Transitioning Continues Apace

I don’t think I’ve ever posted here about my trans stuff, because it’s not terribly interesting. I’ve gone slowly because, you know, I have a wife and a baby, but my marriage remains extremely healthy and wonderful (today is our fourth wedding anniversary!) Rachel is basically one of the best humans who has ever lived: transitioning is a lot easier when you’re married to one of the best humans who has ever lived; everything is easier, in fact.

I had a blood clot, which interrupted my hormone treatment and made me kinda depressed, but now I’m back on them (in patch form, which theoretically doesn’t cause clots)! Apparently I have heterozygous factor 5 leiden deficiency, which has something to do with clot risk.

Anyway, being back on the hormones is great. I feel incredible. I’m definitely more tired, and I feel wiped out if I don’t get eight hours of sleep, particularly a few days in a row. But, oddly enough, during the time I’m awake, I feel more energized, and I feel much more desire to, like, do things, be productive, make something of myself. I started my Old and Middle English studies around the time I went back on hormones, and I’m sure the sense of optimism and confidence are directly related to the hormones somehow.

It’s kind of astonishing how good it’s been. I probably should’ve gone on sooner. If my experience is a guide, then people who are wondering if they’re trans should just go on hormones and see if they feel way, way better. It’s amazing. Seriously. Anyway, I still feel weird and awkward a lot of the time. It takes a fair amount of effort with makeup to efface my facial hair (laser treatments were interrupted by the pandemic), so most days I don’t bother, but then I feel kind of weird going out in public, to the dog park or playground, where I might interact with people.

I do intermittently have the feeling–hard to describe–of gender consonance, when I feel like I’ve briefly landed on the other shore, and my self-image shifts, and I’m like, “Yes, I am a woman!” Not sure about other trans women, but for me there’s a lot of “Fake it till you make it.” Ideally I’d like to wake up each day, and not think about being trans! To just be whatever I am: a person with female pronouns who is definitely not a man and who certainly would like to be thought of as a woman. But I’m not really there yet.

I’ve been taking voice lessons for almost two years, which has been really productive. For me it’s been most fruitful to have several months between lessons. That makes me feel less like I need to practice and show progress. Instead I can just remind myself to slowly bring my voice to where it needs to be as I go through my day. You make a lot of progress without realizing it! During my last voice lesson I tried to bring my voice into what I consider my ‘normal’ range (the range I talk in without thinking about it) and found it wasn’t actually normal. I don’t speak in the unambiguously male register anymore. Right now I’m somewhere in between, but hoping to make further progress.

I think if you’re single, or a teenager, or if transitioning entailed losing your family, your job, your home, as it does with many (most?) trans women, there is a lot of pressure to make progress quickly and get to the point where you can live recognizably as a woman. For me there’s less pressure, and sometimes I feel bad, and I think, wow I am that conservative bugbear: the tall, balding, bearded man who croaks “I identify as a woman” as he washes his hands in the women’s bathroom.

There’s also a temptation to live a lot of life online. I’ve been taking part more in Facebook Groups and such, because there I’m unmoored even from my author identity: I’m just a mom, or just an SF resident. And it’s nice to ‘pass’. Twitter doesn’t provide the same opportunity, because my author identity is still linked to my old male identity, and my first book is still published under my birth name (though, actually, maybe I should talk to Little, Brown about that…)

But my broader point is, many trans women find that the time you’re ‘in transition’ is lonely, empty, and uncomfortable–something you aim to get through as quickly as possible. You want to get out the other side and get to where you’re going to be, find the limits of what’s physically possible, and then come to terms with your final physical form.

For me it’s been a much slower process. I’ve tended to focus on just one aspect of my transition at a time: for a while it was my voice, now it’s moved on to other things. At any point I feel like there’s a bottleneck that’s holding the rest back, and that there’s no point in working on the rest until I break the bottleneck. It’s an ongoing process, and I don’t tend to view the time I’ve spent transitioning (which has been some of the happiest and most productive of my life) as being unhappy or wasted.

I was writing a lot of trans woman characters in the years before I transitioned, and now I write them almost exclusively. It’s odd, being trans, because in some times and places the influence of your transness on peoples’ behavior is quite subtle, while in other times and places, they react totally differently–they see you as just a trans person. Since I still go out presenting as a man sometimes, I experience a wide variety of reactions (none of which have felt overtly dangerous). And then there’s the influence of your own discomfort, your own sense of feeling out of place. It’s impossible to tell what percentage of social weirdness is in your head and what isn’t. I tend to assume that everyone in all situations can read me as trans, but that’s clearly not true–as in a recent restaurant when a woman started telling me about her really tall daughter in law and her tall grand-children (I was holding our baby). In cases like that, being trans plays no part at all, because the other person doesn’t even know.

Generally, being trans, I’ve found, and have seen in other trans women’s stories, tends to matter more in your more intimate relationships. It’s not as big a deal when you’re walking on the street: it’s a bigger deal at work, or when you’re walking into someone’s house or making a new friend. It’s certainly an interesting topic for fiction, and one I’ve enjoyed exploring.

My writing isn’t just, or even primarily, my own experience. While the feelings are mine, and they reflect a range and a complexity that you often don’t see when cis people write trans protagonists, the situations run the gamut, and they’re often fully-imaginary, coming totally from my own head and my own intuitions about how people would react in various situations.

I say this because, well, when I write trans characters, I don’t really claim to be representative of anyone’s experience–not even of my own. All I can say is that these situations, in these books, with these characters, are true. I am utterly certain that these things could happen. These people would act these ways. I cannot say that in other, similar, situations people wouldn’t act completely differently. Fiction isn’t sociology. You’re not describing ‘how things tend to happen’. You’re saying how things ‘could’ happen.

If I was the kind of person who was interested in calling out or policing other peoples’ books, maybe I’d feel more worried about making my own books more completely representative–but I’m not. I refuse to do sensitivity reads for other authors. So far as I know, I’ve never called out another book for appropriating one of ‘my’ identities. I tend to think that the whole human experience belong equally to every human being, and although for now I’m not interested in writing people who aren’t Indian trans girls and women, I really don’t care if someone else wants to write them too. I think knowing that I give other people the freedom to ‘get it wrong’ also gives me the mental freedom to write whatever I want.

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