One of our MHB faithful wrote a piece called “Why Not Passing Ruins My Day,” and I thought it deserved a larger audience. – Helen
When we talk around TG issues, we are very careful.
We phrase things such that we do our best to respect and support one another. I am, in general, an enormous fan of this.
Unfortunately, it’s possible for that very politeness to mask out feelings we have, or to make us less willing to bring them up and feel legitimate doing so.
So I’m going to drop that pretense, and describe what this is like from inside my own head as clearly as I can. This is how I feel about what is going on with me, and may or may not have any real match-up with reality. It is, however, how this whole thing feels to me.
I begin at the beginning.
I am a woman.
I am not “expressing myself as a woman”. I am not “presenting as a woman.” I am a woman.
Nobody else sees a woman when they look at me, for the most part.
It was worse when I was a girl. Not only did nobody see me as a girl, but a lot of effort was put into making sure I was being a proper boy. It was quite clear to me that I wasn’t a boy, but everybody else insisted. I knew that I was supposed to be a boy, so I did everything I could to do what I was told.
I drove myself half-mad, over the years, trying to convince myself that I was a boy, against my own perception of the facts. I tried to be interested in sports. I tried to date girls.
I succeeded at convincing most people that I was a geek boy, although I never managed to convince myself, really. Which is why it became such a problem.
I don’t try living as a man anymore. I live as a transsexual. That is, a man who is largely perceived to be mad, and who is generally recognized as attempting to live as a woman. This is not the same as being a woman, but it’s better than being a guy.
I may be seen as a guy in a dress, but at least I get to wear a dress.
One of the reasons it’s better to live this way than as a man is that I get brief windows into what it would be like if everybody just agreed with me that, yes, I am a woman. These windows are called “passing”.
If I am passing, and someone “clocks” me, well, it’s a grounding of a particularly painful sort. You see, there’s only two ways I am made aware of the fact that I’m not a woman. If I’m made aware of some component of my own anatomy (ie, facial hair, voice, plumbing) or if someone else points it out. Otherwise, I’m fairly oblivious. I am a woman, as far as my ability to discern and categorize myself is concerned.
I’m not necessarily aware that I’m anything other than a woman unless some idiot says, “Damn! It’s a Man!” or something of the sort, at which point I’m buried by the avalanche of an entire lifetime of bitter frustration.
Luckily, I’ve learned to cope with this a bit. It generally doesn’t result in days or weeks of navel gazing and depression. No, it’s now down to a few hours or an afternoon.
People don’t really understand why this is hard to get over. I mean, nobody gets what they want in life. So why should I expect to? In many ways, I suppose they’re right.
The problem I have is that I have found no way of successfully reprogramming my brain about this stuff. As far as it’s concerned, I am a woman. It’s not a question of not getting what I want, it’s a question of something I’m sure I already have not being there — kind of like when you go for your keys and they’re missing. You were certain they were there, and now they aren’t — where could they have gone. Someone saying, “No you aren’t a woman” always comes with that kind of cognitive dissonance — “I was certain that vagina was there a moment ago, but now it’s a penis.” Empirically, I have learned that “they” are right. But emotionally it has never sunk in. I still wake up every morning a woman, and have to readjust to the fact that there’s a penis down there for some reason.
I have to readjust, every damn day, to the fact that I’m a woman who is balding, has a deep voice, and has a penis. Thankfully, my breasts are no longer missing. Still, it only gets so easy to do this. It always seems a bit off. Why would I have a penis? Are you sure it’s really there? Yes, yes it is. Why? I dunno. Can we get rid of it? Well, yes. Whew! Okay, so how do we ditch it? Um, well, it’ll take a few months/years/decades…
Once I manage to get over that little early-morning hurdle, I can ignore for the most part the fact that reality doesn’t match up with what my brain keeps insisting on. Except for every time I get a weird look, or I have to pee. Or some idiot says, “Damn! It’s a Man!” When one of those things happens, it’s painfully obvious, again, and I have to readjust, again.
Some days I’m just better at that than others.
It would still be nice to move from being a transsexual to being a woman, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m trying to be as pragmatic about all this as possible, and as respectful of others point of view — ie, that I’m not a woman — as I can. If I’m a transsexual and people are polite, well, it’s better than being a guy, and I do get to wear a dress. And every once in awhile, I pass, and I get to be normal for a brief window of time — the world and my brain in harmony with one another. I try to enjoy it while it lasts.
It’s always over soon. And it will never last the way it’s supposed to.