Expect Problems

A transition blog.

There were a lot of decisions I had to make when I began HRT. One that occurred to me pretty early on was a practical one. I figured there'd be a point where I found myself slightly uncomfortable presenting too femme and still being misgendered with some frequency. I had no idea how long that would last, and even when it'd occur, but I used a lot of blog posts and questions of other trans women to guestimate when it might be.

I ended up being wrong. Quite wrong. I didn't expect HRT to affect me so much and so quickly. But either way, I was kind of right about one thing: around now, six months in, I am still getting used to some of the less comfortable aspects of being a woman in public.

How I dress / present is a huge factor, but while I'm getting used to it, one of my original ideas about the timing proved true: it's winter, which means when I'm too uncomfortable or anxious to cope with the bullshit that comes so often from presenting particularly femme in public... I can hide.

It's a luxury I have. It makes me feel shit wearing a baggy top and even presenting kinda masc, but on some days it's so stressful just imagining being on a crowded train or wandering through the city that I choose to take the shitness of potential dysphoria.

I hate those days, and I feel like I've failed... but they're an option I have.

The other day, our I-can-wear-really-kick-arse-jackets kind of winter briefly subsided with a yawn, spitting out a 24 degree day. Warm enough that while I was out in public I really, really couldn't deal with wearing a jacket.

So that came off and I was a t-shirt. A tight one, because I love how they feel. But it still meant more looks than usual, guys staring at my top and various other things that were just enough to raise my level of discomfort throughout the afternoon.

Today it was raining and the temperature bottomed out again, but it still sticks in my head.

In six months, it'll be summer, I'll be a year into HRT, and if six months is anything to go by I'll be looking even more feminine.

This is good, of course, but there is still this building dread in me that for several months I will be presenting in a way that should be comfortable for me (and is, in theory) during months where layers are potentially problematic.

Where I can't hide my body, and I'm going to wander around with that gnawing fear that I might get either horrible sexual comments at best or transphobic comments at worst.

It's not like this is some once-off, either.

I live in Australia. I'm going to have to deal with this like most women do.

But it'll be the first time for me, and it's actually kinda scary, even six months out, to contemplate.

It really amazes me how many times I've heard men refer to women dressing in specific kinds of clothing as 'attention-seeking'.

Like low-cut tops the like.

It's a bit insane because I don't think much thought went into it. Ignoring the sexism and assumption that our bodies are for public consumption generally, there are simple facts about women's clothing & undergarments that you have to factor in.

For many women, it can be impractical or flat out uncomfortable - even painful - to not wear a bra. It is for me right now not due to my size, but due to hormonal soreness.

The result is I tend to wear padded bras. Anything else and it's too easy to hurt myself. It needs to be tight, but not too tight, and with enough padding to stop bumps or mis-judging the distance to a fridge door or a corner from leaving me wincing or cursing.

I don't do it for attention, although certainly in the right company I do enjoy how they make me look.

But even if it's not padded, in hot weather bras are still another layer.

It's sweaty and hot.

So low-cut tops, or sleeve-less tops with room to breathe in the side? Jesus hell, that slight breeze can make a huge difference to how comfortable it is in hot weather.

So, yeah, guys? Just because a woman is wearing a low-cut top doesn't mean she's looking for attention. At. Fucking. All.

It was bad enough in the few warm-ish days we've had so far.

I am not looking forward to summer.

The second one will be easier, I'm sure. And the third. And the fourth.

But right now I just have to work up to Summer #1 as a woman.

(And don't even get me started on swimwear.)

I've found that hormone therapy has had distinct stages. I'm not going to go over some of the early psychological ones, but in this case focus on the way I began to feel and what my concerns and fears were, leading up to where I'm at now.

Early on, changes were exciting. How could they not be? Even just feeling things, like sore breasts and realising "oh my god, they're growing!". That was really something - a great feeling.

My face feminising was tougher to pick, but friends who weren't seeing me every day certainly did. "Your face is softer," they said, and it made me feel amazing.

Then came the huge weight loss and re-distribution. And at that point - the point where I needed to wear a bra of some sort every day, I began to feel closer to 'right'. Like my body was finally mine, not something unpleasant my mind was shackled to.

But with that realisation that I look quite feminine came the beginning of insecurities about it. At first, every change was amazing... but then gnawing fears like "What if I don't change enough? What if this is it?" arrived.

Even as I became really very comfortable with my new body, I kept noticing parts of me that didn't seem 'feminine enough'. Forcing myself to get over having broader shoulders. Trying to focus on angles that made me face look more feminine than masculine. Playing with makeup.

Then about a month ago I noticed that my hips were starting to curve a bit. I nervously took out several form-hugging dresses I'd bought months ago, tried and given up on due to my still-too-masculine form.

But this time they fit, and looked good on me, I thought. A great feeling!

But the further along I go into HRT, and the more feminine I look, the more I find myself affected by micro-pressures and fears. My shoulders. My face. My breasts. Instead of just being excited that I look feminine at ALL (and not being mis-gendered all the time) I began to fixate on all the parts of me that didn't quite look the way I wanted them to look.

Finding I'd be wistfully staring at gorgeous friends of mine, or total strangers, wishing I looked more like them.

It's not healthy, and it's not good. I went from being incredibly happy to dwelling on small details. Nurturing a fear of being 'too masculine', and it's a concern I've spoken to lots of other trans women about.

Having to remind myself how lucky I am - how effective HRT has been. That microscoping on minutia was not a good idea, and I should instead be just focusing on how my body makes me feel now.

Of course, it's easier said than done. It's hard to shake 30 years odd of feeling that your body is masculine, and that's terrible. I don't want to keep telling myself, "things could be worse, stop being unhappy", too. That's equally unhealthy. So I knew I need to face these concerns and find a way to work through them usefully.

Then I moved house.

It's several days at the new place, and the major difference is this:


Tons of them. My room has a built-in wardrobe that dominates the space, and I can see myself in the light more clearly now. In a lot of ways it's helped.

I can still feel stubble on my face sometimes if I don't shave every few days, but I can now stare in the mirror and prove to myself that it's very light hair and simply not visible in all but a few cases. I can carefully shave those bits off and feel comfortable.

I can, whenever I get a moment of slight dysphoria, stand up and stare at myself in the mirror. That may sound a bit narcissistic, but when you're dealing with the insane body issues I'm still coping with, it's to me just a good way to remind myself, "No, THIS is your body now. Stop thinking you're in a body you aren't. That's gone. Love who you are now."

But there's another side-effect. Due to the positioning of my desk, glancing to my right I can see something I have almost never seen before: my new profile.

Staring into a mirror or taking a selfie gives specific angles.

But out of the corner of my eye now, I see my legs, my bust and just generally a very literal side of myself I haven't seen yet.

When I see that, it's hard to dwell on fears of being too masculine. I'm clearly bloody well not.

I have hips and breasts. I have curves.

This is incredibly clear to me. I can't wear most of my old male clothing. I've had to get rid of most of it, or use it as weird baggy at-home-clothes.

Accepting this consciously, I began to think more about what was causing my subconscious fears or what specific attributes were triggering these moments of dysphoria.

It's two-fold:

The features I have that I perceive as being 'too masculine' are really not. Many of my cis woman friends have broad shoulders like mine - they've given me tons of tips for drawing attention away from them. Same with any number of other features. But for me, with years of built in concern and dysphoria, it's hard not to see all of these are insurmountable flaws, when they really aren't. They're just me, and on balance they're not a problem. (Just tell my subconscious that.)

No, it's not that they're too masculine per se... it's that they look too much like me. The old me. Pre-transition me. Any features that look like old photos of me trigger me feeling uncomfortable.

I know I had a very feminine face even years ago - I know because, ironically, I was self-conscious about it. I was so scared of accepting my gender dissonance that I grew a beard and did whatever I could to NOT look feminine.

Now it's the reverse, and I just need to remember that.

I need to remember to glance in the mirror sideways occasionally, catch my profile for a moment and just remember I am quite beautiful, and unique. I'm not a perfect airbrushed cis woman model, and I won't ever be, and that doesn't matter.

I am a female version of the person I was before, and that means that as much as I'd like it to be otherwise, part of my old body is still here.

I am fixating on things that remind me of my old self, and not all of those are bad.

When I began to transition, I found myself talking to a lot more people about the politics and realities of gender, as well as about the process and reality of transitioning.

I was always cautious about making broad, sweeping statements about 'being trans', for the simple reason that while I have extensive experience with gender dysphoria and gender dissonance, my experience as a trans woman is at this point relatively limited.

As Julia Serano put it so succinctly in Whipping Girl, "...the perspectives of [trans people] who are in the process of actively managing their physical transitions (and other people's reactions to those changes) tend to differ greatly from those who have already been living in their identified sex for a number of years."

So while I have tried to blog and privately diarise this experience, I am also very conscious that my experiences right now are very different to trans women much further along than myself. I'm wary of sounding like I'm suddenly hugely knowledgeable about everything to do with this when I'm a relative baby. Reading a lot, talking a lot and living just six months doesn't make me an instant expert, and I fully realise that.

Which is, I suppose, a preamble to me discussing something fairly complex and hard to make entirely 'personal'. I often prefix things with the caveat that I am not trying to speak for all trans people, or even all trans women. The same is obviously true here, but it's still going to be a slightly difficult subject and I'm sure many other trans people will disagree with me.

It's about the relationship between cis and trans women. (I could make it broader and be about the relationship between cis and trans men too, or trans non-binary people and other... well... you get the idea, I hope. I want to keep this as much about my own experiences and feelings as possible.)

It's something I had thought about peripherally since I first accepted that I have gender dissonance, but something which I didn't have the understanding or experience to vocalise or really understand.

What I knew early on was that, almost to my complete surprise, my cis woman friends were universally supportive, warm and instantly accepting of my gender identity. In a lot of ways, in many of my friendships it was like a wall dropped that I'd never realised was there.

Of course, at a certain point I became aware of, well... TERFs. I heard an argument that I found pretty jaw-dropping: that trans women (who many of these pseudo-feminists refuse to accept as 'real' women) were regarded as 'the ultimate expression of men dominating women - by becoming one themselves'.

I actually laughed when I first read that. It seemed so absurd. I spoke to a few feminist friends about it - intersectional feminists who were far better read than myself on a broad range of subjects.

To my surprise, one friend told me (paraphrasing), "Actually. I think I kind of understand that. I don't agree with it, but I understand how that feeling could come to you." Even though she didn't agree with this statement, it still gave me a lot of things to consider in the following weeks.

I began to think more about how sudden the switch to publicly identifying and presenting as a woman was. About what that meant, and how it could affect cis women I knew.

As I spoke to different cis friends of mine, I began to realise that, being sensitive and caring people, they were quite aware that being mis-gendered, or having anyone even hint that you somehow aren't a "real" man or woman as a result of being trans can be hugely unpleasant and damaging for trans people. So they would never, ever do anything to make me feel that. Not even for a moment.

And yet this left an elephant in the room: that the simple fact is my experience is not 100% perfectly the same as that of most any cis woman. Of course, no two experiences are identical anyway - be the comparison between two cis people or two trans people.

When I began to discuss these differences openly with friends, I began to realise that I wanted to vocalise and even pen something of a clear explanation of how I see my experiences so far.

In a sense, this is I guess as close to a 'manifesto' as I can get - at least at this early point in my transition.

I am a trans woman.

I began transitioning as an adult.

This means my experiences until recently were based upon the world treating me as a cis male, with all the privileges (and issues, too) that this entails. However, my experiences internally were, I realise now, not quite those of a cis male, as my own reactions to things to my life, my body and the way I was treated were very, very different to those of a comfortable cis male.

My experiences now are shifting further and further over time into the spectrum of dealing with the social issues that being a woman in our culture entails. As much as I am happier and more comfortable now, I increasingly have to deal with cat-calling and other behaviour that is rarely directed at men - and certainly not a gross systemic level.

I have the privilege of finding that I already 'pass' as a cis woman quite easily, despite being only six months into hormone therapy (at least, I can - it takes some effort). This means that instead of the litany of transphobic abuse I found fairly early on, I more frequently get reacted to without the perception that I am trans.

As a result of this, I am torn between feelings of disgust, fear and relief when I get cat-called: in my head, I often think at least he didn't shout out transphobic abuse at me.

I mention all this to provide some explanation and juxtaposition to my next point: I do not want to ever deny being trans.

This doesn't mean that every moment some stranger genders me correctly or fails to abuse or threaten me for being trans isn't a relief. It just means that when I am in discussions about my experiences, to pretend that I am a cis woman seems, to me, to be both incredibly disrespectful of the experiences unique to being a cis woman, and disrespectful of the experiences unique to being a trans woman.

There are overlaps between my experiences and those of many, many others. People who also experienced being raised as a male child. People who also experience gender dysphoria. People who transition. People who experience the world reacting to them as a woman. But to deny some parts of my experience and not others is something I am simply not comfortable doing, even if I would much, much rather than many parts of my life experience had been different.

The very last thing I would ever want is to deny what experiences I have had, or belittle the experiences of others. Because even though I am beginning to see life socially as a woman more and more, there are still inherent differences between my experiences and those of my cis friends.

Some seem more obvious: I will never, ever have to deal with menstruation and will not ever be able to carry my own child in the womb I don't have.

Some are more subtle. I may have found my upbringing uncomfortable an unpleasant much of the time due to my gender dysphoria, but I still never had many of the experiences common to young cis girls. I was never explicitly told I couldn't do something because of my gender. Systemic sexism predominantly worked in my favour. (I say predominantly because the punishment of 'feminine' behaviours in those our culture perceives as male did affect me in a hugely negative way, as it does many, many other people who have spent any time with the world perceiving them as male.)

I am also thankful for many of the experiences I have had. As unpleasant as huge amounts of being a trans person can be, I am lucky enough to get through most of it happy enough to be able to appreciate the perspective this has given me on the world.

Not many people get to experience what I have - and this is why I am writing about and discussing my experiences as honestly as I can. I may have been deeply unhappy most of the time dealing with enormously frequent and unpleasant bouts of gender dysphoria, but that doesn't change the fact that I got to see fifteen odd years of the world treating me as an adult, cis/het male.

So, to cis friends of mine, I want to say: I won't presume to fully understand your experiences. I don't know what life as a cis person is really like, man or woman. I may have thought I did for a long time during my 'deep denial' stage, but I realise now I simply didn't. I have never known life without gender dysphoria.

And to trans friends of mine: I won't pretend to fully know or understand the nuances of your experiences, either. There are probably a lot of overlaps, and a lot we can discuss and bond over, but the complexities of gender dissonance and even people generally mean that our lives are still very much unique. I won't try to speak for 'us', nor judge you for your choices, feelings or presentation.

I understand how complex all of this can be.

The very last thing I want is to make anyone, cis or trans, feel uncomfortable or like their lives, choices and experiences are ignored or without value.

I have never liked rom-coms much. I mean, beyond that most are pretty sexist, riddled with cliches and made without much care or craftsmanship in the filmmaking or scripting... they just never quite worked. I also often got quite annoyed at romance subplots in movies, even fairly believable, well-executed ones.

I often told myself that it was because it felt contrived. Saving the world by doing something scientifically impossible? Sure. But meeting the partner of your dreams at the same time? Naaah. No chance.

This had begun to shift. Six months or so ago, I watched a few rom-coms, for no real reason. Just happenstance. None were very good. The laughter moments worked, but I was stuck noticing more than usual just how much the women were trophies for the men, and how uninvested I was in their relationship - even if I really liked the characters and the actors playing them.

This year, I've watched more and more shows and movies that involve queer romance. Specifically seeking out lesbian romance stories, or shows that show enough diversity that a lesbian romance isn't outside the realms of possibility.

Last night, after nine episodes of "will they, won't they", two of my favourite characters in a TV show I was enjoying finally got onto each other. Both women were awesome, and them getting together made me incredibly happy. Despite the slightly cheesy nature of the show, how believable, slow and relatable development of their feelings for each other were was very impressive.

I'd been waiting for this, as someone had strongly implied for me that it'd happen. But despite this, the moment they kissed for the first time, I fist-pumped, screamed yes loudly, and leapt from my couch so fast I fell straight on my arse with a nasty, painful thud.

I sat there, nursing my bruise and being slightly amused at my clumsiness (fun story: when your body changes as much as mine has in just 4-5 months, it can take some getting used to) it hit me:

I am really invested in these characters. I wanted them to get together and be happy. I got excited when they did the Hollywood-version of that, complete with roll-credits happily-ever-after stuff. I had been in most of the lesbian relationships I was seeing. On a very deep level they are relatable to me.

I've kind of avoided self-identifying in relation to my sexuality for a bunch of complicated reasons I'm not ready to talk about here yet, but the more I realise how different my attachment is to lesbian couples in media compared to even good, well-written het relationships, the more it makes sense.

It's not like I made a big secret of the fact that I am attracted to women - I was just cautious not to make assumptions about myself, given the degree of self-deception I'd shown myself capable of.

But the more I interact with lesbian friends and more media I consume that depicts healthy relationships between women of all sorts, the more I realise... holy fucking shit am I gay.

I read something recently, a short description of the lot of the experiences and feelings that a fellow trans woman remembered having as a young kid. Things that eventually lead to her realisation about her gender dissonance and eventual transition.

A lot of the things she spoke about were familiar to me. One or two weren't. A handful of my own experiences which she either didn't have, didn't talk about or didn't remember popped into my head. So, I decided I'd focus for a single post on a lot of my earlier (and not so earlier) experiences with gender dissonance / dysphoria.

As has become increasingly obvious to me over the past six months of talking to far more trans people than before, not everyone who identifies as trans has anything close to the same experience.

These are mine - things which always used to either confuse me, make me ashamed, or something similar. Things which suddenly made perfect sense the moment I accepted that I was trans.

In no order except what comes to my mind...

  • When I was little, a common compliment for girls was "pretty", and "smart", for boys. Years later, of course, I realised what a shit form of sexist priming that is. But back then, I was just upset that I "couldn't" be pretty, too. But I was even more embarrassed that I felt that way. Why didn't I get to wear dresses like my girl friends?
  • When I had to use the toilet at school or somewhere else with gendered facilities, I would get deeply uncomfortable. Scared, even. I remember once, at my worst, I was so horrified of going into the boy's toilets that I held it in for three hours, eventually running all the way home to use a toilet there.
  • An extension of this would happen when we were broken up at school into boys' and girls' groups, for any reason. I couldn't shake this feeling that I was in trouble, or would be, if they "found out". I didn't think in terms of being "found out", but it's the best way I can describe it. In short: I felt out of place when I was grouped with boys, and when it happened (say, for sport) I could never shake this fear that someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and scold me for being in the wrong place.
  • On the subject of sport, I was encouraged by my parents to do a wide variety of sports and hobbies. I (however briefly) played soccer, did gymnastics, sung the Australian Youth Choir, played piano and played guitar. Then there were the huge number of random sports we were made to play at primary (and then high) school. I hated sports. Not so much because I wasn't interested in physical stuff (I loved climbing, being strong, riding BMX bikes for hours after school, etc) but because most sports I did were gendered. And that feeling? The "I'm in the wrong place" feeling? That never went away, and so I was never at ease. Gymnastics was one of the few sports where girls and boys were in the same rough groups - and as a result, I was much more comfortable doing that than any other sports.
  • When we began to hit puberty, life became an even less subtle form of hell. I hated what was happening to my body. Everything felt wrong. I'd look at girls becoming curvier and prettier, while I was becoming "hairier and uglier", in my mind. Soon the disgust at my body got so bad that the idea of being naked or even not-fully-covered in front of people absolutely took over. Just going out in shorts during summer was usually more than I could manage. And my voice? It felt foreign, once it got deeper.
  • As my female friends hit puberty, something else happened: girls and boys treated each other differently. I still had girl friends who were awesome, but I was suddenly aware of being treated differently by most of them, at least some of the time. I was a boy, and they were girls. So sometimes there'd be jokes about boy germs, or jokes about kissing me. Conversations would halt when I turned up, because they were talking about Girl Things. (And oh god how I wished I had girl-germs - which, amusingly, was what the oestrogen gel I had to take for several months during HRT got nick-named by my housemates.)
  • As my male friends hit puberty, there'd be the inverse of this. Conversations about girls in a way that I found uncomfortable. Even if they weren't saying things that I found gross or demeaning, I still had this feeling I shouldn't be hearing this. Once again, like I was in the wrong place. That any minute now one of them would say, "Wait, what're they doing here?"
  • Conversations about kissing or sex were where things got very confusing for me. Because I wanted to kiss girls. I knew that. I'd daydream about it, even before I finally did. But on some level it still felt... wrong. Hearing about sex in the very bland, cis/het normalised way that you tend to be at school seemed weird. "I have to do THAT?" I couldn't get past the uncomfortable combination of wanting to sleep with girls, but finding almost every part of what I was told sex 'was' bizarre and uncomfortable to hear about. Note: it's this problem (knowing I was attracted to women but not being even close to comfortable with actually having sex with them), that caused me the most problems for many years. It didn't make sense, and caused huge confusion for me regarding my sexuality. I wasn't gay, but if I wasn't gay, then why...?
  • Quite young, I remember several times putting on girls' clothes when nobody was around to find me. When I realised that my fantasies about being with girls suddenly "worked" in this context, I got deeply ashamed, confused and began to hide how I felt. For years I thought I had some kind of fetish. Even when I began to explore the idea that maybe - just maybe - I was trans, I still saw the fact that I found wearing women's clothing "sexy" as some kind of sign against it. What I didn't realise was that it wasn't wearing women's clothing per se that I found attractive - it's just that without it, or at least imagining I was a girl, I couldn't escape my own body and couldn't find myself comfortable enough to be excited.
  • For years I had a fixation with pregnancy - the ultimate expression, in my mind, of femininity. Again, I put it down to a fetish that I became - yep, you guessed it - deeply ashamed of. Later on, when the internet became a big part of my life, I found that unlike many pregnancy fetishists, I didn't want to sleep with or idealise or even really sexualise pregnant women... I just liked the idea of being one. I also realised that it wasn't anything specific about being pregnant... it was just that this was a female experience that I realised I could never have.
  • It was this that drew me to erotica. I had been exposed to porn as a teenager, of course, but it always seemed wrong. A guy and a girl, in a plasticky, contrived situation? Blech. And the guy... oh god no. The moment a guy was involved, I had no ability to enjoy it at all. (It'd take me many, many years to find ANY porn that did much for me, as most porn seems to be very male-centric, so even lesbian porn often seemed contrived or a fantasy show for men.) But erotica... it was different. As long as it was written (and written well), descriptions of love, lust and sex from a female perspective did it for me. (I justified only really liking erotica from a female perspective any number of ways, but mostly because "guys all love lesbians, right?". I mean, my friends love lesbian porn, right? This is just that... but written.) I even wrote quite a few of my own over the years.
  • Even well into my late twenties (in fact, I still got this often right up until I started HRT and went public) my fear of being 'found out' any time my gender was a factor in what I was doing kept up. But as an adult, this happened in different contexts. At a bar and having to use the men's room? I had to psyche myself up. Sometimes, if I was in a bad place or feeling unconfident, I couldn't manage it. I remember a few instances of deciding I'd just make an excuse and leave early, rather than brave a particularly busy or gross men's room.
  • I could never use a urinal without feeling that I was doing something 'wrong'. I eventually trained myself to do it without feeling too weird on my own in a private bathroom, but in a public bathroom I just couldn't do it. Even at age thirty, I couldn't. I'd sheepishly find a stall, even if it meant waiting for one.
  • I generally used to wear what were generally fairly androgynous clothing choices. Things that, had I been in a different body back then, could have worked as a kind of tomboy look. Whenever I was force to wear what I thought of as 'hyper-masculine' things - tuxedos, suits & ties, for instance (but even things like polo shirts felt faaaar too uncomfortable for me to wear) I felt very, very discordant. This made formal things such as weddings tough. Extremely tough.
  • Partly due to my (what then seemed strange) feelings of discomfort being gendered as male, I found it harder to make male friends than female friends. Much harder. However, just why this was the case took a while for me to parse. And I think the reason is this: most of the time, women treated me like... a person. Few women I'd meet would seemingly treat me too differently to how I saw them treating their female friends, or other women they'd just met. (Note: I later found out this often wasn't quite true, once women REALLY started treating me as another woman... but back then I still found interactions with women easier.) But men... so often, I felt like I was being caught in some kind of weird game. Ways of greeting men as a man yourself felt awkward. Shaking hands felt strange. If they spoke about women, I got very uncomfortable. Even if they didn't... that feeling came back. "Getting caught". Like I had a dirty secret and that if I kept having to talk to this man-I-just-met, he'd figure it out eventually.
  • As a result of this, I taught myself "how to talk about women like men do". At times, during my early twenties, this meant I'd say some pretty sexist, gross things. Because I'd trained myself How To Be A Man. I played up masculine mannerisms based on watching men behave. I deepened my voice an octave or two to seem more masculine (to lessen the fear of being 'found out').
  • I hated small-talk with men. Small-talk usually revolved round sport or other things that held little interest for me. By contrast, now, small-talk with people I barely know often revolves around clothing or makeup - two things that I actually do find interesting, and am quite happy to discuss at length, if the other woman also finds it interesting.
  • When I discovered that there were video games where I could play as a girl, I was amazed, and I often played them for many hoiurs, even if the game itself wasn't very good. Ultima VII, as I've written before, was a huge deal for me, and future RPGs where you could create custom characters in any way were hugely important to me. I even remember learning that in one of Leisure Suit Larry games you could play as a girl - Passionate Patti! The fact that due to copy protection and puzzle-toughness issues I never got far enough to play as her really bothered me.
  • For a long during my '20s I fixated on fiction that focused on unpacking or dissecting masculinity, either intentionally or not. Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk were clear front-runners. I found that I had such difficulty "being a man", that these kinds of stories helped. Both to make me feel better about being a "freak", and so I could figure out more about how I was "supposed" to feel and act.
  • In a similar way, I often found war stories fascinating. Not so much because the horrors of war were interesting to me, but most stories revolved round groups of young men interacting with each other - and interacting with men was always tough for me, so on some level these kinds of stories acted a bit like a 'primer' on male interaction... if only as a guide to rather shit behaviours to avoid. These kinds of stories don't interest me so much any more.
  • At no point did I ever "think I was a woman". Not consciously. How could I? Every moment of every day I was confronted with the physical fact of having a male body. But despite saying this, sometimes I'd find my subconscious would override what I knew on some level. Without thinking about it, I'd find myself having to stop and consider carefully when confronted with two toilets. "Wait, which one do I go into again?" Once or twice a year I'd even accidentally walk into - or almost walk into - the women's, despite knowing full well I was supposed to be a man.
  • When I was about 18, I wrote a novel. It took many years, and it had a male protagonist. He was a total prick. Thing is, he was never the character I cared about. Even though it was told from his perspective (and his perspective existed as a way for me to make sense of the horrible misogyny and power-games I saw amongst some of my extended social circles back then) it was one of the girls in the story that I really cared about. In fact, she was in a sense a variation of this character...
  • When I was in my mid-teens, I began to fantasise about a girl who didn't exist. In my mind she lived next-door. She liked similar things to me. Computers. Bike-riding. Playing games. She had long, beautiful hair, but was a bit of a tom-boy. When we were younger, she'd tie it in pig-tails if we were riding bikes. As we got older, it'd just be a pony tail or a braid. She wore pants and t-shirts mostly, and would often want to do stupid things like go out late at night for whatever mischief was going on in the neighbourhood. She didn't really seem to like boys (I'd later on realise I made her a lesbian, without knowing what that meant or why), but she liked me despite this. She was confident, happy, smart and funny in complete contrast to what I saw myself as. I remembered a name which I was was told was a front-runner for if I'd been born female: Elissa. (At least, that's the name I remember being told, though nobody remembers the conversation now.) It took me many, many years to realise that this fantasy girl who I would day-dream about even into my twenties wasn't the girl I wanted to be going out with - it was the girl I wanted to be.