It's hard to write a list of "Milestones", as it could go on ad ifinitum. So I'll start with some things that are in no particular order of importance, but you can feel good about yourself when you achieve them.
Let's start at the beginning (a very good place to start), for me finding a feminine name that I could feel comfortable with was always going to be a hard choice, as I wanted one that was unisex, so I could use it before I transitioned as well as afterwards so people could get used to it, and not suddenly having to call me by my fem. name, without offending me by forgetting. Luckily there are several names that are poly-gender; e.g. Ashley / Ashleigh, Kerry, etc…. luckily for me after living in South Wales for over ten years Ceri is a unisex name I then emphasized the femininity of it; after transitioning; by adding Leigh …and a hyphen! The latter after Jamie-Lee Curtis, as I thought she spelt it like her mother Janet Leigh….. Yes, that's a DOH!! moment. My last name I felt was something I didn't want to change as it is who I am, even if my family rejected me for my decision to follow my heart; besides I couldn't think of a suitable last name that wouldn't make me laugh every time I used it; and finally be the real me.
For those of you using the opposite(..ahem)facilities for the first time, sorry, but I'm afraid I'll have to lower the tone now, by bringing this subject up. I'll try not to fall into the moral/legal minefield that this issue raises as I could go on forever, so here goes. Its all down to confidence, yes, you need "cojones" (balls – no pun intended!) to go into the "Ladies" for the first time. Basically you have to act as if you have been doing it all your life; which can be a hard thing to get right; but when you've got go, you've got to go. Forget everything you have ever learnt about male toilet etiquette; classic example – no eye contact, three urinals: only use the outer two, never the middle one! and no talking. So...go in, you'll probably have to queue, they never put in enough loos; a common female complaint / occurrence; wait your turn (eye contact is okay, so is "small talk") a little smile helps when another woman makes eye contact (it's a girl thing). Before you leave check your make-up / hair, and that's about it!
Eventually you have to get putting some slap on for the first time, and I won't bore you with how to do either, but I learnt by watching my elder sister putting hers on, especially in the early 80's, and picking up a few tips. I used to help her pick matching colours to wear, funny that, me being good at colour co-ordination. The old adage "less is more" certainly rings true, the less you slap on, the better it looks. Try to experiment as much as you can to find out what looks good on you, I've still not got it perfect even after two years R.L.T. It's a constantly changing thing. By reading "Cosmopolitan", or any of the hundreds of women's magazines you'll pick-up all sorts of hints and tips (I did). The best compliment you can get is if someone says "Oh...you're wearing make-up, I never noticed!" It's also a great compliment, and ego boost, when another woman tells you it looks good. The only practical advise I can give on applying nail-polish...is practice, I know that sounds like stating- the- bleeding -obvious, but that's really it. Q.E.D.
Soon thing will start shrinking and erm, growing. Yes, I'm lowering the tone again! But having breasts is such a confidence booster; especially after using fake boobs for so long. Actually having your own, albeit with the addition of breast-enhancers (chicken fillets) it's still damn good! As they take between three to five years to fully develop, I'm afraid you have to go through puberty again! Once fully grown you'll end up with a cup size similar to your closet female relative – cleavage 'n' all!
BIG HINT: never run without wearing a bra, it bloody well hurts!!!
Meeting family/friends, relations for the first time post-transition is a really tricky subject, but I'll have to tackle it, as you'll always be your parents' child, just looking a wee bit different. I can only give you a personal view-point, but it may be of some help. When I told my eldest sister; I'm the middle girl of three sisters (Chekhov, anyone?); she said that she 'had known all along', and 'why did it take me so long to tell her?' I always thought it was "cool" having a sister as I used to wear her clothes, when no-one was around, this she knew all along, but never told our parents, now that's love, telling my younger sister was doddle after that!
My Mum was okay with it, if a little 'freaked', it's not everyday your son tells you he wants to be your daughter! It was only after transitioning; when I met her for the first time as Ceri-Leigh; she remarked that I 'looked just the same, but with longer hair'. The last person I had to tell was my Dad, an awkward thing to do as we've never been terribly close, upon meeting him B.C. (before Ceri), as it happens, he was quite blasé about it, saying 'it's your life', be happy etc... Although not terribly funny, when my paternal Grandfather passed-away I felt I had to go to the funeral, not a prospect I relished, but one I had to overcome, as no-one had met the 'new me', and as procrastination is the better side of cowardice, it took this family tragedy to beat my shyness, for want of a better word. Every one of my Fathers' siblings / cousins acknowledged their new niece as if it was nothing new, they were all being terribly British about it; a fact my American friend finds terribly hilarious. When I said 'hello' to Dad he replied in a friendly way at not recognizing me straight away, funnily I didn't recognize him either as it has been over three years since I saw him last, but he did keep looking at me during the service, which I thought was really sweet of him.
Let's move on to the subject of depression, not "Ooo, I feel a bit blue today" and
not an easy subject to tackle, as it is individual as grains of sands. It can take on many forms, and not being a psychiatrist I can't tell you what they are, but from a personal standpoint, and with the addition of Oestrogen… it's a bugger! Talking to other Trans people I have found that we have all been at the point of utter despair, as it can manifest itself as just feeling a bit 'down', to suicidal tendencies with horrific and tragic consequences. Having been at the point several times myself with a glass of paracetemols in water, desperately trying to think of a reason why I shouldn't drink it. Fortunately I never got that far, as my friend explained when I told her, she said she would be sad for weeks if I had died. It makes you think, when your closest friends tell you of the pain they would bear, of how much support you get from them.
Finding a job isn't easy and even from an early age, I always thought of what I would do for a job after transitioning, I realized the best place to do it would be to work in an office, but I ended up working in the contract security industry (being lazy as I am), only then having to change my life in the most phallo-centric area outside of the military. In the end it was a good decision as the security company I worked for very helpful during it all, ironically I worked in an office as a call-centre operator, and I was just 'one of the girls'. Just to give you an idea of my experiences, two security companies with whom I had interviews asked if 'I was in the right place?' and that they had never 'booked an interview for me'. What I did find when I got a job is it takes an Employer with a little foresight and vision to see beyond the obvious and employ you as you might be a really good employee, a lot of Trans. people I know don’t work either thru illness (including other mental illness outside of Gender Dysphoria) or just being “passed-over” by prospective Employees once they have worked out you’re Trans. Most of the people that are in employment have transitioned with their job or as I say have Employers with foresight, then there is the other side of the coin where we may become Sex Workers in order to pay for our transition and then having to take on board all the risks (including Murder) that are associated with that path.
HINTS & TIPS:
This section is about stuff you never get told, and how you can end up looking and feeling good in your new self:
i) SHAVING: Unless you pay for EPIL or Electrolysis, you will still have to shave your face daily, but luckily it gets less and less the longer you take Cyproterone Acetate and Ethinylestradiol (or similar types of Testosterone blockers / Oestrogen pills), it gets less after GRS also. The best way to shave, I've found, is use a good brand triple-bladed razor, lots of foam, and contrary to what you have been told shave 'against the grain'; i.e. shave upwards; this way you'll get a really smooth result.
ii) FALSE BOOBS: As every good Jedi Padawan knows, part of your training is manufacturing your own light-sabre; similarly, a T-girl has to make her own boobs; unless you want to pay lots of cash on something you won't need when you 'grow your own'. The best recipe is as follows:
2 extra strong "rubber" balloons (the ones for helium)
2 tbl sp of plant "swell gel" (from Garden Centres)
Then enough water to fill (REMEMBER! Smaller = Better)
Knot the top of the balloon, and let them soak up the gel crystals overnight, and then use – bounce guaranteed.
Getting your voice to sound a little more Fem can be a tricky thing to get right, is, a convincing feminine sounding voice, a professional voice-coach can help (you may get offered one if you are at Charing Cross), but with a bit of practice a higher "pitch / timbre" can be attained; recording your voice can help too; try taking a deep breath before you speak and think "higher". Remember people can be fooled as they automatically would expect a feminine voice from the person they are speaking to; looks like a duck, walks like a duck, goes "Quack!" etc… ; so it goes in your favour to start with. PRACTICE MAKES PREFECT!
Can you be Trans and have a relationship with the woman you are married to / living with? Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this quandary, some relationships fall apart and get messy when your husband tells you he wants to be a woman, and that it's "not her fault" that this has happened, as it is something he has to do for the sake of his sanity. Talking to my friends recently, and even my colleagues; I must point out most of them are in their twenty's'; they all seem to have a laissez-faire attitude towards life, and being Trans is just another part of it for them, so hopefully for me when my children are old enough to seek me out, they'll have a "modern" approach to this myriad of wondrous delights. (See the film "Normal").
That's all the 'fun' of living with Gender Dysphoria, that little nagging thing in the back of your mind that compels you to alter your lifestyle forever, at whatever cost. It's true; and well documented; a couple (Male-Female) can survive this bombshell, as both parties carve out separate lives for themselves, staying together out of love (a very powerful force). What tends to throw 'a spanner-in-the-works' is if you have children, this can cause no end of stress for all those affected, as the legal processes tend to side with the mother leaving the father with crappy visitation rights, or even nothing (see the film "Mrs.Doubtfire"). Even if the father; at this point I must be clear on certain things, okay, you may no longer look like daddy, but nothing on Earth can take away your God given right to call yourself that!, and to see his children he has to wear a disguise (yes, drab up! DRAG = Dress as a Girl / DRAB = Dress as a Boy)), how exactly you hide your boobs and long hair (or even explain), I don't know, so you have to come to some sort of 'half-way house' agreement with your ex., trust me it ain't easy! What is the hardest thing to do is when you have to say 'goodbye' after a visit, or if you have to drive them back to your spouses home, and then drive back to your house without them . That is the saddest, loneliest and longest journey.
It's taken me a long time to get to the final "Milestone", nearly four years since I began my journey, and believe me it's certainly been a long and a most definitely eventful one. I think it's best for me not to go into gory detail exactly how my surgeon; the dashing Mr.Bellringer; performed the miracle that is gender reassignment surgery; or as I call it "genital relocation service"; but instead, just say that despite the two and a half hour operation, the adverse reaction to the morphine, and the sharp, jaggy pain, altogether not as bad as I thought! One thing I must mention about post op. girls is that someone has to capture you one of the teddy bears that roam in the garden by the ward, they can be tricky to find as they are very well camouflaged; ex. Army personnel will recognize this as "urban distress". What I've realized that now I'm post-op, and all that nasty testosterone is down to a near natal female level of less than 1%, is that life has suddenly got less stressed, maybe because of it all being over and done or just the final "switch" being turned off; the best analogy for this was testosterone being compared to a "turbo-charger" in a car, then suddenly running out of petrol, and remembering how I felt it way back when I started on the testosterone blockers, slowly a little more on the Oestrogen, still feeling a little bit "blokey", and now I feel that life is good, and all the things that used to bug me just really don't anymore, so on the whole; no pun intended; pretty darn good actually!
Copyright: "The Gemini Group" 2011
CONTRIBUTOR: Random Dent
DATE ADDED: 2011-02-01 05:58:42
COLLECTION: Personal Reflections
ITEM TYPE: Document
CITATION: Random Dent, "Milestones," in HACKGENDER, Item #85, http://hackgender.org/items/show/85 (accessed June 19, 2013).
About the Work
- Random Dent
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