A Selected Reading from “True Trans Soul Rebel”
What follows is a post from Fiction Editor Maxine Vande Vaarst’s new gender transition blog, “True Trans Soul Rebel: A Transgender Girl’s Diary of a Very Scary, Fun Time.”
Max would like to encourage the whole wonderful Buffalo Almanack family to follow her big, crazy, exciting adventure toward womanhood online at www.truetranssoulrebel.com!
“Waiting for Girl Mode”
HRT DAY 13 | FEBRUARY 19, 2015
That’s a tragically strained play on words, you guys. But think it about for a minute. Can it really be a coincidence that “Estragon” is only two letters removed from everybody’s favorite gonadotropic chemical substance? What exactly were you getting at there, Sam Beckett?
There’s this thing they don’t tell you about transgender self-acceptance. Well, scratch that. They actually don’t tell you anything about transgender self-acceptance, because everybody in this culture is assumed comfortable with their birth-assigned sex until stated otherwise, and everybody who states otherwise is assumed a head case or fruit loop. But if they did tell you anything about transgender self-acceptance, they’d probably still skip this part: Loving yourself makes things harder.
It really shouldn’t be that way. One would imagine that, after years of self-doubt and confusion, of private fantasy and public shame, of misgendered expression and gender repression, that a-ha! moment must feel like a holy intervention. It must feel as though the iron bars of forced masculinity have been stripped bare, as though you were, for all of your life before this moment, a prisoner both ignorant of your own imprisonment, and worse, unaware that you had been locked away with a shovel, a pick-axe, a Rita Hayworth poster, one of those big welding machines and the warden’s keychain for good measure. And in some ways it does. I remember the night I first developed the courage to apply the transgender label to my own situation. I stayed up reading other girls’ stories online and sobbing through my happiness until the battery on my MacBook died. The gate had been lifted. All of my questions, my odd history, my discomfort with my body and my hatred of self had been explained.
But then I realized: I still wasn’t free. And where once I faced fuzzy, ambiguous questions, I was now suddenly pressed into answering some seriously real, seriously urgent problems.
Did I want to transition? I knew almost on instinct that I did. But was I strong and certain enough to go through with it? No clue. Would my then-fiancée continue to love and support me, even as a woman? Would my parents? My friends? My professors and graduate school cohort? Would I face social discrimination? Would I even be able to pass as female, or was I setting myself up for five decades floundering through life as a stereotypical “tranny,” looking like a drag queen who showed up at the wrong party? How would I start and when would I start and was I starting too late and what oh what does it even mean to ‘start?’
Please don’t misunderstand me. I encourage every person currently questioning their gender identity to pursue their own vision of fulfillment. If you feel your ideal form of identification is transgender, or genderqueer, or non-binary, or two-spirit or whatever it might be, embrace that. There is no happiness in lying to yourself, but please recognize what I am saying. We pursue our truths not because they are easy but because, like Rice playing Texas, putting a man on the moon and JFK at a birthday party, they are hard.
In recognizing the misalignment present between my body and my mind, I opened the door for the sort of near-constant dysphoria and brutalizing triggers that had previously plagued me as a teenager, but had lain mostly dormant during my years of adult delusion. The time between acceptance and HRT was the most difficult by far. I often felt trapped in my body in a way I hadn’t even a month prior. I became hyper-sensitive to the gendered order of our world. The way men and women sit, the way they speak, the way they carry their weight and comport themselves became of overwhelming significance to me. Cute girls no longer became passing strangers, or even sexual subjects to satisfy my gaze (hey, come on now, we all do it), but an ineluctable reminder of my own gross deformity. Check it out, Maxine! Look at this thing you want more than anything else. 50% of the population got it for free! At birth! And they don’t even realize how lucky they are! They don’t even think it makes them special.
I came to feel as though possession of a male body were a universally recognized symbol of failure. I came to feel as though everyone were judging me, as though everybody knew how sick I was. That I was born sick and still months removed from my cure.
It was all irrational and totally crazypants, and I know that, but all the same. In accepting my personal truth, I had unwittingly brought an enormous, all-consuming frustration to bear. And even now, even as the hormones perform their slogging miracle, their slow blood magic, I still suffer from the waiting bug. I still worry for my future. I still battle those same darn questions. I even panic every now and then when I look down and still witness that same nasty old male body, flat and white as printer paper, and think, Are these pills working? Am I not taking them right? Could it be that my pharmacist is a secret transphobe and prescribed me sugar pills (gasp!).
I don’t know. I am not a patient woman. For as much hand-wringing as there is within the trans community about gatekeepers and bad clinics, I remain incredibly appreciative that the first step of transition so often involves seeing a therapist. Most of them are good and helpful people. I spoke with mine yesterday afternoon and she is so, so amazing. This is a long, lonely process. Sometimes you move an inch forward and feel like you’ve stumbled five feet back. The waiting is all and the waiting is everything. Nothing is to be done.