’ there. They are erogenous, especially the nipples and I hate to say this but, the feelings are nothing like I expected and words do not quite do it justice. I always wanted to put nipple sensation into words. Alas, not today. Not to my exacting standards of excellence. The sensations are not cripplingly good but they do venture out into the rest of the body if I pay attention to them. They are not (yet) orgasmic like some lucky people’s but they are a great addition for the good feels. They are also forgettable if I am paying attention to anything else. They are just there for the most part.

Breasts are no joke. There is no real hiding them anymore. They are far more sensitive to the slightest touch than my male chest ever was.

If my boobs were to vanish tomorrow, I would notice immediately and long for the missing sensoral feedback they provide. They feel like me now. They are my new, floppy, bouncy appendages.

What else? My skin is much thinner and has smaller pores. It is translucent so it has a different coloration than it did before transition and you can see more of my veins and arteries. Yuck.

Muscle atrophy is real. Without testosterone I am becoming much softer and weaker. I embrace this change but it does come at a price. I still think I am as strong as I was from time to time only to learn I am not. My changing strength is something I am still learning to gauge.

I love feeling soft. Male clothing is sometimes too rough for my skin now. I thought women wore soft things because they were just, well, feminine. Not exactly. My skin often needs softer fabrics now.

I am getting some serious junk in the trunk and back fat around the hips. I can’t tell where my old butt used to end. It is getting pretty big. Male pants fit differently now.

My complexion has totally changed. I am much less greasy and far less prone to zits and acne. Yay estrogen!

I smell like I am female. I have a vastly different body odor and it is WAY less stinky.

I cry happy tears. I cry sad tears. I cry while laughing.

I frequently seek out the company of females and now more easily relate to them, while I frequently struggle to continue relating to men.

I am far more open, honest and loving.

My dysphoria has completely lifted.

I am doing much better in social situations now. I am finding comfort in my new skin and care FAR less what others think of my transition. They don’t like it? They can pick a boob and suck it!

My junk has shrunk more than if I had just done the Polar Bear Swim in Alaska. That may disturb some readers. Not me. It makes tucking WAY easier. That shit used to be SO uncomfortable. Now, it just… well, it just is.

I am embracing being non-binary. That means I enjoy being male at times, female at others, and in general, far more androgynous. I am currently gender non-conforming but I am still moving towards female. Who knows if I will get there, or just decide to stay somewhere in between? I know this is confusing to many people who only see the world in male or female. How lucky they are…

Then, there are are  other things about being Female that I am growing to hate.

Every single man I have just met, who thinks they can ask me about, “The surgery” before getting my fucking name. Buy me a drink first! Seriously!

Makeup. Grrrrrrr! It helps SO much but it is a royal pain in the ass at times.

For that matter, getting ready for anything takes forever. Sharing one bathroom with another female means that going anywhere together and showing up on time has become an exercise in futility.

Removal of body hair is time consuming torture. It does not matter how you do it. Feeling smooth is worth it though.

Bathroom lines SUCK! Especially when someone waiting with you may not want you in their line (this especially seems to happen when I am in front of them and “taking their place”). Look at it this way: why would I wait in a damn line, if I truly belong in the express lane?

Bras are extremely uncomfortable in most cases. All my life I wanted to wear them. Now I need to wear one and I just long to take it off. The grass is always greener…

I now understand why so many teenage girls are fucking nuts. Female emotions take time to understand and live with. You think women are emotional? Watch it from my side. It does not matter where I am in my hormonal cycle, all my decisions and reactions seem logical and sound until I look back at them and go, “Wow, I was really running low on estrogen that day!” or, “I had just had my shot! No wonder I could not stop crying!”

My body hair is reducing but not fast enough. My chest hair is like 80% gone. My belly hair remains. Back hair has vanished. Leg and arm hair has become female. Pit and pubic hair has changed in texture and thickness.

My metabolism is female now. It has slowed to a crawl compared to before. Fat goes to new squishy places. The only reason I seem to burn fat at all right now is my body is changing so rapidly and that does take energy. Teens eat and sleep a lot, and that energy is put into puberty. I am like that right now.

I crave weird things. I think it mostly comes down to salt. The medication I take to block testosterone also makes me need more salt and need to pee a lot. I crave pickles, soup, chips and hot sauce. All these things tend to be very salty. I also crave SPICY things more than ever before. It is weird. I crave my next meal while I eat my current one. Om nom nom nom!

Dreaming has changed. Dreams are now far more realistic, more current and yes, I am female or in transition every single time. I do not remember being male in a dream since before transition.

Reading this back, my most profoundly significant changes are sensory. Things look different, taste different, feel different, smell different, and yes they even sound different. From the inside of my cranium, my senses have altered. Wild.

There you go. My one year update. Transition is weird.

Aloha,
Tori

Brave

I am getting the hang of this transition thing. It should come as no surprise that there was a lot of anxiety leading up to the decision to transition. What if it ruined my life? What if nobody accepted me? What if? What IF?? WHAT IF???

It is hard to view things in terms of right and wrong. I do not definitively know if transition was the right thing to do and I never will. It sure seems better than the alternative seemed at the time.

I wish transition was more socially acceptable. It is frightening being me at times. That is an unfortunate consequence. The positives do outweigh the negatives, believe it or not.

People frequently tell me how brave I am. It is an unusual compliment considering my bravest act happens to be growing boobs. I am hardly alone in the brave and risky world of boob horticulture. People all over the world grow them. People seem to like boobs. Of all the sexual primary and secondary characteristics male or female, I would venture to guess boobs are the most popular. We are all born attracted to boobs. And yet, I am brave for growing them.

I have learned to take the compliment. People tell me I am brave for many reasons. Some just do not know how else to show their support. Some really think I transition for the thrill of it. Some recognize the risk involved in the real world for a woman like me. I do not feel particularly brave. I know people who surf the North Shore in Winter. THEY are brave! And yet, I do not know one of them who would dare do what I am doing. It does not mean they aren’t brave. It means they aren’t trans.

Gender dysphoria is so depressing, I do not know many trans folk who went, “You know, I am brave enough to do this crazy thing.” rather, they tend to come to the realization, “I can’t NOT transition.” The decision to transition is more often than not, a cathartic, “Fuck it!”

Even then, there are obstacles. In so many ways, I realize how easy I have had it. I frequently wish I had started this process sooner but, when I chat with people who transitioned 15-20 years ago, when I last considered starting, I realize how hard they had it back then, and I find myself thinking, “You are so brave!”

Being trans is still easily misunderstood, but compared to the turn of the millennium, laws and understanding have come a long way. Also, I am older and my peers are older. I have to imagine that in this day and age, with social media and, the maturity that comes with nearing forty, things are much easier for folks like me than they were not too long ago.

Even now, depending on where a person lives, they may not have options that make transition an easy option. Gatekeepers (psychologists that withhold allowing their patients to transition so they can make more money by continued treatments) can now be bypassed by going to a doctor who practices informed consent. The thing is, there are not always doctors nearby who are willing to treat trans patients without a psychological diagnosis. That blows my mind. How does a psychologist determine if I am trans enough to transition? How do I know I am trans? How do you know you aren’t? I just know it with every fibre of my boobs… er… being. Every fiber of my being.

There is no bravery in being born trans. Just the condition of being wired differently than the average person.

I do not talk about this much in this blog, but I practice gender fluidity. I am frequently in, “Guy mode”. I do this for many reasons but one of them is I really am not that brave. When I am alone, I find it safer to go out as a man. A man with long hair, long nails and waxed eyebrows, boobs… but still, a man. Also, I have a ton of male clothing and most of it fits me better than my female clothing. I get self conscious easily, so lounging around in shorts and a t shirt is frequently more relaxing.

Now, I do not socialize in, “Guy mode”. I am out to all my friends and the vast majority of them remained. It is less frightening being myself when surrounded by people I know than when I am alone in the wilderness of the public eye.

Aloha,
Tori

Back to the Future

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I went home for ten days, after eight years of being away. My primary reason for returning was to attend my 20th High School Reunion, as I had seen my parents a couple weeks prior when they’d come to Hawaii. I was quite tentative about going to the reunion. I grew up in a Red State, and I was one of the few in my school who was not religious. I grew up in Utah which is predominantly LDS (Mormon).

Utah High Schools are unique in one key way. The LDS Church tends to buy property next door to the school and, they run a seminary there, a school for studying the LDS religion. Students at the public high school have the option to take one fewer elective class from the high school and instead, go next door to take a class in the seminary building. This allows LDS students to further their religious studies while, “Technically” not crossing the sometimes hazy line that separates church and state. Still, seminary class highlighted who was Mormon and who wasn’t amongst the student body. Also, non seminarians had to take an extra class at the high school. It wasn’t exactly like we were allowed to mess around for one period a semester if we weren’t going to seminary. Most state governments would see the flaws in this system. Not Utah. This was just one example where Utah law served to highlight the differences between Mormons and Gentiles (yes, non-Mormons are Gentiles. In Utah, you can be a Jewish Gentile).

In many ways, I took being non-Mormon in a Utah public school as a challenge. I worked hard to tow the line. To live a life of morality that would put many Mormon class mates to shame. I did not wish to be the stereotypical non-Mormon bad boy. I did not smoke, drink, do drugs or sluff. I remained virginal. I kept my grades up. I even managed to become quite popular accidentally just because I was part of our highly visible, weekly, televised news program and, a member of our school’s state championship winning drama team. Being an actor at my high school was a big deal, when compared to other schools… I mean, we were still drama nerds, but cooler than many other a school’s drama nerds because we reliably brought home a bunch of 1st place trophies. Nobody voted for me and yet, people tended to know of me. Popularity can be such a big deal in high school. I never really sought it out, it just happened all the same. I’d gone from a class of 14 to a class of 500+ and somehow, I didn’t get swallowed up by it all.

Members of the LDS Church are not typically creepy, Bible thumpers. They don’t burn crosses in Gentile’s yards or go out on lynchings. I hope that much would be obvious. They are raised to be polite, loving, hard working and geared towards family. They can be intimidating simply because they are SO practiced in being good people. I mean, like really, really good people. Not phony nice… NICE nice.

The vast majority of my high school friends were/are Mormon. They weren’t constantly trying to convert me and I was not trying to get them to stray. We accepted each other in spite of our differences, and we frequently acknowledged those differences through good natured jokes.

My core group of friends were the folks who over the course of a year or so, decided to eat lunch together. We were an odd collection of people with different beliefs, politics and, ethnicities. For a bunch of Utahns, we were quite the diverse group. The things we had in common were, we were pretty nerdy, smart and, we respected people for their differences. We would spend our lunch breaks debating politics, religion, scientific theory and, whatever else we could come up with. These debates would get quite heated but they never became personal because we understood the need for differing opinions in order to have a good debate and, we collectively were willing enough to look at all sides of an issue even if that meant we may change our own opinion eventually. It is safe to say, they are the smartest, most tolerant group of people I have ever had the honor of knowing, and yes, most of them are Mormon.

Then we graduated. Many of my friends moved away to go to school. Of those who remained, most left on LDS missions a year later. They went around the world to share their beliefs with others, to ride mountain bikes, wear white shirts and dark ties and, to have countless doors slammed in their faces.

I remained in Utah. I made new friends at the University. I continued acting. I started to smoke, drink and, began a love affair with marijuana. I had the time of my life and I learned at a remarkable pace.

Then my missionary friends started to return and, I was filled with a shame that sadly kept me from completely reuniting with them. While they were gone, I had convinced myself that I had fallen too far from the tree. I no longer thought we had things in common with each other. I avoided them like I had some contagious disease and I did not want them to catch it.

It is funny to think about it now. I am sure when I started this post and talking about Mormons, many reading this thought I would talk about how terrible they are. In reality, I did not feel like I could continue living up to the high standards they’d set. I’d convinced myself that I was the terrible one. So, I broke all ties.

After undergrad, I moved to NYC to continue learning, acting and making mistakes. I had already planted the mental seed that I was not as good of a person as I had been in high school, and that continued to weigh me down.

These self doubts were directly related to my gender dysphoria. The feeling of being trapped as a male were taking their toll. Drugs and drinking helped me escape, I thought. Smoking cigarettes was an attempt at slow suicide. I came very close to transitioning. VERY close. Then, the Twin Towers fell.

I will write about 9/11 at length in a month or so. Let me just say for now that it was terrible and I was close. The thing about huge tragedy, tragedy that is unfathomable, is it can bring with it great catharsis. Something so big can really make all your other problems feel extremely small. 9/11 lifted my dysphoria for quite some time. The release from dysphoria allowed me to man up and seize the opportunity, especially when I met the woman who would eventually become my wife, just eleven days later on September 22, 2001.

We stayed together in NYC for a few years before my dysphoria started to innevitably kick in again. A common side effect of dysphoria is it can cause a person to stagnate. I had trouble holding a job, and even more trouble looking for one, or even leaving the house for that matter. I wasted my time watching television and surfing the Internet. Our relationship was deteriorating and my dysphoria was back in full force. I could not bring myself to tell my future wife I was trans. Instead, I did the same thing to her I’d done in Utah to my high school friends. I’d decided to protect my future wife from my stagnating self. I broke up with her and moved back to Utah. She was better than me. She deserved better than me. I would never change. I wasn’t worth her love.

So, I moved back “Home” and once again, i created a whole new set of friends. I avoided my undergrad friends. I avoided my high school friends. I started over. I am pretty good at starting over. In fact, I tend to thrive for a good while before the stagnation kicks in. I got a number of professional acting jobs and, I got full time work at a professional theatre. It was really a great creative time. I also, kept calling my future wife on the phone and, we’d talk for hours. Eventually, she visited Utah and we patched things up, much to her circle of friend’s collective chagrin. After all, I did dump her once.

I applied to grad schools and was accepted to The University of Hawaii. My future wife moved with me, and I got to start over yet again… again. I proposed to her, came out as trans to her and, very shortly after graduation, we were married.

Let me talk a bit about grad school. I started out very well, just like I do, but my dysphoria returned with full force more quickly than it had in the past whenever I had run away to start over. By the end of the first semester, I was dealing with full on stagnation. I would take classes and do well all semester long, only to fail to complete the final project for absolutely no good reason at all. It was a humiliating pattern I was stuck in, and my teachers were quite annoyed by it and, annoyed with me as a student. I was rude, defensive and, I carried myself around with an air of superiority that was oh, so transparently betrayed by my multiple failures. None of my professors could put a finger on the root of my problems (why was I [sarcastically] paying them?) and, at the time, I was helpless to do or say anything about my issues. To this day, the head of the UHM Theatre Department HATES me. I think he gave me my degree just to get me out the door and yet, I did eventually pass all my classes and meet all the requirements. I earned my degree. The hard way. That I made it through, with my closeted and cripplingly dysphoric secret in tow, is damn near miraculous.

The spiral tightens as it spins downward. As I closed in on my degree, the spiral wound tighter and tighter.

Alcohol addiction was getting bad, and it only got worse after graduation until I got all suicidey and realized I had to transition NOW… if only to see if it would work. It is working.

Then, I started the process of coming out to all my friends. Living in Hawaii, and not having many old phone numbers, I had to come out to a lot of people via Facebook. First, I came out to my friends in Hawaii, because they were closest geographically, and Hawaiian culture is generally chilled out, so I did not anticipate many bigotry issues. I was limited in the people I could tell in Utah, and on the mainland in general, precisely because circles of friends overlap and my mother, father and, my wife all wanted to tell some people themselves and that effect would ripple. After a month or two, I rushed my parents and wife along. Eventually, my folks had told their brothers and sisters and, they gave me the go ahead to tell everyone I wanted. My wife lagged behind.

At around the six month transition mark, I unilaterally came out to everyone on my male Facebook account and invited them to friend me over at my new, female account. There were some interesting side effects. The main ones included many friends thinking I was joking or deciding my account had been hacked. Oh, also, my wife was PISSED. Time and again during transition, things that are good for me have an opposite impact on those closest to me. I did not properly respect the fact that by coming out in such a grand way, I had outed my wife as a quasi-lesbian. She does not identify as a lesbian, but she is married to me, eventually she will be a lesbian or bi, in the eyes of the law. Of course, she, at the time, was allowed to communicate with whichever friends she wanted. I was not. Eventually, I felt I had waited long enough and I acted against her will. I never anticipated her reaction being so negative and she didn’t properly understand how isolated I was required to be by being closeted unintentionally by someone else, when I was ready to come out.

I came out to everyone when my wife was too busy bringing home the bacon to keep her thoughts straight, let alone explain to everyone she knew that she’d married a trans woman who was finally ready to be out to the world.

Of course, I had come out to many people individually. Some on Facebook, some over the phone and, some face to face. The Facebook ones were the worst. Imagine having to explain your gender individually to people you have known for years, so they would migrate over to a new, female account where I could safely remain closeted from people I had not yet told.

“Hi,

You used to know me as Tommy, but things have changed, you see, I am trans and… blah blah blah…

Aloha,
Tori”

It got fucking old, fast. Sometimes I would just try to add folks as friends without writing them the obligatory and, embarrassing note but eventually, after Facebook twice accused me of running a phony account thus requiring me to verify my existence in order to continue posting, I changed tactics.

The thing is, I could not bring myself to come out to my high school friends individually no matter how close we had been. They did not find out until I came out to everyone. Not one of them. I was too ashamed.

Once out to all of them, WOW did they support me! Long conversations began with people I had not spoken to in years. Two people asked if I was going to the 20th reunion. I said, “No”. They said I should. Both of them actually promised they would go if I did, but they were not planning on going otherwise, and yes, they both kept their promise.

Of course, I am poor and unemployed so getting to the mainland from my isolated rock in paradise was purt’near impossible. Then the Deus Ex Machina, my father in law, said he would pay for my wife and I to visit them up in Montana this summer (if we paid him back when we could). After my wife did some negotiating and, as she slowly recovered from being outed by me, she got herself a ticket to visit her family in Montana and got me a ticket to see mine in Utah at the time of my reunion.

It really sucks to think that I outed my wife against her will, and yet that very outing is the only reason I was convinced to attend my reunion. I would not have reconnected with any of these people in time for the reunion otherwise. Everything comes at a price. Sigh…

So, word started to get out that I would be attending. I remember having a conversation with one of our former student body officers online that I wanted to be called Tori and not Tommy. If we had name tags I wanted my female name or I would walk out! I was pretty catty about it. Uncharacteristically catty, in fact. Those things really do not tend to bother me that much, but my point was: If y’all can’t treat me as the transitioning woman I am, spare me the time and effort because I am already scared shitless to be doing this at all.

A few days later, he contacted me again with an interesting question: “What should we call you in old photographs?” I did not know. He suggested we go with Tori and, I went with his decision. It was right then that I realized how in some ways, simply by transitioning, I had become a person with special needs. It was an eye opener. It was humbling. I made a point to do my best not not to make a stink about little things like name tags ever again. I do not wish to be THAT trans woman.

And, what on Earth was I going to wear?

I flew to Utah about a week after my wife flew to visit her family. After catching up on sleep, getting a new driver’s license and, going to the dentist, the first social thing I did was call my former high school drama teacher. 81 years old and, she is as sharp as ever. Sharper. She confessed she struggled to come to terms with my transition, but she is still very much my mentor and she freely handed me some amazing pearls of wisdom, which I have been using ever since with amazing results. She is one smart cookie.

Then my mom took me to the University of Utah Theatre Department to get my hair cut. Well, she took me to get my wig cut. Yeah, my wig needed some work. They get old. Shorter is better. Yay! New hair!!!

The first thing I did that was at all reunion related was I went down to Orem to jam with the old garage band. The BAND!!! After high school, a couple friends from our lunch table decided I would make a great lead singer for their garage band (ha!) so they brought me in and for a while, we made some music. We recorded an album. Eventually life and school took us our separate ways. I never thought we would reunite, not even for one night. Getting back together was just like old times and we even got some poor quality recordings out of it. We actually sounded a good deal better than our recording equipment captured. There was something there. A career as rock stars? No. But there is a living pride we rightly share in not just being a band, but in writing and producing our own songs. We weren’t a cover band. We ARE Children of the Mud.

The next day was the first day of the reunion. I am thankful to have hung out with my band mates before because I now knew I had at least two friends who would tolerate me at the reunion. I was very nervous though. I tried my best to prepare for the worst. What if someone said something bigoted that was met with approval by others?

A friend of mine, my best friend from high school in fact, had arranged to drive me to the reunion and then, we would duck out early and catch dinner. It was kind of like a date. Only we are both happily married.

That said, he picked me up when he said he would. I made him wait for a minute or two while I finished getting ready. Then, he drove me to the reunion and walked me inside. Neither of us knew what to expect and yet he still walked me in just so I could hold my head high.

Now, I am a manly-ish, lesbian, trans woman but I confess that having a man there to protect me as I walked into the unknowns of my past and present, made me truly understand and respect chivalry. He asked if he could take me because he thought I might need the support. He invited me to dinner afterword because he thought I might need an exit strategy. All he had done was drive me a mile and walk inside with me and yet, it was a profoundly moving experience; both in needing and, in having his protection. Good friends are hard to find.

Suddenly, I was face to face with the former student body officer, the one who I had foolishly insisted make everybody call me Tori. He smiled from ear to ear and handed me a pre-made name tag with, “Tori” written on it. I noticed everybody else was making their own name tags and that he’d also handed me my own blank one. I wrote my name on it and placed it on my chest. I placed the pre-made name tag in my purse to save. It now resides in my high school yearbook. As a side note, this was the first time I’ve had to deal with the issue of where to place a name tag on a female top, over boobs. Eeeeep! Weird.

The reunion started off slow. In fact, there were so few people there early on, that we were kinda’ forced to talk to one another in spite of the awkward vibe we all could feel. Our high school is HUGE, and with just a handfull of people there, we only made it feel bigger. These early discussions were weird more often than not, even though I quite like the people I talked to. I think we were all getting our sea legs. A reunion is a kind of phony event, it celebrates graduation but it does not take place on the actual anniversary of your graduation. It is a get together where most people in their own way fear they won’t live up to expectations. It took about a half hour and a bunch more people arriving before people seemed to settle into a groove.

After an hour or two, I noticed I was getting pretty good at mingling. Few people dared mention my transition to my face, and yet, everybody seemed to know my name even without looking at my name tag. I imagine word got out. No big deal, I am getting used to that. Be the obvious and only trans person in a room, and people will have a fairly easy time remembering you.

Eventually, I realized I was having just as good a time talking to people I did not know very well or at all, as I was chatting with my old friends. Seems 20 years can cause people to become pretty darn chilled out and interesting.

But then, I couldn’t take it any more. I had to pee. Nooooooo!!! Couldn’t I make it three lousy hours without going? Sadly, a side effect of the testosterone blocker I take is, it makes me need to go quite frequently. I can rarely make it to the intermission of a play before I have to get up and go any more. Here I was, at my reunion and I had to do that criminal thing everyone else takes for granted and, I did not want anyone to find out. I walked around the school and all the bathrooms were locked except for the ones in the indoor courtyard where we were all gathering. Fortunately, most of the people were gathered on one side of the courtyard so, considering how I am now a ninja, I stealthed my way into the empty loo on the other side, did my business and left. I do not think anyone noticed. My discomfort with using public toilets is mostly self-imposed but really, people can argue that I do not belong in either room. I used the women’s, FYI. It is how us ninjas roll.

As I’ve said, very few people dared to mention my transition to my face. I appreciated those who did because they were willing to cut through the bullshit. I mean, I can understand the questions about wife, job, family, where I currently reside and whatnot but – HOLY SHIT ARE THOSE BOOBS REAL?!? Kinda’ seemed like my transition was also important to folks but they frequently enough, didn’t quite know how to address it. I did my best to bring it up myself when folks seemed uncomfortable. Joking can be very helpful.

“What have you been up to Tori?”

“Oh, you know… transing. Transing all over the place.”

Once it was out there and, once people had discovered I had a sense of humor about the transitioning elephant in the room, they tended to let their guards down. After an hour or two, I was no longer waiting for people to come to me, I was freely crashing their conversations… just like old times. The more at ease I became, the more at ease everyone around me was.

I discovered something fascinating. My name was not Tori to some people. To them, I was known as TommyToriOhMyGODIAmSoSorry. Being called by my full and formal name will take some getting used to. Usually I am only called that by my mother and even then, only when I am in trouble.

I suppose it is as good a time as any to mention that this night the reunion was at our old high school and there was no alcohol being served so inhibitions were lifting the old fashioned way. People were having fun in spite of themselves and in spite of the innate awkwardness that comes from attending any large reunion.

My ride and I never found the need to duck out early. We stayed until the end. We even went to an after party at a local bar.

Ahhh the bar. That was a lot of fun, at least it was once we got in. Getting in was perhaps the worst experience of the evening.

So… my ride took me to the bar where we were going to meet some friends. Three of us walked in and Bluto the bouncer, immediately stopped us to check our identification. I am fine with this, although it outs me. The law is the law. I know I do not pass often enough as female, and still, it is kinda’ embarrassing. It confirms my old identity. But first, the bouncer noticed one of my friends was still wearing his name tag from the reunion and demanded he take it off. I guess dive bars have dress codes now. Whatever… I mean it isn’t like we’d just come here from our 20th reunion or anything, and that, “Hello My Name Is” name tag had sentimental value to him or our group or anything like that… my name tag meant something to me.

Eventually, it was my turn. I handed him my Hawaii ID. He looked at it for a while. He looked at me. He looked at it again. Finally, he asked, “Why does your ID look different compared to the other Hawaii IDs I see?” I quickly explained that it was not a drivers license, it was a state ID. They look different. He looked at it again. He looked at me. He looked at it again… again. Finally, I reached into my wallet and pulled out my new, Utah driver’s license. I didn’t before because the DMV had suggested I continue using my old identification until my hard copy was issued (this one was on unprotected paper) because I would likely need a hard copy of my ID to fly home in a few days. Since he already had my other ID in his hands, I gently tossed the paper ID on his desk when he snapped, “Let me give you a bit of advice. Do not throw shit at me!” I guess, since the piece of paper did leave my hand and float through the air before landing squarely in the middle of his desk, one could argue that I threw it, but if it was thrown at him, I had terrible aim, and an even worse choice of weapon. He then compared both IDs, took out a sheet of paper and spent an intrusively creepy amount time either writing ID info down, or pretending to do so. Finally, he let us all in. My friends could see I was upset. It did feel like discrimination. I was clearly old enough to go inside. Don’t flatter me, I don’t look THAT young. I was so flummoxed, I was literally shaking. I have half a mind to Yelp him a new asshole. I did get his name…

Sigh…

Once inside, the bar was great. After a few hours, hanging out with a delightful bunch, including the delightful pixie I, and everyone else I had ever known in high school, had crushed on. My ride, the friend who had to remove his name tag, and I, decided we would soon leave and catch dinner/breakfast and then… my bladder attacked again. Guess where the restrooms were? If you guessed, right across from the stupid bouncer’s desk, you would be right.

Ninja tactics are old and deeply rooted. In order to get past this guard, I had to strategize, so I collaborated with a female friend, my smoking ally. She informed me that if I came into any trouble for using the restroom, our entire group would raise Holy Hell. I am THAT good. I had used the often whispered about, ninja mind trick. Now my whole group had my back.

So I snuck in, like I do, and I did the urine thing like we all do. I walked out, and Bluto the bouncer, or whatever his name is was staring me right in the eyes. I shrugged him off and rejoined my group. Ninja!!!

We closed the place.

Foooooood!!! My ride took me and my friend to a place called Dee’s, which is like Utah’s own Denny’s or Village Inn and yes, it is better. Otherwise, we would’ve gone to Denny’s or Village Inn. The night ended when my ride took me home after we’d chatted for a while in the parking lot where he’d once worked as a bag boy.

The next morning, my Dad, relieved to see me said, “When did you get home?” I explained that it was around 3:30 A.M. “Well, I woke up around 3 and when I realized you were not home, I almost called the cops because I just knew something had happened to my girl!”

How sweet is that? I am so sorry I worried him. At the same time, he quite likely would have slept right through if I was a guy. AND, I had a heckuva designated driver after all. I am not used to the emotions others have simply by thinking of me as female or vulnerable.

That afternoon, I went to The Pie to meet fellow members of our high school Pie Club. Actually, we used the symbol for Pi, so we could use it on our resumes and look like we were in some kind of math club. In reality, The Pie is the best pizzeria in Utah and, I promise you, one of the best in the world. You may like New York style pizza, or Chicago style but Pie is PIE. It is its own thing and, I can not compare it to other pizza without misleading someone who has not tried it. Thick crust, great sauce, TOO MUCH cheese and, grease enough to clog a heart once it coagulates. Good stuff! Oh, and they make 23″ pies. That may not sound too big, until you see one. Keep in mind, Pizza Hut’s largest pizza is 13″, and terrible.

So we filled up on Pie, then I went home and got ready for night 2: The Sequel, which was a more formal event. My Mom did my makeup, and shared tons of tips with me. Dad took pictures of me. It was kinda’ like prom night. Finally, they gave me the keys to the car and sent me on my way. I was running about a half hour late. I’ve got THAT part of womanhood down!

When I waltzed inside… well, walked inside, a group of friends invited me to their table, I grabbed an extra chair and squeezed in. Who did I sit with? Why, the old lunch table gang and many of their spouses. Sad to say, we did not spend the evening debating this time. It felt kinda’ weird going solo. I missed my wife and, I had grown tired of explaining why she couldn’t be there.

As for my wife, when I mentioned being married, I was often met with the question, “You’re married?” After showing the questioner my ring finger, several people asked me, “What’s he like?” I would politely and calmly explain how he was very much like a short woman of Hungarian ancestry.

Night two continued. There were presentations by the reunion committee, videos, lots of silly mid-90’s music, and a montage of fellow students who had passed away in the last 20 years. For a class our size, we had not lost many, but the news was often quite shattering, and the mood had definitely sobered in the room by the time the presentation had finished.

I took the elevator to street level needing to escape for a smoke. This was my first time alone, downtown, at night… and it was a Saturday night. I became self conscious. I was no longer in a safe zone. Eventually, someone else came downstairs, he kinda’ looked like a young Tom Petty and, we struck up a conversation. It was a relief to have someone to talk to. Neither of us really knew each other in school, and he actually did not know if he would even be welcomed at the reunion, because he had a reputation for being a trouble maker when we were young but, time had been kind to him and he was kind to me.

Things were winding down. I discovered that one of the lunch table gang won the award for being in school for the longest time after high school graduation (11 years!). I was jealous because I came close to winning, on top of that, I was kinda’ embarrassed since I had spent ten whole years, post high school studying acting and collecting student loans (Collect Them ALL!!!). Should have gone into medicine… sigh…

I won an award later, not the coveted, Most Changed award (which shockingly was not handed out this year), but rather a pair of comedy and drama masks in our school colors (Black, White and Gold, Forever) for answering the trivia question, “Who played Thisbee in our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”, it was unfair, because I had played this person’s, “Lover” Pyramus, in that production… but I couldn’t resist answering since he had to cross dress in that production, while I played a guy. The irony was so irony-ee. Besides, I had lost the Most Schooling award, and the Longest Distance Traveled To Attend award and Most Changed wasn’t even a thing. I could NOT go home empty handed.

Funny thing about being the most changed; I wasn’t. Not by a long shot. 20 years gave many folks ample time to change. A few were unrecognizable in the best possible ways.

Many more had stayed very much the same. Sure they got bigger in places, balder in others… grey in spots, slight wrinkles in others… but the eyes were the same, and their personalities remained. It seems I fit more into this category. Countless people said things to me like, “I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard you were trans and brave enough to still come to the reunion, but I am so happy you came because now I realize you are exactly the same.” Epiphany time! It was true. I am the same, perhaps, oxymoronically, even more myself now than I was back then because I have nothing left to hide.

There are things that annoy me about being trans. My beard shadow and my voice for starters, both tend to get me clocked by people who do not know me. This is sometimes frightening. People I do not know tend to be polite or awesome… but sometimes, strangers see my very existence as a crime against their own understanding of the way the world as they know it is supposed to work. My body is changing due to hormones. My behavior is changing due to giving myself permission to let my inner femininity out. Passing is getting much more reliable, even in the day time, but things can quickly out me if someone inspects too closely. I know I am passing, because people I do not know are treating me like a female much more frequently. An example of passing, someone holding a door for me for an awkwardly long time because, you know, girls can’t operate doors. An example of being clocked, the look on someone’s face after they realize I am trans as I walk past them while they hold the door open for me.

I am working on my facial hair removal, but that is a long and ongoing process. Within a few months, if things continue apace, I should be able to go out without makeup, and not worry about a visible shadow.

Voice is far more complicated. Why? Because it conveys so much. If eyes are the window to your soul, the voice, at its best, translates your eyes into living language. As an actor, I think of my voice as my instrument. And here is the thing: I always have to listen to it!!! I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I sound like a guy, if I do nothing… I sound insincere if I talk in a high pitch with a soft, musical tone. I sound like a bad, female impersonator. That does not convey honesty. Not to me and, not to those people around me. Eventually, my voice may come around but is gonna’ take work. It is not there yet.

So, I spoke with my natural voice and, although I have been told by several people my voice HAS changed a little, I have not made much conscious effort to do anything to it. My point is, I think my voice was helpful at the reunion, because people heard me and, not someone they’d never known. Not so helpful when dealing with strangers though…

Night two was winding down, and I had to use the restroom. So I said my goodbyes, in order to avoid the post-reunion bathroom rush then, I snuck around the corridor so I could get into the ladies room without being seen by the people who were still reunioning. One stall was occupied, so I ninja-ed my way into the farthest stall away from the occupant. I waited for her to finish, wash her hands and leave before I did my business. As I was putting myself back together, the door opened and someone else entered. I was stuck until she picked a stall. Once her stall door had closed, I rushed to the sink, washed and slipped out. Undetected!!! Damn, I’m good.

It was time for the after party at a piano bar. One of my classmates had invited us all to her dueling piano night. She rocked it and, played a bunch of silly 90’s songs for the reunion crew.

The bar was loud though, and after a reunion, I think many of the people who’d gone to the after party wanted to be able to talk a bit more easily. Eventually, a group had decided to go elsewhere and they invited me to tag along. Off we walked through the SLC streets.

We got to the destination. It ended up being a dance club with a line around the block. My Spidey Sense started to tingle. I am more than just a simple ninja. This did not seem like a good place for me. First, dance clubs are LOUD so, no real conversation and, oddly they tend to be where one goes to dance. I was a bad dancer as a man… my female moves are probably worse. Second, dance clubs are often enough, hook up clubs… and I was in no mood for anyone to try to hook up with me, let alone drunken strangers who might discover I am trans only AFTER they had attempted to hook up. That is when shit can get scary. Third, it was close enough to last call that the long wait in line would have prevented us all from having another round together.

So, I did something that surprised me. I put my foot down. I told the group that had at the last moment, invited me, that this was not a good place. I didn’t feel safe. I was afraid of being killed (that got a laugh). So, I would happily go home and they could have fun at the club. The group decided to give up the dance club plan and, to walk together to a dive bar instead.

We walked into the dive as a fight was breaking out at the door. I was at home. No need to fear for my life in here! THIS was my kind of Irish sanctuary. We ordered drinks and got to chatting.

I realized that this group we’d assembled was an odd mix of folks. We really were the late night equivalent to The Breakfast Club. We all knew a couple folks in the group, but we had never before been a group or a clique until this night, and the collective experience of the reunion and the bars was bonding us together. Young Tom Petty was there, a student body officer, a soccer player, a married couple, one delightful, self-proclaimed bitch, the lady who REALLY wanted to go to the dance club, our hockey star, and me, the token trans woman. We were quite the odd bunch and it was delightful.

I walked past another fight on my way to the loo when… NOOOOOO… a line! My ninja skills had not trained me for this. I made a mental note to get in line earlier next time so I would be able to hold it easier. The good and bad news? It was a single person ladies room. Good because I would not need to share. Bad because it would be even more of a wait. By the time I was next in line, a woman lined up behind me, doing the pee-pee dance. “Do you mind?” she inquired, “The men’s room is open and I’ve really gotta’ go! You can use it, and I will make sure nobody comes in… but the lock on the door’s broke.”

I replied, “You can use it. I am fine waiting right here.” She glared at me like I had broken some unspoken golden faucet rule and, she pee-pee wiggled towards the men’s room. Just as she was closing the door, two men burst in and kicked her out because they needed to pee, and she was in their space. It seems she too, had broken an unspoken rule. She got back in line behind me, embarrassed. I said, “It isn’t easy, this, but that is exactly why I am waiting here. I am in the right line. I hope you now understand.” She nodded, and looked down at the ground. The door opened, I slipped in, locked the door and, went as fast as I could, just so the woman behind me could find some much needed relief ASAP, but only after waiting her turn, just like I had done. I do not know if I actually used any of my ninja skills in that situation. I do know I felt a sense of smug accomplishment. I probably would have let her go before me had she not insinuated I belonged in the other room.

The bar closed, and our group started to walk people to their cars, hotels, bikes and, whatnots. The night was winding down. My old friend the soccer player and I helped designated-drive people to their cars or even to their homes. This took some time but it gave us some ample opportunity to reconnect. I do not know if either of us had realized until then, how much we had missed each other. Women used to frighten me so much, because I was both attracted to them, and wanted to be a part of their strangely complex club.

Before all that happened though, I made one terrible mistake. As we walked along, away from the closing dive bar, some random drunken stranger started hitting on me. I told him to buzz off… damn!!! My stupid voice!

“Holy shit! You’re a DUDE?!?”

Noooooooooo!!!

“Well, uh… hey, you still wanna’ get freaky?”

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

He followed me, saying creepy things for a couple of large city blocks before I finally turned around and stood my ground. I raised my voice at him in an attempt to make him stop the chase. Epic fail. He began to get upset with me. He physically threatened me. Stupid man. He thought I was a strong guy, just like his uneloquent, belligerent ass was. Now, I may be a ninja, but my training was failing me at this point. I did not want this to come to blows. I told him as much, as my friends gathered to help ease the situation. Then his friends, who had been trying to figure out where he had run off to, joined in. There was a bizarre stand off since all of us were clearly more bark than bite. Eventually, I found their group’s, “Leader” and explained to him how I was being hit on and followed by this kid, when I really wanted nothing to do with him. I was having a night out with my friends for our 20th reunion. This got his group to help remove creepy guy from the situation and, we all went our separate ways.

Still, being seen and hit on as a female is new to me, and it was only after I had opened my mouth that I realized a real ninja would have put her head to the ground, and just kept walking in silence. Lesson learned.

The night had ended and I returned home around 4:00 AM, to my worried mother who hadn’t yet slept a wink. Sigh…

I was up until sunrise, chatting on Facebook with my oldest, and very pregnant friend, my very first crush. We discussed life and stuff… she is tall…

The next day was a family reunion, with most of the people on my mother’s side coming to the house for a, “Hawaiian style” luau. I got to meet many of my cousin’s kids for the first time, and my family got to, “Meet” Tori! One aunt commented that it was all a bit sad because she had lost someone she had known, but she had gained someone new as well. I was warmed by the intended compliment, but it was surreal knowing I was the same person I had always been. Nothing had been lost in my eyes, only gained.

Rising from the ashes like a Fiery Phoenix is an image I have often reflected upon as I transition. I started at rock bottom, and I had already come so far upon returning to Utah. And yet, I had not realized until I returned home, that one thing holding me back all this time was how I had disconnected from my High School friends after we’d graduated.

It was not until I’d shown my face at that first night of the reunion, that I’d realized my friends were always there, waiting with open arms. They’d held me in as high esteem as I had held them. We all, in our own ways felt inadequate. By reconnecting, they’d returned a piece of me that I had long ago forgotten I’d even lost. I hope I’ve done them the same favor.

People kept telling me how brave I was to go to the reunion. At first I just brushed them off. Then I started to believe them. Then, I realized we were ALL brave. 20 years! What if we didn’t live up to expectations?

How many of our classmates didn’t show up because they were afraid they would fall short? That thought they had peaked in high school? Convinced they were somehow less than their peers…

This reunion wasn’t about people coming to brag about their successes. In its own way, it was about people facing their own demons and just taking a leap of faith. People who sincerely hoped, in spite of their wear and tear of the last 20 years, that they could somehow recapture something they’d long missed.

Mission accomplished.

I spent my last days in town, on a nostalgia tour. I visited old haunts. My oldest homes. My old grade school (it got small). I cried a lot of happy girl tears.

The last social engagement, my dear friend, the one who had driven me and protected me that first night of the reunion, took me and his awesome wife out to dinner and a movie. After a short and tearful goodbye, it was time to fly back to Hawaii. Paradise… yes… but not home…

I miss my home. I miss my friends. Thankfully, they gave me something to take with me. ME!

Watch out world, Tori’s got her mojo back!

Aloha,
Tori

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Feeling Emotional

I have been traveling lately. It was wonderful visiting my parents on Kauai for two weeks. I thought it would make a great blog entry but really, the trip was quite mundane. Delightfully mundane. Things were normal. First time I have seen them since I started transition. They have embraced and processed my change and well… now I do not think it will make a very good blog post. Hey, I had a normal, great time. The end.

The thing is I have not posted in a while and I know writing begets writing. If I go a long time without posting it can be very hard to get the wheels turning again. So, I went to Facebook to ask friends and family for suggested topics and the requests were all about feelings and/or emotions.

Eeeeeep.

I guess I have not really posted about this topic in a lot of detail and that is partly because it is hard to put my finger on. I will do my best, but know that like a lot of my transition, my feelings have been evolving and have not really seemed to end up where they will be for the rest of my life.

Describing emotions can be like describing a color. If you do not already know what it is, I am not sure I can properly explain it. As for feelings, I will address them as different from emotions like, how does it feel to wear a wig and a dress in public?

The last time I addressed my emotional state in this blog, I was still feeling the overwhelming euphoria that came with starting transition. I really was so frigging happy and it was weird. This lasted for about three months. Then I was hit with an epiphany. I wasn’t happy. Well, I was but I was happy because my extreme dysphoria had lifted and that brought me immense joy. Over time the joy faded but the dysphoria never returned. I was happy to not be constantly depressed. It was an emotional afterglow. I had a lengthy stretch of euphoria simply because I was finally feeling the same way most people spend their life feeling.

I used to be very bitter, snarky and well, a jerk. A jerk you could grow to love but still a jerk. I learned this in NYC, where being rude is often a sign of affection. I found it useful when I was in the closet because if people could put up with me being a jerk, they would likely not mind me if I eventually transitioned. It was a defense mechanism. It was an expression of how ugly I felt. I wouldn’t offend people by being trans but I still practiced being offensive. If people couldn’t handle it, I didn’t need them in my life.

While I can still be quite rude from time to time, and I sometimes wonder if I am on the autism spectrum because I can really struggle with empathy, my demeanor has really softened. As Tori, I am a nicer person. That may be hard for people to believe if they have only known me since transition, but those who have known me for ages really notice the difference. I have no more need to be a jerk to keep fragile people away but old habits die hard. I am making a conscious effort and the lack of testosterone does a lot of the work for me. Testosterone can cause aggression when there is too much of the hormone present, this is much of the reason why men are more violent and we have the term “Roid rage”. Anything higher than female levels of testosterone in me is too much, and while I was never very physically aggressive, I can be very emotionally and verbally aggressive especially when testosterone is running rampant. Good men amaze me because it is not easy with all that testosterone veering you towards aggressiveness and sex. People neuter their pets in part, to keep them docile. Testosterone made me a worse person, and the damage done continues to ripple from me. It is miraculous that I still have a wife.

Oy. This post is tough to write. I feel like it will be more non linear than most.

So, how does it feel now as compared to before emotionally? After nine months, it feels pretty normal. You adjust to change. I remember when my emotions started to feel more female from hormones and it was like switching from black and white to color. I wouldn’t say my emotional range is broader, instead, it is far more nuanced. I am less likely to feel rage, but almost every other emotion is readily available. In fact, I can feel conflicting emotions at the same time which took some getting used to but now is just how I feel. I cry more frequently, and often enough those tears are happy tears or an expression of conflicting emotions coming to the surface before I can logically process them.

When an emotion comes to the surface, I will likely express it… then it is quickly gone. It passes through me faster now because I do not have as much ability to repress it, and frankly, I’ve allowed myself to be feminine so I now allow myself to be far more emotionally expressive.

I am developing what I like to call the, “Awwwwwww cute!” reflex. Babies and toddlers are so much cuter to me now. Same with animals. I really get caught up in the female plot lines of shows now, as if I learned how to understand a new language overnight. It is quite a trip.

Actually, I am finding it harder and harder to slip into guy mode, and when I do, the results can be disastrous. I tend to overcompensate and I am uber aware. It is strange. I frequently feel uncomfortable presenting as female because of the stares and I feel uncomfortable presenting as male because I feel like a fraud. I can play male better than I can play female right now, but it is getting icky. Androgyny is really working for me lately. It gives people around me time to adjust. Female hair, waxed eyebrows, a gender neutral hat, capris and a shirt for example.

It is unfortunate that I have to wear makeup to cover my beard shadow. I kinda have to wear more than most, and that makes me more noticeable. Learning to blend in is a skill I am developing all too slowly.

But I digress. This post is about emotions and feelings.

I am more passionate now. I am much more vulnerable to romance.

When I feel blue, it tends to pass within a day or so, which is by far the most amazing change. I used to slip into depression by default. Now I have built some immunity.

Before transition, I was really down about how terrible of a spouse I was. I was emotionally detached and I didn’t understand what that did to my wife.

Now, I get really mad when people try to meddle in my relationship. It is not easy for her when friends or family try to lovingly steer her away from me. I know my past combined with my transition gives people valid reasons to show concern. That is when I am most vulnerable. It is nearly impossible to explain to someone who cares deeply about my wife, that this transition is perhaps the best thing I can personally do for her because it keeps me much more positive, safe and sane. It is humbling to know and admit that I was abusive, emotionally abusive to my wife and even myself for years. The problem is, that by admitting it, people find out about it and then they offer up their negative opinions about me. They can see this transition as a continuation of the emotional abuse, and I suspect they do so out of the best possible intentions. Still, it sucks to know that my very presence can drive a wedge between some of the people who are closest to my wife. I have asked my wife to leave me on several occasions since transition began but she won’t. I do not wish to be her burden, but she took her vows seriously and so did I.

I have a remarkable capacity for love now. Not just romantic love. The love of friends. The love of food. The love of socialization. The love of love. And my need to express this emotion can be easily misunderstood. I think I repressed it for so long that now with these newly girlified emotions, I just let it bubble to the surface. It can be embarrassing, but I would rather share love than its opposite. It helps me forgive more easily too, and that helps me move forward. It is really hard for me to dwell on a person’s worst qualities.

Overall, my newly developing emotional spectrum is keeping my stress levels lower and my mood more healthy. It is not all butterflies and sparkles, but life would be boring without the occasional speed bump.

I suspect emotional acuity is one of the reasons women tend to live longer. It just seems healthier to feel things fully and then let them pass. On testosterone, I really needed to logically process things. On estrogen, logic is not as important as feeling something flow. It is less important to understand why you feel grief or joy and more important to just experience it as it happens. Feelings of regret used to consume me. They were my Kryptonite. Now I feel regret, forgive myself and move on. I am thankful for this development particularly because I would have been overwhelmed by regret that I did not transition sooner. Also, I continue to make mistakes, and my ability to deal with regret allows me to live more fully in the present rather than in the past. In some ways I had been stuck in 1998 until I started to transition. I was stunted by regret, confusion and unrequited love. By 1999 I was slowly spiraling towards my suicide attempt some fourteen years later.

One person asked me how I handle the excitement of transition. Honestly, it is not too exciting because it moves at such a slow pace. Then one day, you sit down hard on a chair, and your boobs bounce for the first time and you feel proud for a moment, then a little worried… like, this is suddenly very real, and who knows how much bigger and bouncier they will become? Then you feel a kinship to women that you never felt before. Suddenly your eyes start to water, and through tears you start to laugh because you realize you are crying over bouncing boobs. Then you feel your face turn red and flushed. Then you stand up and sit down again to feel them bounce one more time. Then you wonder if this means you need to wear a bra all the time now. Finally, you look to see if anyone was watching you, if nobody was, you cop a quick feel.

Aloha,
Tori

The Rock vs. The Hard Place

Ah, the wonders of modern medicine. Hawaii has some pretty great laws when it comes to insurance coverage. Work over 20 hours a week at the same place? You can be covered. Make less than $20k per year (or so) per person? You can be covered.

The biggest problem with this system is how often you will get hired to work 19 1/2 hours per week so your employer won’t be required to insure you, this happens a LOT, even with governmental, state jobs. Also, a person like me, who relies on medical treatments often enough, must consider whether or not it is worth making more than $20k per year. As it stands, Medicaid for me and my wife is entirely free. Doctor visits? Free. Therapy? Free. Perscriptions? Free.

If I worked at a job and made $30k per year, it is quite possible that the money withheld from my checks, along with co payments for treatment would actually cost me more than $10k per year, so there is some incentive to earn less, and stay close to the poverty line. Yes, trans world problems.

Then there is the whole being trans thing, and how insurance companies view it. Medicare recently changed their views on trans treatment saying it is no longer experimental and they are opening the doors to allow coverage for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), gender reassignment surgery (GRS), gender conforming surgery (GCS) or, a sex change (The OPERATION), depending on what you want to call it. That is right! If you are retired, you now qualify for a vagina! Yay! Vaginas!!! This has caused a great controversy because it is commonly thought that such surgery is cosmetic. I would agree, if I spent my days naked from the waist down.

As Medicare goes, so goes the rest of the insurance industry, so in due time, many companies will likely start covering trans related care. BUT, all this focus is on the surgery, and anyone who is transitioning knows, surgery is just one small piece of the pie. I love puns.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the bread and butter of trans care, and HRT is required for at least a year in order to get, “The operation”. Also required? Real life, full time experience, of living as your preferred gender for twelve or more consecutive months. For a butch-ish lesbian like me, that full time experience thing is a bit confusing. Same goes for the gender fluid folks out there and whatnot. It takes a lot of time and effort to make this 38 year old face and body look even remotely female. My name is not yet legally changed, so there are times when I just have to show up as a male because I need to show my ID. There are other times where I just do not wish to pull attention away from the event I am attending, by presenting as a female. Yes, I do get a lot of extra attention. Most of it is positive or simple curiosity, but I am not that woman who stops men in their tracks because she is good looking… yet. Also, creating an entirely new wardrobe is expensive, and my body is going through some rapid changes that make things that were too small one day, too big the next, or vice versa. Unless I wish to wear muumuus all the time, I kinda’ have to pace my wardrobe expansion, particularly on my budget. Many people have made very generous donations to my ever expanding closet… fortunately there is more room in there, now that I am completely out of said closet.

Back to hormone therapy, it is required for twelve months, at least, before surgery is allowed. Also, HRT is the primary cure for gender dysphoria. Giving the brain the proper hormones has an immediate and profound effect on mood. But again, most insurance policies and companies consider hormone therapy to be cosmetic or experimental. It certainly does cause profound physical changes, but the healthy mind is the most important thing to me and many other trans folk. In other words, if transition were truly just cosmetic, I would always do drag and avoid the medical loopholes entirely.

Speaking of loopholes, they are what get my treatments covered. My therapy was once rejected by my insurer because the primary reason my therapist listed for my visit was my oh so transy transness instead of say, my suicide attempt and depression. Of course, he did also mention those things but they were deemed moot by the insurance company because well, he mentioned my need to transition first. He had to resubmit, stating I was suicidally and clinically depressed, and then he only briefly mentioned I am trans at the end of his notes. This time, lo and behold, I was covered. Good thing I was suicidally depressed! I am the first and only client my therapist sees, to have been rejected by an insurer. My crime? Being trans.

Then, there is my primary care provider. You know? I have high blood pressure, so my doctor has prescribed me with a blood pressure medication that also has some odd side effects. It shrinks my prostate and prevents my body from using any of the testosterone it produces. My blood pressure is much better now.

Also, my doctor has determined that I have an undisclosed endocrine disorder which he uses injections of estrogen to treat. Fortunate for me, he can say it is undisclosed and get my policy to cover it. If he discloses what my endocrine disorder actually is, you guessed it, I would not be covered.

What my therapist and doctor have to do is legal, and technically true, but we would all feel a good bit more legit, if we could just disclose the FULL truth and still get coverage. Gender dysphoria, like I say in almost every single blog post I write, is a killer. High suicide rates, extremely high suicide attempt rates (10-30x the national average which is somewhere between 1.5 and 4%), and even higher rates of depression. There are very few things as deadly as gender dysphoria, which also have proven medical treatments… yet still, while those treatments have been known, and FDA certified for over half a century, they are still are not covered by most insurers. Why are they not covered? Simple bias. Mostly innocent, but still bias. It seems most of the people who work in the insurance industry do not respect folks like me, who some day may wish to make their outie an innie. We are a side show attraction, and not people who should be helped, or cured by modern medicine, even if we are insured. “Only crazy people would want the surgery! But hey, we won’t cover their mental care either!!!”

To review, we are required to have a year of hormone therapy and a year of real life, full time experience. We are required to have TWO different therapists vouch for us, that we are trans enough and sane enough to make adult decisions about our body. Then, and only then, can we get the surgery. This is to prevent buyer’s remorse, and malpractice suits. Doctors want to know  someone is VERY serious about this very serious surgery, which comes with many risks including the likely loss of sexual sensation, and at least a six month recovery. But, post surgery trans folk have a lower suicide rate than the national average. It IS a cure. Let me know if I made that stat up. If I am wrong, I want to see the study. You know me, I post stats from memory, not from links, but I am not lying… and seldom mistaken.

People wonder why trans folk stand out so much in a crowd. One of the simplest reasons is: You only notice the ones that do. Another reason: Going full time is encouraged at a very early point in transition, in order to meet the requirements to get surgery ASAP, and let’s face it, most transitioners look extra funny early in transition. Things like breast augmentation surgery and facial feminization surgery are allowed, even pre-transition but it is suggested you wait 1-3 years, to better know what you will get from the hormones, before enhancing it. But hey, they want THE surgery? You know? That cosmetic surgery? The one nobody really gets to see after it is done except your doctor, significant other, and yourself… unless you are really bad at getting out of cars, whilst going commando?

So why would a vagina be helpful to a person like me? Well for starters, I would no longer be very good at peeing whilst standing. Actually that is not a good thing. Peeing is not the coolest thing in the world, but aiming is pretty neat. It can be a game. Paint the urinal yellow! I will miss that. Pretty good at that game by now. I win almost every time.

A real reason to get a vagina would be the ability to use bathrooms and dressing rooms without as much fear of persecution. Having the indoor plumbing would likely change my mindset, allowing me to feel more comfortable in such situations. If you don’t feel legit in a restroom, you do not tend to act normally. The restroom is something people should take for granted, so if a manly looking figure looks uncomfortable going into the women’s room, they will be likely to make others uncomfortable in the process. Making others uncomfortable makes me uncomfortable, creating an extremely uncomfortable feedback loop. I can not overestimate how big a deal the bathroom thing is. Using a bathroom with immunity is a right I feel like I lost the day I began transition. I literally have to live full time as a female for a year to even qualify for surgery, and that means I can not use the men’s room… period. No matter WHAT I look like. And I do not even know for sure that I want to have the surgery!?! I also don’t exactly enjoy being feminine ALL the time. I mean, I like it, but sometimes I want a break. It is a LOT of work being a new transitioner who is trying to find her amazingly awesome new place in society. Every thing I do or say requires more effort because I just’ve not exactly learned how yet to be comfortable in my own new and rapidly changing skin.

Did you know, a year of real life experience used to be required BEFORE hormone replacement therapy could be prescribed? This is still mostly the case in the UK.

So, transition is not for cosmetic reasons, but the insurance industry and medical community sure treat it like it is. I best get used to dresses and peeing whilst sitting. Remember, front to back. Front to back.

These twelve months are very much a rite of passage for trans folk, and honestly, as much as I am complaining in this post, I will likely look back fondly at this learning experience when I have come out the other side, just like the people who have come before me.

I do wonder, if kd lang (no caps), or Rachel Maddow would meet the standards for twelve months of full time, life experience, especially if it was based on their choices of attire alone.

Back to bathrooms, and then, I will get back to vaginas. I promise. Yay! Vaginas!!!

Currently, there are around nineteen states that cover trans equality. Elsewhere in the US of A, trans discrimination is allowed. I could be evicted, fired or even kicked out of an establishment simply for being in transition and it is legal in most states. Of those nineteen states, only two specifically mandate the legal use of restrooms that conform to my gender. Whenever trans rights come up, the bathroom issue goes front and center. What if a sexual predator dresses as a woman, and claims he is female, just so he can go into the women’s room and rape or otherwise abuse or molest women? That is always the argument. My rebuttal? Such a man would stand out like a sore thumb, much like I do, and people would notice him going into the establishment, and the restroom. He would also be easily caught. “It was the man in the dress!” I have to imagine there are easier and frankly, more effective ways to be a predator. This fear tactic assumes sexual predators have the mentality and nuance of Wile E. Coyote. In reality, if someone like me goes into a bathroom, it is because we need to use the bathroom. Also, it is a medical requirement in order to get a complete and cosmetic transition.

Back to vaginas. I promised. Why else would a vagina be helpful? Well, many trans women are triggered by their own genitals to the point of depression or even self mutilation. Personally, I would not be able to have my birth certificate changed without a vagina due to the current laws in the state where I was born. Why should that matter? Well, for starters any background check would reveal I am trans, even though that should not matter, whenever I am close to getting a job. Also, if the birth certificate changes, then legally, I am female, and females ARE covered by most all insurance policies for hormone treatments.

Here is something gross that most do not know about gender reassignment surgery. Before a person like me can get an innie, they have to have their hair permanently removed down there. That hair would continue to grow, inside. Ewwww. Right? So around a year’s worth of electrified needles must kill every single testicular and penile hair follicle before surgery would be allowed, and this hair removal is deemed, say it with me now, cosmetic.

Let’s review again, because I think I have painted the full picture I wished to paint. Transition is considered cosmetic and yet, the medical industry requires real life, full time experience and hormone treatment for at least a year, before they will allow further cosmetic treatments to take place. All this time, a trans woman would be required to use the women’s room, which is not a right protected by law in many places, and she would have to have her hair permanently and painfully removed from her junk before the surgery date, again, for cosmetic reasons. I guess it is cosmetic too. I mean, you gotta’ look good for your OBGYN. Yes, gynecological visits and mammograms will likely become part of my life. I already have to do self breast exams. It may or may not come as a surprise to you, but I have more trouble NOT examining my breasts than I do examining them.

Now for a slight non sequitur. The male and female anatomy are at their roots so similar, that once a penis is inverted, it will eventually be able to self lubricate. The more you know…

Funny, I have written all of this and I have not even got to the thing. The thing which inspired me to write this post in the first place. I promise, I will make this quick.

My insurance has lapsed.

Yup.

Since Medicaid is now part of Obamacare, everyone was required to renew by a certain date and my wife and I never saw our renewal papers. Perhaps they were misplaced, I do not know. What I do know is I take my medical care and insurance seriously and I did not just sit around playing chicken with my free insurance. This renewal is a new thing. Used to be, at least in Hawaii, people would renew automatically, so it is probably a good thing to start with a clean slate. Many people are covered who do not live here anymore, or who are no longer alive, and their prescriptions and whatnot sometimes automatically renew, costing extra money that is not being well spent.

Now, I did get our insurance renewal submitted as soon as I got the notification that our insurance would innevitably lapse, but get this, it is going to take LONGER for the state to implement my renewal than they would have given me and my wife to fill out the renewal, had we received it in the first place. The fact is, I am now in line with practically every other person in Hawaii, because it seems that every person on Medicaid has had their policy lapse too, and they all lapsed at the same exact time! Like much of Obamacare, the policy is better on paper than the implementation… and it is hardly perfect on paper.

So, until this is fixed, no more therapy, no more anti-depressants, no more estrogen and no more testosterone blockers. I run out in a week. It may take two weeks before my insurance kicks back in. AND I can not say to my insurer, I need my hormones because I am transitioning, or they will not cover me at all. So the timer is ticking before I run out completely. I wonder, if that happens, would that invalidate my required twelve months of hormone replacement therapy, or real life experience?

Trans world problems indeed.

Aloha,
Tori

Six Month Update

I know it is just a number. It means something to me though. Half a year on hormones. Wow.

Time has flown by, and it has crawled as well. Something about finally transitioning forces me to look inwards. I look for all the little changes. I am growing used to the slow pace of things now. Changes do not happen over night. At first, I kind of expected things to happen more quickly, now I am pleased with the rate of change. Any faster and my brain might break.

I just want to give a bit of an update. I have covered some of these things in other posts but I have really tried to cover as many new things as possible. Hopefully you find this as interesting as I do.

What is there to say? I do not really know. Six months and the new car smell is fading. Transition has become the new normal. Quite frankly, things are getting a bit boring.

After my libido drastically changed, I started growing boobs, my skin softened making everything I touch feel different, my body odor completely altered, my emotions became vibrant, my need to talk and talk and talk happened, my depression lifted, I finally want to leave the house, I am getting thunder thighs, junk in the trunk, my eyes are more open, my cheeks are fuller, I have a female hormonal cycle, I listen more, I empathize, and on and on and on… after all this change, things just feel normal. Every single thing is different. And it is normal. Change is the new normal.

I honestly do not remember what testosterone felt like. Crazy, huh? I am sure I would immediately recognize it if I was given some, not that I ever would go that route. My male self is fading away and I am loving damn near every single minute of it.

Does that mean I feel female? I have no clue. I do not know what that is supposed to feel like. Do I feel the same as other women? You tell me. I wish I knew. I never will. I feel like myself finally. I can get used to this.

I actually find myself feeling bad for other people because they have no need for transition and therefore will never know the catharsis transition brings.

It is amazing what I have learned by walking a mile in both sex’s shoes. It cracks me up to think trans folk are often considered second class citizens. We know so much more about the human condition simply by living more than one life. I find guys asking me things like, “Why do women go to the bathroom in packs?” and I am able to answer them. Why? So they can talk behind your back. Happy now?

Women are so accepting of me. It is amazing how different women behave when no man is around. God we talk a lot. Most of it is mind numbingly boring. Sometimes I just want some guy talk. Funny but true. I miss it. Guys don’t always think I still want to talk that way. My interests have not changed just my hormones.

On a side note, people keep asking me when my voice is going to change. Lots of people really think hormones will raise my pitch. It sadly does not work that way. I wish it did. I have to consciously change my voice and I have to get rid of my beard. Those things do not come with a round trip ticket.

My facial hair grows much more slowly now though. It takes about two weeks to grow what I could in three days. My body hair has slowed its growth as well, and it is becoming female hair. I hardly have a dark arm hair anymore. Sadly, the one area I want to change the most, is holding out the longest. Honestly, why does my chest hair still grow so fast and thick? It grows like three times faster than the rest of my body hair. Boob stubble is as bad as it sounds. Also, my boobs are tender. Imagine shaving around a fleshy areola. Imagine getting laser hair removal or electrolysis on such a tender area. Ah, trans world problems…

It may surprise some of you to learn that I frequently grow my beard out. If I don’t have to go out in girl mode, I can rest my face and allow the nicks and cuts from shaving to heal. Besides, I hate shaving. Also, a few days growth allows for a much closer shave. I really can’t wait to be done with the beard entirely. Even concealer doesn’t cover it completely. People will never see me as female up close until the beard is gone. It will take at least a year and cost a lot of money. Also, hair removal always hurts like Hell.

Speaking of expensive things, I am seriously considering the surgery. That is a decision for another day, but I am really starting to lean that way. I do not exactly hate my junk, not like some trans women, but it is pretty darn useless now. It would be nice to have some peace of mind in a changing room, or be able to wear a swimsuit. Yeah, I live in Hawaii, and getting in the water is now an issue. I would look odd in a bikini top, and I would look odd in a wet t shirt.

My mental state has vastly improved. I am still crazy. Everybody is. But my craziness has shifted. I am exponentially less likely to go to dark places. So much of my craziness was rooted in being closeted and dysphoric, and by transitioning, it is like the crazy has been uprooted and is now looking for other places to take hold. I swear it is like playing whack a mole sometimes. I don’t always know when or where it will pop up. My new crazy is much easier to handle though since it is no longer rooted in having the wrong chemicals operating my brain. Still, I know some of my friends have talked with me since I began transition and I was not entirely all there. I imagine this will fade over time. I am very damaged goods, and that doesn’t just heal over a day. I am very thankful to my friends who have talked me through some of my, for lack of a better term, episodes. What can I say? I am sane and crazy at the same time. The sane part is pretty new to me. The crazy part is in constant flux.

My need to drink myself into delusion on a daily basis has been greatly reduced, although I am an alcoholic and if I am not constantly diligent, it takes me over. Thankfully, I am a much more loving drunk than ever before. I mean REALLY loving. I think I have confessed my love to like twenty people, not counting my wife, since I started transition and some of those folks were really freaked out by it. Beats being freaked out by my rage, but it is far from perfect. I really am so happy now, and so able to feel love, that I just can not contain it if I am less than sober. It is overwhelming, the joy I feel, and I just want to share it. Just know, if I start gushing you with love, I am probably drunk and I do love you, just not the way it may sound at the time. I don’t have a lot of practice with these new emotions, nor am I used to being happy.

I always knew hormones do not do everything but it is really sinking in now. I have a lot of work to do. Being a woman is not easy. Learning to be a woman at thirty eight is damn near crazy hard. I was not raised into it. Never had girlfriends helping me learn what looks good on me. Never learned the unspoken social rules. Never learned how to walk or gesture.

People tell me it is a good thing I am an actor. In a way this is true, but I really feel like I have been playing a male all my life and now I kind of want a break. I do not wish to force things. At the same time, in my heart of hearts I want people to see a woman when they see me. I want them to hear a female when I talk. Being so obviously trans is akin to wearing a scarlet letter. I would rather choose who does and does not get to know. I am not ashamed of being trans, I just know it can be dangerous to be so obviously trans.

I am losing the ability to walk through the bad part of town all by myself. This is quite a loss. I always loved the ability to go and blend in anywhere. Now, not only am I more at risk, I am much weaker. It was easy taking my male musculature for granted. Opening jars is getting to be pretty hard.

Ultimately, y’all can see how happy I now am. I am frequently astounded by how effective these hormones are. All the doubts I had before transition were off base. Six months down. The rest of my life to go.

Aloha,
Tori