What Freedom Looks Like

So much of my life has changed since I left my mother’s nest. As likely eluded to in past posts, my departure was not by choice, but rather out of my mother’s desperation to have her freedom. The same freedom I had strived for nine years of my post-college life to give to her. The same freedom that all of my well-laid plans failed to accomplish.

The strange thing is how in just three months, I feel as though I’ve experienced more than I had in those long nine years leading up to turning thirty in just the past three months. Most likely, that feeling can be attributed to the majority of my 20s being rife with gender dysphoria, financial and emotional struggles, my rise and fall from grace within corporate America, and a daily bath in self-loathing. My path to self-discovery began at age 26, self-acceptance at age 27, public admittance at age 28, and mental maturation into the self-confident, charismatic woman that once only existed as a transient existence within this blog. Regardless of the insanely arduous path that has led me to this point, accepting my mother’s [legal] ordinance to leave and becoming self-accountable in every possible way has radically broadened my personal ideologies & goal-setting standards.

In layman’s terms: I have rapidly cultivated a much sharper understanding of what I want and believe I deserve out of this life.

Now, a month and a half into this new chapter of my 30s, I walk taller, trust more, set smarter goals, and indulge in ways I would not have done before. My identity has virtually been carved in stone & no one dares to question the legitimacy of my womanhood. In the last few months, men have begun making passes at me when I’m only wearing basic problem area cover-up on my chin. Quite honestly, this truth continues to baffle me.

As I type this entry on my phone while washing clothes on my own in my local laundromat for the first time, more and more do I feel as though I am slowly grasping the life – what it’s really like to be “busy” – that my mother led for so many years. I was able to find a place to live with a male roommate who I discovered is a closet geek. I’ve taken the next step in transitioning from a 7-day work week split between two part-time jobs to taking the plunge with one relatively flexible, full-time position with a relatively new company franchise that welcomes my creativity & business acumen. This new position now opens up my schedule for putting more time into my voice-over work, exploring new skill sets, running needed errands, & being social with minimal sacrifice. All coming with a suitable paycheck and a healthier work-life balance.

My life as a 30-year old woman rapidly continues taking each decisive, difficult stride one goal at a time despite clawing my way up from practically nothing.  In the face of intense doubt & bloodied pride, I become accustomed to the painful crashing through each wall of uncertainty, defying any and all which dares to hold me back from reaching my destination. The legacy of my life shall echo through the ages. I will settle for nothing less.

Freedom is like a new, untrained pet given to a child. An immediately gratifying source of joy in the initial moments, the new owner holds it close only to be peed on without warning. The child quickly discovers it was all a farce as the pet requires so much more effort and attention to maintain than they could have imagined. However, if they remain diligent and train the pet well, moments of joy can still abound amidst their constant demands. Alas, the child’s perspective of pet ownership will never be the same and relies solely on their own will to either care for it or hate it.

I have chosen to care for this “pet” called freedom the best way I can, loving my self and life more than ever.

I Killed My Babies

At the start of 2014, five months before I began HRT, I made a very expensive choice to cryogenically freeze my sperm. At the time, I knew how testosterone blockers and oral estrogen pills were projected to change my body, but the only real certainty was that I would become sterile after a couple of months. Regardless of the choice I was making to move forward with my transition, I also knew that there was a chance I could one day end up in a loving relationship with a cis female who, like me, would still want to have a child with me. Knowing this, I took a very long drive to Pennsylvania (twice) – once to fill out the paperwork for a 2-year storage and another to actually do it.

Truth is, I figured I foresaw where things were headed for me career-wise. I was confident that my future self would be able to achieve financial stability before the two years ended. As this was my last major financial investment, recouping it, given my job experience, wouldn’t be that difficult.

Sadly, my life has never been so easy.

Two years passed and at the start of 2016, I was immediately plagued by the thought of not being able to maintain my storage. My lifestyle and body had shifted dramatically for the better. However, my financial health had plunged; I was wrought with debt just trying to keep myself afloat in a seemingly unfair and unwilling job market that no longer wanted to hire me. There was no way I was in any position to maintain my storage, but I pretended that I had somehow dodged a bullet and paid for much longer than two years or they had just trashed my storage because I hadn’t paid. Both would be preferable than having to take any action.

And then I finally received my first notice of due payment.

Neither of my imagined possibilities had occurred; they were still keeping my storage, but billing me monthly. Again, the worst possibility.

As I had more pressing matters to deal with – one of them being creditors harassing me; another being figuring out where I could possibly live in late May after my mother decided to kick me out of her nest – I ignored the payments. No, I wasn’t simply running away from reality, but had hope that somehow, some way, a proper job opportunity larger than my current part-time job would enable me to pay it off and keep the possibility of having a child alive. Just before I was to move out, an opportunity did arise, but was short-lived unfortunately.

And the billings kept coming…

End of July arrives and the impending bill about to total $200 is breathing down my neck. I had received a notice in the mail about how I could either extend my storage or terminate it. I had been holding on to this notice for some time, mulling it over as I hustled to obtain a second job according to my projected timing. Managing my funds well and actually succeeding in my goal to land an awesome second job a few days into August were wonderful pluses. However, they were not enough to justify me paying monthly, clinging to a hope that my life and luck would lead me to a cis female who would want to have a child.

So, to stop the bleeding, I made a call to the cryo center to begin paying a portion of my bill on a monthly basis. I also mailed my notarized form – yes, it’s that big of a deal that they make you have that done – for the formal termination of my would-be children. Logically and strategically, the core basis of all of my thought processes, this made sense to me. Emotionally, however, not as much.

Last Saturday, I received the notice in the mail stating that the termination had been completed. Truthfully, due to the lack of physical interaction with said sperm, I didn’t break down crying or anything. I did, however, feel a sense of loss. Almost like I had let someone down who had put their faith in me. In this case, it was my biological unborn child(ren) that I will never be able to have.

Many people will say “oh just adopt” or “trust me you really don’t want a child”. To that, I say: Yeah, you’re [probably] right. Yes, I had hopes to carry on my genes that I know are quite good. To see the miracle of life in action as a mother caring for a child who I could clearly see had parts of me and the woman I’d love. I did romanticize the idea of it all, but to actually choose to end all possibility of it…Well…despite how calmly I’m taking it, my actions prove that I wanted to fight for my right regardless of me also paying money to take hormones.

Just like junking my car, which I actually took tons harder, this was the necessary thing to do. For me. Right now. There’s still a lot I’m figuring out about myself as a woman and what I want on multiple levels. As I continue to cull the excessive fat from my life, l have no desire to feel any regrets. I would much rather truly live freely within my controllable certainty than chain myself down for the sake of an uncertain probability.

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.