Beyond Physical Transition

One of the toughest things I have had to struggle with since beginning my transition is getting past the “physical”. I doubt I’m alone in this – this shared obsession with our appearance and gender presentation stem from our absolute need to pass within society. Newcomers to the transgender journey typically begin with making some drastic physical change that, for them, makes them feel more comfortable in their skin. Whether it be wearing a ton of makeup daily or cutting one’s hair or binding, we all subconsciously know that “passing” is what’s going to help mitigate confrontation, dysphoria, and, ultimately, keep us alive when out and about.

As of my birthday in early August, I’ll be three years into my transition. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and who I was always meant to be. I deliberately put myself through the ringer of suffering through minimal makeup encouraging seemingly incredulous stares, wore clothes that weren’t what I believed aligned with my gender identity, and forced myself to experience the shame of not belonging wrapped in crippling doubt and fear of being outed by other females. These painful hardships cultivated the rock-solid foundation of the woman I am now. For the first time, I’d like to attempt to break down my process to achieving self-love and self-acceptance.

One of the first, and most transformational, mindsets I had to own in overcoming my obsession with portraying a “hyper-feminine” appearance was remembering that no matter what I changed on the outside, the “mental” and “emotional” transition was where I needed to keep my focus. Conceptually, this sounds simple, but then you remember that those two aspects of our personality are actually quite fickle & can’t be as easily controlled. When doubt and low self-esteem has already rooted that you won’t be truly “seen”, it’s difficult to just let go, love yourself and be you.

Right around when I had begun transitioning, I was also starting my third contract at WebMD – my first time working any job as “Nina”. I knew that the time would eventually come where I would need to be comfortable with going natural (or at the very least not spend literally ninety minutes on it daily). So, like with any fear or bad habit, I weened myself off of makeup gradually. Also, to take the focus off myself, I added another layer by treating this as a social experiment; I would track the responsiveness of the people I encountered daily. Starting on Monday, I’d gradually wear less makeup as the week progressed until I was only wearing cover-up of problem areas and some eyeliner.

The results led me to a number of observations about society and a clearer understanding of myself.

  • People don’t care as much as you think they do. The people who do will act.
  • Fuck attention or stares. You have no one to impress.
  • If cisgender people are still who they are without society’s validation, you too are valid.
  • Your masculinity/femininity is defined by you and you alone.

These realizations began to empower me and, as a commuter into NYC, thickened my skin in a way that put me in full control of my femininity & gender identity. I was starting to understand what it meant to love myself and embrace the imperfections of my physical appearance that created the chemical to slowly erode away the presence of body dysphoria. This was the beginning of my mental and emotional maturation as the female I needed to be and the acceptance of the intense, outspoken, confident girl who filled this blog in secret during my college years…

This entry was getting too long. I will continue this subject of lessening the emphasis on the “physical” transition in my next post. As always, thanks for reading.

More than just a pretty face

Yesterday, on my break, I overheard an older man flirting with what I perceived to be a fairly pretty woman. If this was just  any man, I wouldn’t be writing about this. Given his voice and choice of words, I quickly realized that he was the same man who had flirted with me just under a month ago in the same establishment just as I was about to leave.

He began his flirtations just as I was receiving my food on her opposite side. I’m not going to go into detail about what he said and did, but he used the same level of persistent charisma as well as his “I work here” line before ordering her a slice and drink. All the while not noticing that the not-so-put-together woman next to her – almost incognito in a way as I was wearing glasses, no noticeable makeup & had my hair up – was the same very put-together woman he tried to give his number to.

Not all cis males are like this and being a transgender woman makes this really easy to accept. However, being a transgender female is exactly the reason why it’s important for me to remain vigilant and aware of my self-worth and intuition. This does not apply to just me, but to other humans like me. Cisgender or not.

With regard to my personal narrative, transitioning later in life as I have seems to come with a lot of baggage. For example, lack of self-love, body dysphoria, low confidence levels on most fronts, self-doubt, etc. We typically want to be “seen” as a form of validity in our fear-mongering society. The best way to achieve that? Grabbing the attention of a person within our sexuality’s alignment. Even if that person isn’t someone we particularly are attracted to, we’re so hungry for that attention and validation that we typically wind up settling for just about anyone who will accept us at the risk of being outed, deemed “damaged goods”, or, in the very worst case, assaulted.

That lack of awareness and self-worth is what “chasers” look for. They settle and never grow in their strength, relying on the honeyed flirtations of the cis population to make them feel like they’re worth something. This is the most dangerous path for anyone, not just transgender people, to end up on.

As the fight for human rights and transgender/queer equality continues to rage on, I wish to remind my transgender siblings to seek not the approval of everyone. That is an exercise in futility. Rather, become the best version of “you” possible through building your own foundation of self-worth, self-love, and self-confidence. The pattern is obvious; selfishness for the sake of your own survival is necessary. When others refuse to hear you or see you, do not allow their actions or words to have power over you. Take control of how you believe others should acknowledge you by consciously making daily decisions to value yourself – how you look, who you are, and what boundaries won’t be overstepped.

The “younger” me, fresh into my transition three years ago, may have fallen into the emotional trap of allowing myself be so easily affirmed by that man to the point of having my self-worth of him “seeing” me as a woman to be stripped away. Thankfully, the only affirmation I received was knowing my intuition to use the “my significant other wouldn’t approve” line when he offered me his number was right on the mark. And the only thing I gained from him was being momentarily irked he didn’t offer to pay for my food like he did with his new flavor of the week.

The Joke Is On Us. Literally.

original-girlwithglasses-by-bifidus
Original art by: bifidus

Read an article  posted by Kira, a fellow transgender blogger, about how the media and society continue to make it increasingly more difficult for the trans community – and most importantly, our very real life-threatening struggles – to be taken seriously. This immediately got me thinking about whether or not there were any instances in my own life where I allowed people to get away with the off-handed commentary or “joke”. Funny enough, this was very simple to remember.

While involved in what was never meant to be a short stint in Sales/Marketing, we were having a group training meeting before heading out to the field. The leader of said meeting was aiming to draw a similarity between memorable, legendary people, one-hit wonders, and what it meant for us to be the former instead of the latter. When the time came for shouting out famous people, everyone was getting into the game to see how many they could get on the whiteboard.

And then someone shouted “Caitlyn Jenner.”

The next few seconds were an amalgamation of chuckling and mild affirmation, but with two quick moments standing out. The first was the guy next to me off-handedly saying something along the lines of “You mean Bruce Jenner right?” The second was someone quipping about transgender thing being confusing.

That moment happened so quickly in the midst of an already chaotic shouting match that there was only enough time for me to process feeling offended. Mainly because my leader knew I was transgender, yet continued to roll with the insults disguised as lighthearted, offhanded jokes. The majority of the crew didn’t have a clue I was transgender, but the momentary attitude shift of 15 twenty-somethings in response to mass media’s poster child of the transgender narrative was extremely telling.

I find that humor is birthed from one of two places: Either loose hearsay subject knowledge, or completely educated subject knowledge. What people don’t understand is that the former is exactly how the majority cis people are erasing those in the transgender community. With every offhanded quip and “harmless joke”, people are continually being conditioned to downplay the aspects of our reality that are inherently why so many of us are being murdered, assaulted, and given the short end of the stick. The education and awareness of the “T” in LGBTQ is severely lacking; cis people are using ignorance as a scapegoat to justify making their fellow uneducated cisgender friends laugh about our struggle for acceptance & equality.

We aren’t being taken seriously. At all. Our true fight for human rights keeps getting derailed by petty non-issues like the bathroom bill, fear-mongering bullshit. Activists are forced to squander resources to debunk the baseless myth of transwomen being pedophiles while the number of hate crimes against transgender people (the majority being women of color (WOC) like myself) continues to rise. And yet, the jokes keep flying and politicians keep using us to  pushing their single-minded agendas at our expense.

Meanwhile, passive onlookers wonder why so many activists and writers like the one I linked above are so angry. This is why I continue to advocate in my own, non-violent way. Using educated knowledge to open people’s eyes to transgender matters as well as improving the human connection as a whole has become one of my life’s purposes.