I have a confession to make. Not all is as well and easy as I’ve made it out to be in what I’ve written on this blog so far. I’ve talked some about what I struggle with as a trans woman, but I think I’ve left a rosier picture than my reality would dictate. So, in the interest of being fiercely vulnerable, I want to share more about the difficult thoughts and emotions that eat at me daily.
It pains me deeply that I will never be able to have a truly female body. I can feminize the male body that I’ve been given, but it will never meet the standards I’ve set for the ideal form I desire. I have a hard time dealing with this. Yesterday, I ended up in a dark place after being triggered by a video of another trans woman who just celebrated the 1-year anniversary of starting her transition. Videos like this—more of a slideshow made from still images and set to music—are common among trans people. They’re posted on Youtube as a way of documenting the changes they’ve experienced over time. A lot of the time they’re also offered with the intention of illustrating to other trans people what’s possible, a supportive example of what can happen if you have the courage to pursue your truth. I know that it can be empowering for those on both sides of the camera.
I’ve watched a lot of these videos over the past 5-6 years. It doesn’t seem to get any easier for me. Sometimes it even kind of feels like an addiction. In this recent video, as with many of them, the trans woman shown is able to morph herself into a stunningly beautiful and passable female with flawless and creative makeup, and a wealth of cute fashionable outfits (as seen through my eyes). By passable, I mean that it’s hard to discern that she ever experienced the effects of male hormones on her body, and if you met her, you’d never know that she’s transgender, if she didn’t tell you. In other words, she is capable of going stealth.
I don’t believe that will ever be me. She started with a body that was already slim and not overly muscularly defined, with a full thick head of hair and features that were already pretty feminine. For the most part, I don’t have those same advantages, and I believe I will always be visibly recognizable as a trans person. I have a bigger thicker frame made masculine not only by testosterone and genetics, but also by the years I spent as an athlete, playing football and basketball, and lifting weights to bulk up. It can only be transformed so far, and it doesn’t fit into most of the cute clothes and shoes that I would love to adorn it with. Additionally, my hairline has been receding for the better part of two decades. I could go on about the inadequacies I see limiting my ability to ever have the female body I desire, but I should probably stop there. You get the idea.
Watching her video brought up an array of complicated emotions for me. On the one hand, I feel happy for her. It’s wonderful that she’s been able to follow her path to authenticity, and to look good while doing it. However, I also feel envious and depressed because I so badly want what she has. Then, I swing to feeling how much I want to be able to accept what I do have and what’s possible to change within my means. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the strength and balance I need to achieve this, yet. I get down on myself for not being able to cope better after all this time because I’ve felt this my whole life. Although, I also recognize that moving forward with transition is helping mitigate these feelings somewhat, and I need to cut myself some slack because it’s only been 14 months since I’ve rerouted to this course. For now, I feel sad and unstable. Watching that video, I felt a familiar sensation creeping in as I filled with what I can only describe as an electric-like charge of anxiety and frustration, compounded by a deep depression.
My reaction yesterday was unexpected, but I realize now that it shouldn’t have been. In the difficult years prior to getting the wake up call I needed to transition, I would sometimes stay up late at night watching similar videos, and the same thing would happen. I would get knocked out of whack for a while as I wrestled with the longing and frustration that would resurface with a vengeance. I knew it wasn’t really good for me, but I would find myself doing it anyway. I think it did finally provide me with a little of the push I needed to go for it, but overall it would put me in a bad place.
While I’m happier and more myself now, the underlying difficulty of not being in a fully female body, or able to at least be passable while trans, still exists with the same intensity it always has. Previously, in my mid-twenties, I decided that I wasn’t going to transition. Multiple factors influenced this decision. One of the strongest was a belief that while transition would make me happier in some ways, it wouldn’t be fully satisfying because of the limitations presented by my inability to ever pass. Therefore, I’d just be trading one set of things that made me unhappy/happy for a different and equal set of things that made me happy/unhappy. Recently, while feeling down, I remembered this and reflected on it. At this point, I believe that the good things that have come from my transition have far outweighed any negative aspects, even though those also still have some significant weight to them. I also see that, in reality, the biggest point of strife I’m dealing with now is what I’ve described here, and it’s really not any different than it was before. It’s just more inescapable now since I’m living out and proud as my true self. Looking in the mirror everyday, I don’t see the woman I want to see looking back at me. It’s an unavoidable experience when I’m living it everyday and no longer pushing these feelings below the surface where I used to be able to bury them for some periods of time—however short those spans would sometimes be—and when I haven’t yet developed an ability to quiet the critical voice inside that knows how to push these buttons, and does so relentlessly at times.
Yesterday, the best I could do was to find a safe place to cry at work and reach out to my partner for support. Going forward, I want to work on building the strength I need to silence my inner critic, and to enable a level of acceptance of “what is” within myself, so that I can overcome these devastating episodes. I’d already spoken to my partner about my desire to focus on this issue last week when I told her that I realize I need to stop making derogatory comments about my weight. I don’t know what ever led me to believe that calling myself a “fat ass” would help motivate me to get back to healthier eating and exercise habits, but I’ve been abusing myself like this for a while, and it’s clear that it isn’t serving me well. I recognize that I need to quell all of my negative self-talk, if I want to find health and balance. My wise and wonderful partner has pointed out that I need to be more aware of my triggers, and more vigilant at protecting myself from them, especially at times when I’m already feeling emotionally overwhelmed, as has been the case lately. Having a clearer understanding of the effects that Youtube transition videos can have on me creates a new awareness that I need to be very careful about if, and when, I watch them. I intend to remain conscious of this and other triggers that can stimulate the negative voices and emotions.
I want to be clear that I know that everything I’m expressing here is about me, not about the people in any of these videos. They haven’t done anything wrong, and in fact are doing at least one huge thing right in seeking to actualize their true selves. After work yesterday, I read the blog belonging to the woman in the video. Reading her words and finding out about the aspects of being trans that she struggles with helped to humanize her in my mind, and made a necessary connection in my heart. I have a lot of empathy for her. We’re facing a lot of the same challenges. I can look at images of her and fantasize that being pretty and passable makes her life easier than mine, but I need to remember that it’s not a contest. It’s not fair to myself, to her, or anyone else, to make comparisons between my life and theirs, and we each have our own hardships to overcome.