It’s a classic story told on the road by many sparkling travellers, the occasion when one is gendered correctly for the first time by a stranger. Likely it comes when least expected, for preceding it is the scary period when the pessimist inside says: ‘Nobody will ever see me for who I truly am.’ For as often as hopes are dashed, it’s important to realise that similarly our doubts are quashed, because how we perceive is only one view of how things are.
A few days before I came across this little comic on Transgender Graphics:
It made me sad, as sad as listening to ‘La Valse D’Amelie’ whilst watching couples hug close together on bridges during the still cold nights. ‘This will never happen to me’, I thought, almost defiant in accessing future failures.
The fates care not for emotional whim. A few days later, in the midst of that four or five day period each month I feel utterly despondent (hmm!) I met one of my girlfriends who convinced me to go out to dinner with her. It was a horrendous day so we arrived at the restaurant with big coats on and I was too sad to wear any make up, I looked and felt decisively ‘unfemale’. The hostess at the front desk greeted us briefly and signalled a waiter to take us to our table.
“Just a second and we’ll show you ladies to your table.” Huh?
The waiter comes over and ushers us to the table, hands out the menus,
“So, have either of you girls eaten here before?” What?!
My friend of course heard this as well and we both enjoyed the surreal moment. I say surreal because dude…..
A funny thought I’ve had since, that if I were a man, I’d have been pretty damn offended at being misgendered, and if that’s the case, why am I so passively lenient to those who would misgender me?
So what happened? I’m calling it a fluke, a ‘free pass’. I consider this whole passing thing to be a rate rather than a fixed value depending on personal success, and I really have to call perception into question. I could make all sorts of excuses to try and invalidate myself but I’m going to take it, and use it to show that a transitioner isn’t always the one who knows how well they are doing. It can become typical to get negative about physical appearance, and I think we need these little boons from others to lift our heads from the grey stone to look once more at the path we travel. I am so grateful for my loved ones and friends.
I finished my 6 session private laser therapy not long before all this, coming across a new craze for tweezing out the hairs from dead follicles (not recommended =D). I tweezed just about every single [dark] hair out of my face, which didn’t hurt as much as you’d think since the hairs have been basically cauterized half a dozen times. It makes a massive difference to how I look, no shadow, just the few fine greys and skin. A perception is, that adult males are generally considered to have at least a little beard shadow at all times, take that away and the doors of ambiguity creak open a little. Way too much of the hair grows back though, it’s only good for one clearance after a laser session. Again, not recommended.
Also, I don’t know why in male upbringing, we are made to avoid anything that could be considered not macho, so much so that we ruin ourselves to maintain the image. I said I’d refrain from giving actual transition advice, but I’m going to give some simple life advice – moisturize. My skin has improved as much in the past couple of months with a learned skincare routine as I see at the two month point in most transition videos. My skin is bright and alive, because I treat it so much better now, and people notice this.
Appointments, The Lasers! The Voices!
Looking for solid work at the moment is almost pointless. From home, my monthly/six weekly laser appointments were a 2 and a half hour round trip; my fortnightly therapy appointment at the gender clinic is a 4 hour round trip; now I’ve started voice therapy, which is now a fortnightly 5 hour round trip. Upcoming is an unknown appointment for fertility storage that I rush downstairs in hope for every morning, and then all the appointments hopefully testing for and prescribing HRT. That’s too many appointments to take on a new hire, not that it will stop me trying.
Each little appointment is progress, inconvenient, but not an effort. However, the voice therapy was terrifying. For my first appointment a couple of interns were present, three cis-women, and me, hitting falsetto. Basically it was only an assessment, I was asked what my goals were, what my issues were, what my habits were. For future comparison I had to read a pre-written paragraph into a dictaphone, and do various basic exercises to monitor my breath and voice placement. For example I was asked to go ‘shhhhhhhh’ for as long as possible, I was made go ‘eeee’ to check my pitch, and then again to see if I could modify the pitch. It was all just making fundamental noises to give the therapist a baseline to individualise my treatment. It succckkkeeeedddd, it’s going to continue to suuuuuccccckkkkk, and it’s my number one priority, even over HRT.
As I’ve written before, the voice thing scares me. I’m no longer scared of the changes to my identity and so on, nor scared of the exercises – like many aspects of transition I’ve noticed, the recalcitrance fades away because the train never stops. I’m just scared of sounding stupid, having that cartoon squeaky trans voice. You know what I learned? Too bad. It’s a real-time transition, not a time warp, the reality is, you have to plough on right through the horror.
‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ – Winston Churchill
Homework number one is simply motivation, dedication, commitment. The process is to permanently stretch the vocal chords and say goodbye to the old voice. Transwomen say they can keep their male voice but in many videos I’ve seen them try to show this it leads to uncomfortableness and coughing fits. So are ya ready?
The notes I got were:
- Increase fluid intake, WATER, avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks, dairy
- Avoid spicy foods
- Practice humming at different pitches, feeling for a buzzing in the face/lips
- Don’t clear your throat unnecessarily
- Avoid answering by shouting when upset or anxious (or in general)
- Warm up your voice if you are going to use it for a long time
- Observe cis-females in real life in terms of: presentation/image, pitch, resonance, ‘femaleness’
- Consider female role models and how they carry their voices.
I’ve been doing voice practice through youtube video’s, doing the paid programs, using the apps, using a spectrograph etc, but I have no idea what I’m doing and how to achieve that, and I’m hoping voice therapy will help this. Step one for me is simple, speak with a voice located above the throat. As a natal male, my voice had sunk down into my chest, giving that rattling ‘bricks in a cement mixer’ kind of sound, which leads to all those downward inflections at the end of sentences and other vocal maladies.
I asked, what is a female voice, and she didn’t know, because such a thing doesn’t always specifically exist on a bandwidth, all there is, is a commonality. I’ve made my commitment and now I am using a new voice all the time. It sounds as stupid as I feared, but I don’t feel as stupid as I feared. I’m making myself do this now all day, every day, because it’s the only way I know that is fully involved, it is the only way for it to become automatic. There is no magic technique of ‘male voice off’ to ‘female voice on’, it has to go in stages – Very Male, Somewhat Male, ‘Gender Neutral’, Somewhat Female, Very Female. Each step must be taken, each lesson must be learned on its own and put together, just like anything else that must be learned.
Remember, laser and voice are creating permanent changes.
I met an old friend last week for the first time in years, a cis lesbian woman. She told me about her gender struggles throughout life. As a kid she was referred to as male regardless of how she presented, and she didn’t mind. As an adult, she often wondered if she was a man, or was supposed to be a man. A while back she had a couple of years dealing with a real gender identity crisis, but was unable to conceptualize the idea of dysphoria. She didn’t and doesn’t understand it, but the feelings subsided, she came to realise she is just a woman who likes to screw other women. She has male traits 614-629 and female traits 1646-2042. You know what I mean? She is who she is.
This is where I have some empathy towards a little trans criticism, and wonder where the lines are between being transgender, and having dysphoria. For example, I could be as feminine as I want, moreso than I ever will be as a real life transwoman, think about being a woman every day, dress as a woman every day, do all that stuff, but without dysphoria, what would I be? The term transgender consists of an overlap of personal gender freedom and medically understood gender dysphoria.
Each are valid, though ‘wants’ are very different from ‘needs’, and as with my friend, if there isn’t a long term problem, then maybe there are better long term solutions than transition. Accepting oneself in ones gender doesn’t always need a change in gender self-perception. Listen to the transitioned when they say it – if you can avoid transition, avoid transition, there is no glamour, and the price is too high if all you want to do is look in the mirror and see a pretty face. Additional or removal of breast tissue is a consequence in aid of soothing the tumultuous mind, not in looking good, although the results often seem generally pleasantly congruous.
I know my posts are too long. Shush, they are essays 😉
My passport arrived a few days ago. The Sex says ‘F’. I am officially, legally female… a bit, there’s still the two year wait for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Now I can get all my other documents changed and that’s another kind of fun yet frustrating chore out of the way.
I guess a key thing for me right now is consistency. Dysphoria is a constant annoyance, and I am rolling with it rather than resisting, and the things I’m doing are what my body asks for. I know to expect a lot of different types of changes. From the revelation, so much changed instantly and it takes a long while to untangle that giant clusterfudge into intentional components.
There are a lot of weights and balances in my experience, gradualisation. I gain a little more self awareness, I commit a little more to voice, a little more to make-up (bleh), a little more to my presentation. Though I moaned and scorned about it, I wear breast forms any time I’m going to be around people, because, you know, boobs don’t come on and off like that, and strangers don’t know they aren’t real, soooo… I’m not working by some sort of guide I read, it’s really what makes this experience more tangible and quite truly it helps, it all helps, and it’s bloody annoying.
The medical wait continues, but I continue to take power back, to claim, reclaim, and expand my life, and it’s working. People notice the changes, they know it’s not a phase when they see it day in, day out, I notice, and I’m starting to feel it. I’m starting to look in the mirror and go, hey…..maybe.