Roots

My wife requested I write this down and share it. It is embarrassing and complex, but I feel like writing it down may help put the final nails in my dysphoric coffin, without me inside. It might work, it might not, but I am ready to face this head on, even if my dignity takes a hit, because I think understanding and expressing the roots of my dysphoria puts me on a path that leads to the end of my dysphoria’s control over me.

I have talked to trans people who were able to put their dysphoria behind them.At times it feels like a pipe dream. At times it feels obtainable. I have more to lose if I don’t see how to work through this.

Because we are so close to its 15th anniversary, let me start in the middle, with September 11, 2001. I lived less than a mile away from the World Trade Center in Downtown Manhattan. My room had a direct view of the towers. It got two hours more sunlight each day after the towers fell because it was literally in their shadow. I was too close. I could see the jumpers without any magnification.

That day was the worst day, as you can imagine. And yet, it was a profoundly amazing day as well. It was glorious in one single way. It was such a profoundly tragic event, it caused a catharsis within me. I suddenly realized there were bigger problems in life than my dysphoria. 9/11 was so enormously overwhelming, it rebooted my brain and I lived for about three years without being a prisoner within my own, full blown, dysphoria.

I am not alone. Huge life altering events temporarily relieve dysphoria for many trans people. The birth of a child for example, or the death of a loved one.

I wouldn’t have found my wife, if it weren’t for 9/11 helping remove my head from my ass, albeit temporarily.

The dysphoria came back though. It came back with a vengeance. More than once, it has tried to kill me. It has come closer to killing me than those terrorists ever did.

And I am beyond ready to go down fighting. One of us needs to go, and if that means I have to tackle my dysphoria head on, and risk another crippling bout if I fail, then so be it.

I have learned that hormones too, keep my dysphoria at bay. And yet, I am just pulling out of a 6-8 month long dysphoric bout. One of the worst dysphoric bouts I have suffered.

I lost my insurance, doctor and access to medication for three months at the start of this year and that was all it took to succumb to yet another extended dysphoric bout. Having someone EXTREMELY close to me, hit me with overt and extended transphobic bigotry at the time sealed the deal. I got hit at my weakest point in years and the hit connected. And like that, I lost my ability to think critically and communicate logically for the better part of a year. Dysphoria is a mental illness. I am a lunatic when a bout takes control of me. It is like being a passenger in my own life. It is tragic, terrifying and crippling.

When I recover, I am able to begin the process of peeling the layers of the onion away, gaining control of my dysphoric triggers, and making myself stronger and less vulnerable to future bouts. This has become my life’s work.

And I always come back to one pivotal day. A day I wrote about at length in my post, A Woman’s Prerogative… but even then, I didn’t see the whole picture. In fact, until this blog, I have only been able to explain all the pieces logically ONE other time. That was earlier today to my wife, who immediately told me to write it all down and share it.

Until today, it had been a topic that was taboo around my home, for what should be obvious reasons, as it concerns my heartbreak over a lost love my wife never knew and could never fully understand. When you are still hung up over events surrounding rejection in a past relationship (and I use the term relationship lightly because it was only me, and an imaginary, emotional relationship with a woman who denied me at every opportunity), your wife is not the first person I suggest you consult.

Over the years, I have leaned heavily on friends who were there in the room on the day when dysphoria took over my life (until September 11, 2001 gave me some reprieve). Those friends aren’t very helpful because of my traditionally lackluster ability to explain things concerning this subject to them. They, understandably, get the impression that I am unwilling to let the past go. They don’t understand that I am doing about as well as I can do, by the time I have peeled the layers of the onion back to the point where once again, I can address that KEY moment in my life.

This story involves theatre, acting technique and whatnot, so at times I will have to teach you some extremely oversimplified bits and pieces of acting lessons (if you aren’t one of my countless actor friends) just so you can properly follow along. It is kind of entirely important.

The story begins around September of 1998, I had completed my BFA the year before and finally moved away from Utah to attend acting school at Circle in the Square, in Times Square NYC. An actor’s dream.

I was a hopelessly romantic, formerly fat, cockeyed optimist of a young man… very much still a virgin, and about 23 years of age at the time. My virginity was overwhelming. I knew I SUCKED at flirtation and asking people out. Why? Because I knew I was trans and really don’t have a dominant bone in my body. I had countless crushes, and failed attempts at even getting to square one with a woman. Nothing is less attractive than desperation. I was as good looking at the time as I have ever been, or ever will be again… but I didn’t know how to be a man near a woman. I wasn’t wired to work that way. It brought me immense shame. And I was extremely closeted and ashamed of being trans at the time, too.

Looking back, I think my shame of being a virgin may have been such an overwhelming thought that it helped keep my dysphoria at bay.

In Alan Langdon’s acting class, at the start of the school year, we did a quick first scene which he assigned us all, Harold Pinter’s, “Trouble in the Works”, which we all did a fairly poor job at performing… such was the difficulty of this delightfully funny and absurd script. Pinter makes Shakespeare look easy. I have grown to love Pinter and playing Pinter, perhaps more than any other English language playwright.

After that scene was done, we were told to pick a new scene and a new scene partner. I don’t remember how Elisabeth and I ended up together. I remember respecting her mind and thinking she was cute. I know we struggled a bit before settling on a scene from Clifford Odets’, “Golden Boy”. I knew little of the playwright, the script, or Brando’s performance of the role in the movie version.

We picked the scene and got to work.

Our teacher had already mentioned how music could open you to new emotions, as a tool to connect with the text, and my character, a boxer and violinist was ripe for music… in fact, in the scene’s stage directions, he whistled a tune I imagined to be an unnamed violin solo. So together with my scene partner, we went to the classical music section of the Times Square, Virgin Megastore and asked the salesman to suggest violin tunes for me to whistle. He highly suggested, Meditation from, “Thais”, a song that to this day, to me, represents everything beautiful in this world. Go ahead and give it a listen. This blog will still be here when you are done.

See? Gorgeous. It may be perfection.

So, I recorded the song to a cassette tape and had it on my Walkman on eternal repeat. It became my routine. New York City baby! With the most beautiful song as its soundtrack. Focusing on a character so madly in love with a woman, a mobster’s moll, he wins her heart, against all odds, and they drive away to escape together as young lovers. Only to die offstage, in a car wreck. It is an interesting, more contemporary spin on, the classic, “Romeo and Juliet” themes.

Through all this, and it didn’t happen all at once, I found myself falling in love with Elisabeth. I had been in love before, but like they say, this was different. It was love on steroids. I don’t know if I have ever felt anything as wonderful as being in love, and not telling her. Just feeling the love. And the song on my Walkman. And being young, optimistic, and studying acting in NYC. It was everything an artist dreams of.

The day of the scene came, and I remember leaning over to my teacher, Alan, and asking him, “Is it common for an actor to feel in real life what their character is supposed to feel onstage?”

He was obviously surprised by my question because, I suspect looking back at it, I had kind of cut through the two years off classes he was going to teach us and somehow just cut to his entire thesis. His reply was starkly haunting in tone, like an old man passing on his wisdom. “It is uncanny.”, was all he had to say in return. Not only was it common. It was uncanny.

I was shaking uncontrollably by the time it was our turn to finally do our scene for the class. My love for her was physically impossible to contain. To others it looked like fear. To me, it was adrenaline. I knew we had to finish this scene before I could finally tell my partner how I felt about her. I wasn’t going to ruin our scene by telling her before we were done. I could not wait.

We did the scene. It was ok.

I don’t have the clearest memories of her first, second, third, fourth, fifth… etc. rejections. She was gentle, at least at first, with a logical, “We shouldn’t date people in our own class.”

Perhaps, it was my being fed up with being a failure at love and an eternal virgin. I don’t know. But I just could not accept that rejection. I didn’t believe rejection was even an option when my love for her was so loud and so clear.

I didn’t go full stalker, although I did come close.

I know. When a woman says, “No.”, a man is supposed to respect that. I wasn’t unwilling to accept it, I was entirely unable.

Around that time, my assigned mentor who was a year ahead of me in school, asked what scene I was working on in Alan’s class. I told him and he almost went white. “You better remember your lines. Once Terry finds out you worked on that scene, she will never stop making you do it for the rest of your days at Circle.”

Theresa Hayden was the elder stateswoman of the school. She taught method acting. She did her early work with The Group Theatre. At the time, she was nearly eighty, and had a world hardened wisdom about her. Eyes that could see through your bullshit and a mouth that would call you on it. I saw more people reduced to puddles of tears and fits of rage in her class than perhaps in all the other acting classes I have taken combined.

I was always absolutely terrified she would just see I was trans and call me on it. Outing me in front of the class.

And of course, one day in her class she asked, “Has anyone worked on some Odets?” and reluctantly, Elisabeth and I raised our hands… and we were sent up to do our scene. It was torture.

We did our scene for Terry a total of three times that year. The second time was the doozy.

Months has passed since Elisabeth’s rejection. Looking back, that was about as close as I ever got to letting go of it while in school. And once again, we were asked to do the fucking, “Golden Boy” scene.

Midway through the scene, I forgot all my lines.

This particular exercise in scene work in Terry’s class was a demonstration of retaining memorized lines for months at a time, even years. In part, it served to show us that we could retain text over long periods of time by remembering our emotional state from prior times we worked on it. It sounds crazy, and it also, works.

Terry recognized my lapse in memory for what it was and asked me why I was holding back. I panicked, lost, I burst into tears and said, “Because I love her, and she doesn’t love me.”

Oh how young and stupid I was.

Obviously Elisabeth was PISSED to be dragged into my troubles like that. Outed to everyone as a person who had rejected my advances.

And I realize now, that WASN’T even why I was blocked from remembering my lines during our scene. I was blocked because I knew getting up there together would only make me feel my love for her again in front of others and I was already well passed ashamed of it. Trying to move on. My love for her over all this time had just continued to grow and grow, like a malignant cancer. What was once just blossoming, New York, youthful infatuation with someone cute had grown into something so grotesque, even I knew it wasn’t right.

By the time my love for Elisabeth had peaked, it was nearing the size and scope of the boy in, “Equis'” love for horses. Not only did I want to be with Elisabeth, I wanted to BE her, body, mind and soul. I wanted to give up my life for hers.

See? Fucking nuts. Even for a trans person. That is not sane. I mean, it isn’t uncommon for a trans woman to covet their partner’s say, boobs, ovaries and vagina… but to want to BE them, body, mind and soul? That is not common, even for us slightly weird trans folk. I was losing touch with reality, and because only I can see my own thoughts, and this was entirely new, I had no way to know something was off. I thought it was just that first love and heartbreak thing almost everyone else goes through too. I thought, because I was an old virgin, that was why it hurt me more than the average person. I was wrong. I was going insane, and having to resurrect this scene and the feelings that surrounded performing it, it was the perfect storm.

And that day, right there in Terry’s class, in front of everyone, full blown dysphoria took over my life. That is precisely when it took control.

After that event, I auditioned for other schools trying to work out a way to transfer and get away from Elisabeth for the both of us. No school would have me. I wore my dysphoria on my sleeve in those auditions and professors knew at a glance I was damaged goods. Not ready for prime time. Not like I had been the year before.

The following year, Elisabeth and I were moved into different classes for what I can only assume was to protect her from me… which helped in some ways and hurt in others because I knew I was to blame. If only I had kept my love to myself, perhaps it would not have turned into this uncontrollable cancer. It limited our time together, but it was unavoidable that we would work together at times. Dance class. Plays. Shit we could not control.

And the cancerous love I felt for her continued to grow in part because I could not cut her from my life. I knew I had to let her go, and my friends were constantly there reminding me to let her go, like an Idina Menzel chorus from a animated Disney feature. Like I didn’t understand that simple fact, like I hadn’t already tried to let her go, or at least get away from her. It was around then, for the first time in my life, I started to feel suicidal on occasion. Suicide could kill the cancer.

I know this is a story about me, but please, if you haven’t already, acknowledge how cruel and unfair this all was to Elisabeth. A brilliant, talented person with the magnetism of a movie star. A young woman, in the prime of her adulthood just trying to live the dream like everyone else. I see it now. I understand. She had NO need for me and my cancer in her life. She was being smart. She was protecting herself from me. Imagine how terrifying I must have been to her.

At the time, I didn’t know about dysphoria. I have since become quite the expert. At the time, I was undiagnosed and out of control. By the end of my tenure at Circle, I was a suicidal, chain smoking, cocaine addict. Anything I could do to escape the cancerous love. The harder I tried, the more impossible it became.

These 17 or so years later, I ask myself what should I have said on that day in Terry Hayden’s class and the answer that comes to me is entirely different from the one I gave. It wasn’t about Elisabeth. It was my virginal dysphoria twisting a wonderful feeling like love into something grotesque and frightening.

Wanting to be someone, body, mind and soul? That is fucking textbook insanity. Before it came out, front and center, my dysphoria was already destroying my ability to feel regular human emotions like love correctly.

When Terry asked me why I was holding back, my real reason was, “I am trans, and hiding it and not talking about it is driving me insane. I am not thinking clearly. It terrifies me.” I still would have broken down in tears. The class still would have seen what looked like a miraculous acting breakthrough. And seventeen or so years ago, I would have started my path to transition, skipping the endless suffering. I could have had girl friends instead of just trying and failing to get a girlfriend. Woulda, coulda shoulda…

Instead, I blamed love, and dragged an unwilling partner down with me. Trying to steal her away from the mob so we could drive away to somewhere safe. And in a way, it resulted in my death. “It is uncanny.” Yes Alan, it is.

If you don’t leave it on the stage, the emotions you should have released can follow you everywhere else you go.

That is the Method. That is part of the reason why method actors can seem so devoutly religious about their craft. It is partly why they can be so reverent towards their teachers.  It is like a tangible form of magic and it happens every single time you act, if you do it right. All you do is follow the Method.

Not me though. On that day in Terry’s class, I stopped being able to Method act. I mean, I still have access to it, but it is not the first tool I consciously reach for. It became too hot. Too near. Too painful. And I didn’t know HOW to always leave all that on the stage. How could I?Hell, I am only just now learning how to put this into words that I think most people will begin to understand.

So, of course, by the end of my schooling I had things like cocaine addiction to peel off my onion, slowly, meticulously, removing the layers of dysphoric damage so I can get to the root of it all.

And the root of it all, was that day in Terry’s class.

Now, imagine you’re my wife, and I start talking about this one time when I tragically loved another woman, and how that experience haunts me to this day. How would you feel?

Imagine you are one of my former classmates and I hit you up with a drunken Facebook messenger diatribe about that time in Terry’s class. Wouldn’t you want to continue keeping Elisabeth as far away from me as possible? Keep her safe from me?

In Terry’s acting class, when she addressed the oh so notorious, emotional recall, that oft misunderstood, bread and butter of Strasberg’s acting Method, she always said we need to give peak emotional experiences a full seven years before they would be reliably useful for us on stage. It sounded odd at the time but with age comes wisdom. With age and time, comes acceptance. Until you can accept a past peak emotional event, it is almost useless. A fresh memory, if used to say, help you connect emotionally with the text, may not be reliable tomorrow. Why? Because using a fresh memory helps you work through it, thus changing your interpretation of it. It changes how the memory impacts you. Also, a new memory can be too hot, prompting uncontrollable and unpredictable emotional outbursts that cripple your ability to retain control on stage.

By now, I know seven years is an arbitrary, average number. By now, I can feel when a past event is ready to be used for acting. It has to do with assimilation, understanding and acceptance. You have to get past it before you can reliably come back to it.

When we did our emotional recall project in Terry’s class, I struggled to come up with one single seven year old, peak emotional experience. I had to use my grandfather’s death, which was closer to six years old at the time. Such was my privileged and sheltered upbringing in Utah.

Well over seven years after 9/11, for example, I know the memory. I know how it makes me feel. It is not particularly useful as an actor, because it is not full of the emotions you would expect it to be full of. Again, for me, it was a release from dysphoria. A catharsis. Something I have learned is quite common for people in war zones. Since you aren’t dead, you feel more alive than ever. Odd. Unexpected. And there it is now, properly aged and ready for use.

Fresh memories can be triggers. You know what I mean? You are suddenly put right back into the emotions of a situation without any control.

Those 7 year old memories are reliable. They mature like a good Scotch. They don’t trigger uncontrollable emotions. They are accepted fact. The emotions they bring up can be used by an artist to help put that emotion to voice and text.

Actors reading this, if you have not studied Strasberg, in many ways it is an alternative to vocal technique. Vocal technique is incredibly useful and in ways, far more specific than Strasberg’s method alone, and also, far more technically difficult because you are not substituting your own life experience for your character’s, you are easing some of the most tense muscles in your body to allow emotions to flow freely through your voice and out, to the audience.

But some things are just archetypal. Like a first kiss. EVERYONE’S first willing kiss shares the firstness and the kissness in common. You know? There is something universal about a first kiss.

The Method can be SUPER efficient, and it can really help with fast paced projects like auditions and film shoots. In a play, when used expertly, it connects an audience with the actor in a way only method actors like Brando in his prime, or Phillip Seymour Hoffman whilst alive, could pull off.

So WHY, after seventeen or so years, do I keep going back to this day in Terry’s class? Why has it continued to trigger me for so much longer than seven years?

Simple. It is the root of my dysphoria and I can only process it properly when I am not fully dysphoric. I have not had seven years of non dysphoric time to process the root of my dysphoria.

I keep being drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. My friends who were in class that day must think I am playing with fire. My wife, for years, thought she was competing with my ideal, lost love. It almost ruined our marriage. It has ruined several friendships.

Over the years, I have attempted to contact Elisabeth myself, only to be met with blockades that only things like an ocean between us and a Facebook block feature can provide.

What people don’t realize, and I am just coming to terms with it myself, is I can only process that day, my single most peak emotional experience, in a class ironically intent on teaching us to use our peak emotional experiences onstage, when I have cleared all the other outer layers of my dysphoric onion. My time to process this root of my dysphoria can be fleeting. All the time, I am growing new layers of my onion, and they are trying to cover the core root.

The way I see it, I have had about six years of non dysphoric time, a few years after 9/11, a few years after starting hormones and the occasional, engaging acting gig. The right project always makes my dysphoria go away until completion.

And finally, I am starting to put this whole mess together. Finally I am understanding it and coming to terms. Finally, I accept it.

When I say Elisabeth’s name to people who knew me at the time, and when I say it to my wife, I can feel the immediate sigh. I feel it before I see it or hear it. They think I am still responding to her rejection and trying to win her back.

No. At first, I too thought it was that, and God knows I did keep trying to win her back, long after the fifty seventh rejection. I eventually came to terms with that. Years ago. Before I started transition. I get it. I accept it. I have, much to my own surprise, moved on. And I feel terrible for dragging her unwillingly into all of this.

I am TRYING to confront and process that time in my life so it fades away, like peak emotional experiences do. When it does, I theorize I will have creative control over my dysphoria and it will no longer control me.

Time IS of the essence here. Eventually, if I keep falling into dysphoric bouts, the dysphoria WILL win. My perfect survival record will not hold through many more of them.

And I am so close to processing this all emotionally. I mean, here I have explained it clearly to people who aren’t necessarily lunatics, trans folk or actors. Something I was incapable of doing just last night.

About last night. Fuck. I contacted a friend and asked her to contact Elisabeth on my behalf. She freaked the fuck out. I freaked the fuck out. I got drunk. Classic.

I have addressed my addiction to the point where often, I talk about it in the past tense, but I am still prone to the occasional alcoholic binge. I know how I get. It is ugly. Not mean. Not in a Hulk-y way. I just don’t quit. I keep beating my points over and over with a relentless rhythm. And usually, I sober up eventually and feel ashamed.

This time I sobered up to an epiphany. I explained everything to my wife and she finally understood. It was never about Elisabeth. She was an innocent victim of my undiagnosed dysphoria before I had a modicum of understanding as to what I was dealing with. She was the first in a long line of victims just for being too close to dysphoric me. She was more than just in the room where it happened. I dragged her in and even blamed her for it. I shamed her for it. I moped around, making sure everyone knew how sad I was because of her rejection.

I blamed my teachers too. Lashed out at them. Blamed the Method.

And yes, I even blamed myself, which for some reason never rang entirely true although it is entirely my fault.

It was the early signs of dysphoria. When my love went beyond regular love and became some illogical, fantastical obsession. And then, it was full blown, undiagnosed, bat shit crazy dysphoria. Something nobody knowing what they knew then could have prevented. Not me. Not my teachers. Not Elisabeth.

So, here I am.

This is me.

Dysphoria is my psychosis.

Today, I am not dysphoric. So I have to drop everything and write this all down. It is that urgent. It is that important. I need to know this makes some kind of sense to others before I can trust it to assimilate into my collection of past, peak emotional responses. It has to add up. It has to make sense, otherwise it takes longer to come to terms with. I need the memory to fully mature. I need to conquer the triggering effect it has had on my life. I have to understand what tangibly happened on that day in Theresa Hayden’s classroom.

My fear of suicide has caused me to take drastic measures like growing boobs… and another drastic measure, recently asking a friend to reach out to Elisabeth on my behalf. To tell her I understand what I did. That I never stopped searching for the roots of the problem and that I think I almost have it conquered. I asked to see if Elisabeth could finally reach out to me. Something I had stayed away from for quite some time, because I know the harm it has done in the past. I just think some sort of acknowledgement from her would help put this behind me. Just a smoke signal. An aknowledgment that we are now 40 and in different places with our lives. A sort of totem.

I know what dysphoria can do now. I know it will kill me if I don’t kill it first. It makes me want to move fast when I am able to see the root of the onion.

But that desire to see some

kind of a sign from her, once again, in my own special way, negates her fucking right to say, “NO!”

I see her name pop up on Facebook on occasion, unbolded, because she has blocked me from ever talking to her again. And it crushes me. It reminds me of all the damage I did to her.

I see how our old class dispersed in a way none of my other theatre classes did. And I feel like I broke the fucking wheel. I feel like I broke our ensemble. I broke the circle.

I didn’t rape her. I never hit her. I didn’t stalk her. I came very close to what you would call stalking, but I never followed her or went places I was not invited.

What I did was negate her right to say, “NO!”

And behind rape and stalking, right behind them in fact, is that. A woman gets to say, “NO!” No questions asked.

I didn’t realize at the time how my actions, all masculinely douchey, and frightening have been like for her and those closest to both of us.

To me, I was a submissive trans person in crisis and with a broken heart. To me SHE had all the power.

To her? I had to be one of the WORST men.

I do want a chance to connect with her. To tell her I am still working on it. To tell her I am so close to being through this I can taste it. That I am on mile 25 of the marathon. That I am exhausted. And that my love for her, not the gross kind, the real kind, has evolved, deepened, ripened and matured. It has helped me keep pressing through at times when I couldn’t do it alone, because I don’t want to hurt anyone again like I hurt her. That I have learned and still am learning from all this mess.

And I get it. It probably won’t happen. Nobody has more claim to their rights and reasons to avoid me. Nobody I have ever known. And it all happened because I loved her madly. Literally. Madly.

It may take longer without her acceptance than it would with it, and I have tangible reasons to fucking need to move this process through as quickly as possible before another layer of onion grows and I must peal it off yet again to get back to the root of the issue.

And…

I have to respect her right to her, “NO!”

I hope this sheds some light on why I have been so fucking slow to work through this and why I must keep going back. It is the keys to creative control over my dysphoria. I have to play with fire, because if I don’t while I can, it will consume me. The same thing that prevents me from putting my essence, my soul into my acting, is also what wants me dead. It is me or the dysphoria. I am fucking done sharing my life with my dysphoria, and having to take responsibility for all the terrible things I have done whilst batshit crazy, or recovering from an extended bout of being batshit crazy, that fucking sucks. It is like taking the fall for your evil twin.

Much gratitude to my wife, because she patiently listened to and understood this all for the first time today, once I finally was able to provide a logical context for her, and she showed me the importance of writing it all down and sharing it with others. Being able to explain it is a HUGE step in coming to terms with it. Thank you, Shmoopy.

Elisabeth, wherever you are, I am deeply sorry.

Aloha,
Tori

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Losing My Religion

For my latest research project, I have been studying how to talk about trans issues with strangers on the Internet. I already wrote about talking to certain homosexuals who are anti-trans. Today, I will talk about a particularly fascinating topic: Communicating with people who are very religious.

This is a sensitive subject, and while I will do my best to be fair to all sides, please

know in spite of my intent, this post will probably offend some of you. I understand this and apologize in advance. Stop reading now if you would rather not risk taking offense, especially if you are a devout Christian.

Full disclosure, I am an atheist. I was raised Lutheran. I also went through an agnostic period. Born and raised in Utah, many of my friends are devout Mormons. I delved into Buddhism, but if anything, I was and am drawn more to its secular aspects. If you have to tag me with a belief, you can call me a Secular Buddhist. I call myself an atheist.

Religion and spirituality fascinate me. I am a spiritual person. Humans have a HUGE capacity for spirituality, so why not use it?

A spiritual atheist? Yup. How? Because I believe in invisible, intangible things. I believe in love, imagination/creativity… etc. I just put my stock in the intangible that can be made tangible in this life, not the next.

Atheists can be devout. I do not know if I am or not. I like to think I am flexible, but I do tend to base my beliefs on scientific evidence rather than theological evidence.

I have a profound respect for many people of faith, and their security in their beliefs. Where I draw the line is when their beliefs cause a real conflict with my life, particularly my life as a transgender woman.

Readers of this blog know full well, this is the first time I have talked about my beliefs or lack of them. I hope I do not preach. I do not care to convert anyone. Go live your spiritual life your way. I shall do it my way. Thanks.

That said, talking about trans issues with religious strangers online (and even friends) is often enough, like getting in a pissing contest with a skunk. Sadly, I still have not found a method that works perfectly.

It frequently feels like I am talking to grown-ass adults who are telling me their imaginary friend wants to send me into imaginary damnation for being exactly who I feel I was born to be: A transgender female.

I believe in trans. I am trans. It is stark. It is real. It is tangible. It is frightening. What kind of grown-ass adult would negate this experience? One who has an imaginary friend. That is who.

And I just fell into a trap. By negating their beliefs, by calling their God an imaginary friend, I, a grown-ass adult myself, have just invalidated their experience. Their belief is real. It does not matter if it is correct. They have studied, gone to church, listened to sermons, prayed… etc. Those things are all as real as my transition and, my need to transition is as spiritual as their belief in God.

Another trap? Persecution. Christian advocates are as out of the closet as I am as a trans advocate. Both sides face frequent persecution. If I call them bigoted, they can say the same thing about me and we would both be right.

Yet another trap? People generally have good intentions. Even classic trolls just intend to entertain themselves for a short time. When a devout Christian tells me, “You are just a man in a dress. You are a sinner. You will burn in Hell.”, what they are really saying is, “Look dumbass, I am trying to save your eternal life here. Fuck THIS life. Suck it up and stop being trans. Be a good Christian. The next life is going to be worth the pain you suffer in this one.”

Of course, I have tried explaining how, “Thou shalt not trans.” is not a commandment. No dice. Never.

I have tried, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” No luck. They have heard that one before. They have convinced themselves they are not casting judgement because their intent is to save me. That intent is noble.

On that note, I know my Bible very well but who cares? If someone knows I disagree with their beliefs, why would they care what I have to say about their source material, even if I just quote it chapter and verse without embellishment? It is a dead end.

So what works best? Taking the higher ground. Stick to the REAL topic, which is trans related. Respectfully avoid their attempts to draw you into a religious discussion. Stick to facts. Stick to science. Have credible links at your fingertips to back yourself up. Be nice… even if you blow a blood vessel in your eye by doing it.

And here is the best tip I have to offer: Be like Jesus. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Turn the other cheek. Be a better person in the discussion than they are being. Don’t judge. Don’t cast stones.

If they have been mean and do not eventually see their own hypocrisy, others certainly will, and they may chime in to defend you. Control the tone of the discussion. Calm heads prevail. If someone joins in to defend you but they are cruel to your opponent, call them out and defend your opponent from the cruelty of those comments.

Your goal in online discussions as a trans advocate can be winning. It can be making another person look bad.

My goal is not to win. Not at least to win against one opponent, but rather to sway the largest percentage of people I possibly can. You have to think about what your audience will respond to most positively. Your opponent just gives you a platform to discuss your position in either a positive or a negative way. If you take the negative road, you will sway far fewer people who happen to be on the fence.

There is so much cruelty online, so the opposite of cruelty can frequently get more traction.

And always remember: Sometimes it is best to just walk away and live to fight another day.

Let me leave you with an example:

“I am sorry. I trust your intent is noble. I know you are trying your best to lead me to a glorious afterlife. I do not blame you. I understand. Thank you for your kindness.

Your beliefs just do not change my stark reality any more than my being trans will change your beliefs. If you have it in your heart to accept me in spite of this difference, please do. If you feel the need to pray for me, who am I to judge what you do with your time? In fact, it may work.

I am willing to accept my lot, and I promise I will do my best with this life, so if we both are to be judged by God, we still might see each other in the next one… in spite of my spending my life as a transgender woman.

I wish we could find common ground, but alas, it may never happen. Please accept this and know that neither I nor my transition will ever cause you any personal harm.”

Aloha,
Tori

One of the Guys

I hated being a guy but sometimes I miss being one of the guys.

I was talking to a friend who is also transitioning and the discussion moved towards how our relationships with others have changed. It mostly was about our male friends. Our experiences are quite similar. We are relating better with women than men. Men are becoming harder and harder to figure out in spite of all our experience in men’s shoes.

My relationships with most men have changed vastly. Only a very few have remained much as they were before.

One close friend told me a few weeks ago that I had changed. I am like a different person now.

The discussion that followed really shook me to the core.

He was speaking honestly and from the heart. He was not being mean. All the same, it seemed like a mark of the end of our relationship. I hope it isn’t.

But shit, I have been in transition for over a year and a half now. All the while, I have been the star of my own movie. I guess I had moved past worrying about the impact my transition has on people who are close to me. This reminded me that it is a bit of an adjustment for everyone.

To me, I feel like I have changed very little. That may come as a surprise. But, I started transition with the same consciousness I have today. Whatever it is that makes me a unique and living human was never rebooted with a brand new operating system. My brain is still my brain. I started transition as me. I remain me.

Transition is SLOW. I always say it can be like watching paint dry. Perhaps my personality has changed far more than I had thought.

I think there is more to it though. Other people’s perception also plays a HUGE role. To some people, TOLERANT people, simply viewing me as a woman or a trans woman completely changes how they feel they should relate to me.

Obviously, men tend to treat women differently than they treat other men. Men, usually heterosexual, commonly avoid friendships with women. The friend zone is a bad thing according to most men. Femininity holds far less value In male circles, and women are easily ignored or talked over. The whole dynamic is different.

Then, there are the guys who have become flirtatious. What a bizarre, confusing form of flattery to someone like me who is not used to it. Many men though, only know how to communicate to women through flirtation. It rarely means anything besides the person likes me and is trying to express it.

There is just a general distancing that has evolved over time. I am far from the only trans woman who has experienced this.

The longer men have to wrap their head around my transition, the less they see me as one of the guys. They forget what it was like to hang out with me. They replace these memories with new thoughts of me being a trans female.

My relations with women have evolved too. These differences were far quicker for me to notice.

Many trans women talk about how women start behaving differently around them shortly after starting hormone replacement therapy. It just becomes easier to talk with women within a few weeks, even for those trans women who have not come out.

Obviously, part of that is the hormones. Hormones are like drugs. Men and women are all stoned out of their gourds, they are just high on different substances. Thinking whilst high on estrogen has to effect how a person interprets other people on estrogen.

The next thing is pretty cool. I think it is partly pheromonal. One of the first things to change on hormones is how you smell. That musky to foul male scent I could not always shake was replaced with something far more mild and female. I do not smell male anymore and I suspect that really changed how women act around me. Why do I think this is the case? Because before I came out but shortly after starting hormones, female strangers, female cashiers… etc. started talking to me. Just small talk. It started happening far more frequently than it did before

Finally, my sex drive plummeted in those first weeks on hormones, so I was more likely to communicate with women without that awkwardness of wanting to check out her tits while knowing I shouldn’t.

By the time I came out, I was already relating differently to females and they were relating differently to me. This has only become deeper since then, to the point where I now think I understand the women I talk to better than the men.

The main thing I think coming out did, was it showed women how I too embraced my feminine side. I did not think less of women, like many men seem to. We were on the same team.

So, back to my friend who thinks I have changed, and I am almost a different person. I guess I have changed. I guess I am like a different person. I guess he is right. I don’t know if things will or ever can return to how they used to be. I don’t know if I want them to.

All I know is, I still do occasionally miss being one of the guys… but I love transition.

Aloha,
Tori

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G.I. Jane

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently went on record as being in favor of allowing trans personnel to serve openly in the American armed forces and went on to say President Obama is also in favor. This is the most progressive move since his predecessor, Secretary Hagel, said he thought the idea of trans folk serving openly was worth looking into.

Now, I saw the news posted on a national media website and made a mistake. I looked at the comments.

Internet comment sections entice me, especially when trans folk are the subject. Many trans people have learned to avoid comment sections entirely as they can be quite triggering, and to be honest, they are. I get triggered into responding to idiots at the expense of sleep.

Comment sections really can be a great way to change people’s minds about certain issues. It is a way to converse with someone you do not know. Of course, there are people who are just there for the LOLs, there are people who are just trying to troll in an inflammatory way, and there are just plain idiots. The idiots are easily spotted by their spelling, grammar and/or overuse of caps lock. When it comes to trans issues, there are also a lot of Christians who feel the need to opine judgmentally. Comments from any of these types of people are easily glossed over, although, sometimes you can still sway their opinions.

The people to look for are the ones who make logical points but still disagree with you. They are worth their weight in gold. They may think about what you say . They may change their minds. Sometimes it is worth being out and communicating to strangers.

In the case of trans folk in the military, there are some decent arguments against… at least from the perspective of a fairly intelligent person who knows little about being trans or serving in the military.

I am noticing some interesting trends in the comment sections. People in these discussions frequently think ALL trans people have had or will have the surgery. They frequently think trans women will have to share bathrooms and showers with men, which ironically, is how things happen now. They also frequently think all trans people want to be women,

On a side note, there are an estimated 15,000 trans troops currently serving. They can serve, they just can not serve openly. If they come out, they are considered mentally unfit to serve because the military considers being trans a disqualifying mental disorder. Let me repeat, trans people already serve in the military. If being trans is a mental disorder, then the military still has it backwards, the dysphoria that can come with being trans is often cured by transition. Keeping trans people closeted is the worst way to keep them sane.

Let’s look at convicted leaker Chelsea Manning. I find it quite interesting that when she was known as Bradley, and she knew something others did not know, and it would cost her a job if she came out and said it, in spite of thinking that telling everybody was the right thing to do… the parallels are kinda’ uncanny. I can’t help but wonder if her secret trans life was the straw that broke her back. Admittedly, her example is troubling. The most famous trans person in the military is in prison.

The oddest thing? She is still enlisted. They can’t discharge her and still send her to military prison. She will be dismissed upon release, I imagine. The second oddest thing? She recently was given permission to get hormone replacement therapy, while being in prison and still serving, making her one of the first, if not the very first of the active duty soldiers to be allowed to come out and be treated medically for being trans.

Of course, Manning has tarnished the trans name for many military personnel. She is the first person they think of and she is an example of doing the opposite of what a soldier is supposed to do with confidential military intelligence. Why couldn’t the trans poster child for the military be one of the Navy Seals who helped get Bin Laden or something? Ever heard of Kristin Beck? She was one of the Navy Seals who helped get Bin Laden. She transitioned after leaving the military.

Which brings me to this: The VA treats trans vets. They give trans vets hormones. The military is already well aware they have a bunch of trans folk working for them. If they serve and retire while remaining closeted they get treatment in spite of knowing full well they were, “Unfit to serve” and keeping it secret, or even lying about it until it did not matter any more.

Studies have concluded that a higher percentage of trans people serve in the military than there are trans people in the general population by as much as 300%. Why? It has to do with masculinity. The military is seen as a masculine job. Femininity in our culture is frowned upon, especially among males. Men are taught to be masculine and teach each other to remain so. Women are taught that it is okay to be masculine or a Tom boy. So, trans men join as women because it is a place where they can be masculine and trans women join as men to overcompensate for their feminine side. The military already serves as a noble refuge for closeted trans folk of any gender.

I understand the trans female perspective first hand, so I totally understand why they would join, thinking it may help repress those trans and dysphoric feelings. Thinking it would hide their inner female from friends and family. Many trans soldiers LOVE their jobs but, dysphoria is a bitch. Military personnel enlist and then they must serve a specific amount of time, honorably, before they earn the benefits they have worked for. So many trans people join and then see that deadline they have to get to, and they realize that the military has not cured their being dysphoric, it has just trapped them and kept them from transitioning for an even longer time, thus amplifying their dysphoria.

The decision to transition comes at different times for every trans person. Many never need to. It does not mean they aren’t trans. But, wow, imagine discovering the primal need to transition three years before your job will allow it, and if you don’t do your job, you will have to explain to people why you were discharged in every job interview for the rest of your life. It just might be enough to cause a person to spill national security secrets…

Many of the strongest arguments against allowing trans folk to serve have to do with the fact that certain medical conditions will exclude a person from joining. The need to take regular medication excludes many from being in the military. Certain surgical procedures can also exempt a person from joining.

As for medicine, hormones can be implanted much like certain types of birth control, only needing to be changed every six or so months. If a trans person is in a combat role, and they need to take regular meds, that could really be an issue, but I don’t know of many combat situations that would go for more than six months without access to modern medicine, unless a soldier is captured, or we are really getting our asses kicked, which are risks all soldiers are already willing to take.

The surgery thing is more difficult. Certain surgeries make a person ineligible to serve because once the surgery is performed there is a risk of complications for the rest of their life, and the military wants to know their soldiers are in proper working order when they join or are drafted.

I will come back to that, but first, there is the shower/locker room/bunking issue. I can see how a trans woman with a penis or a trans man with a vagina could lead to awkward situations, especially during basic training and even in close combat situations. Hell, if you are not trans and the idea makes you feel awkward, rest assured, the idea is at least as awkward to me too.

Which brings me back to surgery. In most sports that allow trans athletes, one of the requirements is typically that they must be post-op. I figure this is because of locker rooms mainly because I am hard pressed to think of a sport that actively and athletically makes use of a person’s junk. Let me know in the comments if you can think of one.

Sports require surgery. So, it does not sound like the type of surgery that leads to complications under stress, after it has healed.

But then, there are the trans folk who are non-op by choice. I can see how that could be uncomfortable for everyone involved, in a forced locker room situation. Bathrooms tend to have stalls. Locker rooms? Bunking situations? Er…

So, I return to a previous point. Trans folk tend to join the military as a way to salve or hide their need to transition. I suspect there will be very few people joining the military mid transition. Transition is enough work. The vast majority of trans folk will come out during their service. Some would join post transition. Few would enlist mid transition, because we don’t want to force any of the problems that would complicate an already complicated time of life.

So many cisgender people think trans folk transition in part because they WANT to show their junk to other people. I understand. That is what happens when all you know about trans people comes from accidental clicks on porn sites.

The fact is trans people do not generally want to make a big deal about bathrooms or their junk. It is the cisgender folks who seem to dwell on that part of transition. I understand. That part of transition is the weirdest part to someone lucky enough to have a brain that matches their body. It fascinates and often enough, repulses cis folk. Kind of like televised car chases.

So, the majority of trans folk who are or will be in the military, likely will not come out until after they join. By then, they will have been trained and specialized. Our soldiers are generally smart enough to know that if they are incapable of doing an assigned task, they will be removed from that task.

If a soldier needs surgery, they are treated. If they can not recover fully, they are honorably discharged or reassigned. If they need to take regular medication, they are given the same treatment, depending on the condition.

People forget, most military jobs are not on the front lines. Most jobs can be done by trans people without even dealing with the locker room issues.

Can you honestly say that a pilot with combat experience should have their honor and training negated because they are trans? Who wins there? Our military is just stuck needing to invest in another, less experienced pilot.

So, if our military truly wants the best person for each job, some of those people are going to be trans and, they will be even better if they are allowed to serve openly.

Story time. I had to register for the draft because I was male. I was 25 on 9/11. I still had over one year left. Like many people my age, I knew the draft might be instated at any time. Had I been drafted, I would have served. I just knew, being trans, that I could not in good conscious enlist. It would be based on a lie but still, I seriously considered enlisting.

So back to the comment sections on the Internet, when I make a point about this topic, former military, knowing I am trans and out, tend to reply with something like, “Well, you have never served so what the fuck do you know?”

At those times, I tell them no, I have not, I just had a front row seat on 9/11. Depending on how rude and transphobic they were, I have even asked some of them how many Americans they have seen die with their own eyes because I sure as Hell know I saw more. In a way, I was drafted on that day. We all were.

One final note, trans people can serve openly in federal and federal contracting jobs. There may already be a trans person legally taking a leak in the stall next to a cisgender officer in Afghanistan, even as you are reading this. It is no big deal.

Aloha,
Tori

p.s. Take a chance to change a mind in a comment section some time. Feel free to be OUT there trans peeps! Some people really need the help.

Boobs 3: Super Size Me

My posts about boobs have received the most hits of anything I have published on this blog, so like Hollywood, I figure I’ll cash in and make another sequel.

Before transition, I read many blogs and watched a number of v-logs about transition, and I confess, I was not that interested in what they had to say about life or politics, no matter how much I liked the person making the posts, I wanted to hear about their transition. I wanted to chart their results with hormones. Emotional changes also fascinated me.

Now, I am on the other side. I am transitioning and blogging all about it. I have touched upon all those subjects already, but perhaps it is time to return to them. It is harder to do now.

The fact is, like so many trans bloggers before me, my transition has become my normal life. It has lost much of its new car smell.

So, like those bloggers that have come before me, I have been making the types of posts lately that never really interested me when I was researching transition. I have many types of audiences, many of the people who read this blog are trans, and I have to imagine a large percentage of them are wondering if they should transition and what it feels like.

The profound changes of my first six months have slowed. They have not stopped. Not at all. They have slowed though. Some changes feel like they are done. I feel emotionally female now. That took nine months or so to develop but now I feel like I am there. Now I just have to learn to deal with these emotions which is a skill set I never needed before. I have said it before, but I am saying it again: I now understand why teenage girls are batshit crazy. Those emotions come on fast, and it takes many years of experience to learn how to process them all.

I sometimes argue with my wife before pausing, pointing at myself and saying, “Oh yeah, I am a teenager.” It is something we both forget from time to time, and often it is the only reason we are arguing about something. I am suddenly immature, at least emotionally.

Other changes are just really slow. My body keeps softening, my body hair is reducing and lots of other stuff. Really though, once I noticed it happening, the excitement faded quickly. My body still feels like my body. My mind has time to adjust to these changes as they happen. Every few months I notice how far I have come. Recently I have seen my waist size reducing, or perhaps it is the areas above and below my waist getting bigger, or both. Nevertheless, it was an example of a realization that a LOT has gradually changed and I hadn’t even noticed.

When I look at the fur I could grow on my arms and legs pre transition, I feel like I am looking at someone else. But inside my head, I just feel like me. I don’t really know what I expected, but I guess I thought it would feel different, so drastically different I would feel like a new person. I don’t. I feel like me. I feel more like me than perhaps ever before. It is a wonderful thing. It assures me that transition is a net positive but, in hindsight, it is not as exciting or adventurous as I thought it would feel. Part of me thought I would become someone else. To put it into theatre terminology, I was assigned the role of male at birth, and now I am playing a new role, a female role, but I am the same actor.

I can hardly remember what it felt like before hormone replacement therapy. I don’t wake up in the morning, shocked that I have changed so drastically. Those of you that have gained and/or lost a bunch of weight can probably relate to what I am talking about here. It is gradual, and almost impossible to notice from day to day.

And then, there are my boobs. Holy moly! They are noticeable. Every day. Every hour. I keep having the same thought, “Holy shit! I have tits!” When I wake in the morning, “Yup. Still got boobs.” When I go to bed, “My ladies are cold. I should probably cuddle them to sleep with my warm arms.” When I run, “Ow! Not wearing the right bra.” When I sit too quickly, “Ow! Not wearing the right bra.” When I jump, “Ow! Not wearing the right bra.” When I am wearing the right bra, “I can’t wait to take this fucking torture device off!” When I accidentally brush a nipple in a public place, “Ooooh, that was nice, should I do it again? Wait. Did anybody notice? Fuck I am nipping out! Stop it ladies!”

Speaking of nipples. They keep growing and getting more and more erogenous. I still can’t quite describe the feeling. It is sort of like feeling cold, but just on your nipple, but the cold feeling is wonderful and other feelings radiate outward to interesting places.

I had often heard that trans women could expect to have a cup size that was roughly one size smaller than their mother. It is true that trans women often have smallish breasts, but after some research, it seems that is more because most of us transition after puberty and already have our male frames. We are generally taller and have wider torsos.

Boob size is genetic and you have to look at BOTH sides of the family, and not just mom and dad. Sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmas. That may give you a rough estimate of what to expect, but even then, it is just the luck of the draw on top of it all. And again, genetic females tend to have smaller frames which can cause their breasts to appear bigger than a comparably endowed trans woman’s.

Recently, trans children are being put on puberty blocking medication if their parents allow it, and they are able to go through puberty when they start hormone therapy without having the residual effects of another puberty. Trans men grow tall and wide, trans women get their hips and small shoulders and remain shorter in general.

So, yes, a B cup on a 6′ 1″ trans woman with wide shoulders will be harder to notice than if they were 5′ 2″ with the proper proportions. They are still B cup breasts.

Well, sigh… at last measurement, I am a 38 D and still growing. On my 5′ 7″ frame, I have knockers and they are obvious.

They are pretty much impossible to hide if I want to hide them and sometimes I do. I present androgynously most of the time just so I don’t have to deal with the hassles of trans shaming in public, and while I am gendered male most of the time in those situations, I am getting used to strangers talking to my chest with a slightly confused look on their face.

In Montana, strangers are generally nicer to me when they think I am andro than when they think I am a trans woman, even when I have obvious breasts. Small town people are funny.

On a side note, one major thing I have noticed after moving here and presenting this way most of the time is the lack of female conversation. I was starting to feel at home with my female friends in Hawaii, but as long as I am seen as a straight male, women behave differently around me.

I certainly understand. Here, it gets drunk early, and the frequently intoxicated men will talk to anyone, male or female, and tell them what they think. There is a danger in the air. Most of it is just youthful hooliganism. It is clear though, that you have to be careful around here. It is more socially acceptable to mistreat women in public here than where I was. I have seen the occasional lesbian couple but gays are noticeably absent, at least so far. Basically, my desire to present as my female self does not trump my need for safety as I learn the unique quirks of the place we now live. It will not become our permanent residence. I can probably wait it out, or at least learn the ropes of this town before I out myself.

Back to boobs. Wow! They are no joke. The funny thing is, they are a big deal and no big deal at the same time. They really just sit there all fatty and squishy. They are not on my mind ALL the time, but when they are, they are just SO quintessentially female. I can’t deny it. Others can’t deny it.

They are boobs. They have milk glands. They have leaked before. I could nurse if I had the right hormones running through me, and some trans women do this to ween their children, which I am sure weirds some of you readers out but really, when you think about it, that is just using boobs for what they are there to be used for. Trans breast milk is just breast milk.

To be fair, the leakage I experienced was not exactly milk, but rather, a common discharge from my developing glands and ducts. It was cool and surreal. I could probably still make it happen if I squeezed one hard enough, but they are now so large and soft it HURTS too much. Also, I have been warned by other trans women not to get in the habit of making them leak or they will just learn to keep leaking and that could get embarrassing.

Here’s something to ponder: Growing boobs HURT. They don’t hurt ALL the time, but any kind of pressure on them will bring pain. Hugs can hurt. Bumping into things hurts. Sleeping on my belly hurts.

The pain typically means they are growing. I have talked to many cis women who say their breasts hurt as they developed, and several who said theirs did not. Trans women seem to be MUCH more likely to experience growing pains in their breasts. I wonder why. Does having a male chest for all those years lead to extra breast pain during development?

I have noticed that when I am running low on estrogen and need a new shot, the pain greatly reduces only to return again a day or two after the shot.

Some women say the pain never really goes away but most say it fades quite a bit after they have reached their mature size. In other words, the pain means they are still growing. There is something oddly comforting about that, but then again, at this point, it is also frightening.

I used to worry if the pain left for a few days, “Oh no! Is that it? Are they done growing?” Now, well, they can stop growing, thanks. I am at the size where I can see them becoming quite an annoyance if they don’t settle down soon. At the same time, I am vain enough to think, “Well, one more cup size would be nice.” Really though, I am starting to understand why well endowed women complain so much about their breasts, the weight, the looks, the way people treat them because of their hooters. It is quite humbling to be on the precipice of joining the big breasted club. It was humbling when modestly endowed cis women started complaining that my breasts were larger than theirs. I still have a fairly large belly and yet, my boobs stick out more. The width of my torso causes my breasts to rest a bit more to the sides than most women’s. Besides that, they are really looking like normal boobs now.

My wife recently took a picture of them (it was deleted immediately after I saw it, no pics for you) because she wanted me to see them from her angle. All I can say is, “Wow!” I had no idea. They really do look different from the fixed perspective of my head. From her perspective, they were unmistakably what they are. Boobs.

I see them in my shadow, altering how I look. I see them in the mirror although I am almost always standing and facing myself which makes them look less three dimensional.

I have boobs. This fact is changing my life. I am surprised at how much it does.

I always said, I didn’t care what size I got. I would not get a breast augmentation surgery because I feared I would lose sensation, a fear I have with gender reassignment surgery too, but I am still leaning towards having that part done. Boobs are real and female. My penis does not have that authenticity, not to me. I just never thought I would be on the cusp of breast reduction surgery, if I needed to have them surgically augmented.

I ended up in a bit of an argument at a trans online forum when I told them my cup size was a D at 12 months. One of the trans ladies did not believe me. Refused to believe me. She swore it was not medically possible. Not only is it possible, it happened to me! Full disclosure, I still prefer C cup bras because I fill them more symmetrically but the measurements (both my wife and a professional) read D or slightly larger.

I made a comment about my breasts last night to my wife and she said to me something like, “I really didn’t pay as much attention to my development.” I found this very interesting and enlightening. I guess to her, growing boobs was just expected. Inevitable. Perhaps a rite of passage. They are more to me. They are a miracle. I spent too much of my life thinking they could never happen. Not without magic. Now I have them. They are real, they are spectacular, and they ain’t done yet.

Aloha,
Tori

Bathrooms: Number Two

Sorry about my last post. Well, not too sorry. It is fun to joke about things once in a while. Sometimes a situation is so ridiculous, you have to look at it from a crazy perspective just to shine a light on it. Bathrooms are silly and bathroom politics are too.

I have talked quite a bit about bathrooms in past posts but I have never really talked about them exclusively. Well, today is our lucky day.

As the famous lead singer of R.E.M., Michael Stipe once sang:

Everybody poops
Sometimes

Transition is a trip. People who are not trans are lucky in some ways and they are missing out in others. Sure, I have my bad days but I also have gloriously good days, which were rare pre-transition. You really get a fascinating look into human behavior from the male, female and in between perspectives. The in between part is where I feel I reside right now. I knew going in that there would likely be an awkward phase where I was neither seen as particularly male or female. Life on either side of that binary is far more simple than in between, but it is also less enlightening. When you live between genders you really learn how much of a joke gender really is.

Bathrooms really drive this point home. What bathroom do I use? Well, I use the one that best corresponds with how I am presenting at the time.

Cisgender people often get confused by the fact that I may present as male on one day then female on another. I tend to socialize as a woman, but I do much of my shopping and other errands as a guy. Why can’t I pick just one? If I want to transition to female, why am I not just being a female full time?

I have several reasons/excuses. I do not have an extensive wardrobe. Just when I was getting there, I moved to Montana from Hawaii and all my clothes changed from just clothing to Summer clothing. They don’t work in Winter. My current wardrobe is lacking but improving. What else? Well, being female is a LOT of work. I am far from a prissy type of trans woman but I still have to focus on things most women take for granted like walking or gestures. I surprised many by coming out. People tended to see me as male and I fit the part. I still do. I fit it better than I fit the female role. It is easier to be male for me, at least right now. I don’t like this fact but it is what it is. Another reason? I have convinced myself that I am doing the public a small service by being gender fluid. It makes people think.

The main reason though? Bathrooms. They now really cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety. To top it off, one of my medications, Spironolactone, causes water to pass through me faster than I can drink it. This means, I have to make frequent potty stops. It used to be that I would use a bathroom in a supermarket like once or twice a year at most. Now it is almost once or twice a week. I have to sit on an aisle at theaters in case I need to get up and go. This is particularly embarrassing at plays, where the performances are live.

People see me get up and head for the restroom. I feel them watching me wondering which room I will enter. I know it weirds them out. It weirds me out too.

On days where I will be out for a good while, running errands and whatnot, I almost always go as a male or I present androgynously. I know it confuses people. This allows me to use the men’s room if I have to go. Honestly, few things can ruin my day like someone making a rude comment about me, while I am in a stall in the women’s room. Nobody ever has. Still, I fear it SO much.

In Hawaii, bathroom laws were VERY liberal. I could pick a room based upon my mood. In Montana, it can depend on which town I am in. There are also a lot more guns, and a culture of WHITE. I have lived most of my life as a white male, and yet, I get nervous around cultures dominated by my kind. The diversity of Hawaii or New York is much more comforting to me. Montana has a very Libertarian attitude towards most things, “Don’t fuck with my shit and I won’t fuck with yours.” which is not bad for a trans person, but the utter lack of diversity makes it feel impossible for me to blend in. That is an exhausting way to live.

When I present as female here, I always have one eye behind my back. I know many women reading this are thinking, “Well, duh! All women feel that way.” and I understand. Women have to deal with unwanted advances and the threat of sexual assault. I sometimes fear for my life in public places. This is new to me. Not only are trans people more likely than almost anyone to attempt or commit suicide, they are also incredibly likely to be physically assaulted, sexually assaulted and/or murdered. Especially trans women. Most of all, trans women who are minorities. Well, I am white, so there is that, but when I live in a state where white is the primary color, being trans makes me stand out. This place gives me the heebie jeebies sometimes. Where I currently live, homosexuals tend to stay underground. If gays and lesbians are underground here, I feel they may have a good reason to do so. I can only stay underground if I present as a male. I do not aspire to doing this my whole life, but in this environment… eeeeep! I hope we move somewhere else soon.

Shame is universal. There is a LOT of shame that simply comes with being trans. I waited 37 years to transition because of shame. I do not present as female full time because of shame. I fear bathrooms because of shame.

The shame of being trans is a huge burden at times. It has lessened greatly with hormones but it is still present and I worry. I worry about my safety, yes, but I also worry about others around me. I can easily feel like dead weight, an embarrassment. Why would anyone want to hang out in public with an eyesore like me?

Damn bathrooms! I use the women’s room when I am presenting female and you know what? It is remarkably similar to the men’s room. What’s most surreal, is using the women’s room at a place where I used to go as a guy. The layout is almost always mirrored and sometimes the paint is different, like pink stalls instead of blue, which I imagine most readers already knew. Neither room is glamorous. People do much the same types of things. Women get a bit more privacy at the expense of having fewer toilets. I sometimes have to wait with the rest of the women in lines, although I hate lines for different reasons than most women. The longer I am in line, the more chances people have to object to my being there, which is just awful. I feel the worst when I am in line with children and their parents. I can’t help but imagine what they are thinking, so I end up thinking those things for them.

I have many friends who have been sexually abused, most of them female.

I guess what I am saying here is: I understand why lawmakers in conservative states are trying to pass laws to keep trans people out of restrooms. The fear they feel about someone like me using a female restroom is irrational and there are very, very, very few cases of people impersonating women to get in a restroom to assault a woman but it is still a fear, much like the fear I feel by being myself in Montana. We already have laws against assault, we already have laws against lewd behavior, we already have laws against rape. A law, preventing me from using a female restroom would be redundant for all the reasons one might reasonably think it could be useful.

The unreasonable reason such a law would be passed is people don’t understand enough about why anyone would transition. Many think it is a kink or perversion. They want me out of the women’s room and back in the men’s room. I already live with enough shame. More than enough. Such laws would only reinforce my shame.

People really think weird things about trans folk. They often think we are sexually deranged. In reality, my naughtiest thoughts are so mundane, people would fall asleep to them. It doesn’t help that hormone therapy has almost killed my sex drive. I get the warm tingles from acts of romance and love. What does not turn me on is hearing the woman in the stall next to me taking a turd.

I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb. Most early transitioners feel this way, so while I understand why someone may wish to keep me out of the women’s room, I feel much safer there, especially in establishments where alcohol is being served. If I really wanted to assault women, I could think of far better places than the bathroom, and I could think of far less conspicuous presentations than as an obvious and awkward trans female.

Cisgender readers, ask yourself, “Have you ever been in a public place and seen a trans person? Did you feel uncomfortable?”

Be honest.

I am trans and I can answer yes to both of those questions. There was a trans woman who used to eat lunch at a cafe by the University of Hawaii where I would hang out if I needed to kill time and her presence made me very uncomfortable. She was SO obvious. Tall, extremely masculine face, WAY too much makeup, terrible posture, and she dressed like someone thirty years younger than she was. I was extremely uncomfortable whenever she was there. I also felt terribly hypocritical for thinking those thoughts. Once, I noticed her get up and head towards the restrooms and I watched her walk the whole way just to see which one she used.

I never thought to say anything to her. I spent a lot of time just gawking critically and feeling uncomfortable in her presence.

This woman was brave enough to transition well before I did. She never came there with friends, and her fashion sense, now that I think about it probably reflected the lack of support and advice she was getting from others. It reflected her shame.

I worked at a Waikiki swimming pool and I remember the terrible comments my co-workers would make any time someone looked even remotely trans.

Unless I learn to blend in, and that is NOT easy, I will make people uncomfortable by my very presence and that does not mean those people are just simple minded bigots. That is the hard, honest truth. My presence can make people think, and some of those thoughts may disturb them. Sometimes I embrace this new fact of my life and sometimes I get tired just thinking about it. It is kinda’ cool, having the power to make people question gender with my very presence. Not quite a superpower, but still…

That trans woman I used to see at the cafe? She brought out the transphobia in me. She also taught me by her very presence. I learned a bit about how to dress appropriately, to be understated with makeup, and to keep my friends close so I could lean on them for advice and protection. She taught me not to transition into HER. She opened my eyes to what my life would likely become if I was not careful… and perhaps, even if I was. She taught me humbling lessons but she did not stop me from transitioning.

It is just… I hate to say it… I understand the bathroom thing. It should be simpler than it is. Not knowing what the bathrooms will be like frequently keeps me from going out as a female. In spite of getting a slight thrill from freaking out the squares, I don’t want them to worry about their restrooms because of me. Restrooms should be taken for granted and I often enough put my transition on hold just so others can continue to have that luxury.

I do not need a, “Papers please” bathroom law. Trans people in general don’t. A certain percentage of cisgender people need such laws, or think they do, so they won’t have to worry about thinking certain dark and nasty thoughts when I walk into a room with them. I understand. My superpower can cause people to think things they would rather never think. They would rather live in a simpler world. A world of just men and women. Nothing in between. They would rather brush folks like me under the rug. It is not their intent to shame me. They just want to avoid having their own shameful thoughts.

I kind of envy folks like that. It seems so simple. They want laws in place to reduce the number of times they think things that make them feel ashamed. Really though, if lawmakers spent more time feeling ashamed of themselves, and asking themselves why they feel that way, they would do a much better job.

Aloha,
Tori

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