I have, up to this point in my transition, been more than a little shy about the fact that I’m a girl now.
Part of this is just the sorry state of my body. Without getting into the sordid details, let’s just say that I really, really wish I could have gone on androgen blockers before I went through puberty. Not only is my body very masculine, but the fact that I for years felt like it was not really my body anyway prompted me to take a rather blasé attitude towards things like physical fitness and personal hygiene. Moreover, my autism causes me to have exceptionally sensitive skin (a problem which is only exacerbated by the consumption of female hormones) and so waxing (at least unprofessional waxing) is not really an option for me. Thus, I have in general stayed away from shirts with less-conservative female necklines out of a desire to not “gross out” my friends by forcing them to stare at my lamentably prodigious chest hair.
The main reason that I have avoided extremely feminine presentation, however, was simply concern about “beating my friends over the head” with my transition. You see, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I don’t want my transition to define me; in other words, I want to be a “person who happens to be transgendered” rather than a “transgendered person.” I was concerned that, if I departed too drastically from my formerly-exhibited behaviour, my friends would start to think that I wasn’t really the same person afterall.
Add to all of that my preference for formal attire (which tends to be ‘gender neutral,’ and therefore default-masculine) and observers could be forgiven for failing to notice that anything had changed at all.
I’ve recently had cause to change this situation, however, and I have done so for a number of reasons. First of all, I felt like I was starting to lose my sense of identity underneath all of the self-imposed neutrality; it’s quite unreasonable to expect your friends to treat you like a woman when you have a male body and for all intents and purposes still dress like a man. Though they would humour me, their frequent slip-ups (“Why thank you, sir–er–okay, now I feel like a jerk.”) made clear that regardless of their behaviour, they still saw me as male.
Secondly, it’s summertime right now. Now, when I was growing-up, my family used to frequently complain about my habit of wearing long-sleeved formal wear even in the dead of summer. There was a very good reason for this, though, but I never felt comfortable telling them what it was. As you can probably guess, I did so because “summer clothing” (particularly for teenagers) tends to be extremely gendered, and wearing ultra-masculine garments made me feel dysphoric to the point of physical disgust at myself. Now, however, the cat is out of the bag anyway, so I can choose to dress comfortably in weather-appropriate feminine garments.
Thirdly, there was that recent, uncomfortable discussion with my father. He seemed to be of the impression that I was deluding myself and that this was just a phase; apparently neither of my parents had even bothered to read-up on transgender issues, and had willed themselves to believe that if they just ignored the problem, it would go away. While I had, in part, muted my feminine presentation in order to avoid such conflicts, I suddenly came to realize that I was doing nothing except helping to delay the inevitable.
Finally, and most importantly, it occured to me that part of the reason I had come-out in thefirst place was my desire to be who I am. I can hardly do that if I’m constantly engaged in self-censorship.
So no more of that nonsense! I’m a woman, and I’m proud of it, so I have made this week a prolonged experiment in being ‘femme*.’ This week, every single aspect of my outward presentation, from the scrunchy round my ponytail to the shoes on my feet have been specifically calibrated to be as feminine as possible, and if people don’t like that then they can piss off.
So far the results have been promising: misgendering is down sharply, I’m actually getting compliments on my wardrobe, and other women are talking to me the way that they talk to each other**. In short, I’m loving it!
*Although I am still ‘muting’ myself when meeting when my supervisor or my students. Some of my students have already seen me, though, so we’ll see how they behave this Friday.
**And no, I can’t define that any more clearly. Of course, not all women actually differentiate their modes of conversation between genders, but for some of my friends who do, I am now on the recieving end of the “feminine” conversation.