The Social Side Of Transitioning: Reflections On Coming Out As A Transgender Woman

 

I call this look, “Corporate Casual Goth.”

So after a PAINFULLY long hiatus as I dealt with moving to a new apartment, fighting with the former landlady, and living without regular and reliable internet access, I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of things. and it’s a good thing too; I was going stir crazy beating myself up about not making regular posts and making myself feel incredibly guilty over circumstances I had no control over.

But over the extended break from The Archive and in-between the packing, I was able to reflect on my new life as an out and proud transgender woman. And I came to a sudden realization; everybody talks about the PHYSICAL changes that people go through, but it feels like almost no one discusses the SOCIOLOGICAL changes one faces.

Now, obviously, there’s a good reason for that; physical changes can be quantified and measured and patterns often emerge that we can build accurate predictions off of. Social changes depend on, not only the individual’s personality but also the environment they were raised in, the environment they currently occupy, and the general attitudes of the public as they change and develop over time. Basically, Sociology and Psychology are “soft sciences” and much more difficult to predict and discuss.

That said, I CAN give my own personal reflections on the transition in the hopes that it will spark a conversation where others share their experiences and someone will find something relatable to their situation.

Now to give context to my experience, I feel I should let you know a few things. First, I’m 33 years old, so I’m starting the transition much later than most these days. Second, I’ve only been on HRT for 6 weeks, so I’m still relatively early on in my physical transition. And third, I live in southern New Hampshire and the state is a bit divided on LGBTQ+ issues. The stereotype is that the north(i.e. Cow-Hampshire) is nothing but cattle farmers and covered bridges (so very little context for or interest in LGBTQ+) and the south (i.e. New Massachusetts) is nothing but Malls and Drag Queens (so more interest in LGBTQ+, but not always proportional understanding).

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about my observations. For example…

Cisgender women are significantly more friendly to me

I have honestly lost count of how many times I’ve been out in public and a random woman has stopped me to compliment me on my clothing, marvel at my long legs, or offer and trade advice on how to do hair and eyeliner. It honestly makes me feel really good to know that so many total strangers are willing to be so neighborly.

It almost feels as if, trans or otherwise, women simply feel more comfortable in the presence of other women. It’s a feeling that I can relate to even BEFORE I came out. (NOTE: this is not too bad mouth my guy friends; you are awesome too).

It’s not a universal thing, obviously; I still catch the occasional cock eyebrow from a random woman from time to time. But the ratio between the two extremes is so vast as to be jaw-dropping.

On the other end of the spectrum…

Cisgender MEN are significantly LESS friendly to me

Again, this is not a universal truth; my male friends since before coming out have been extremely kind and helpful to me as I transition. However, in terms of total strangers, it seems that nearly everyone comes off with an air of indifference towards me or complete distrust – looking at me just long enough to cast a judgemental eye and go back to their business.

Now, I can’t say for sure what those penetrating stares are all about (3 seconds isn’t a lot of time to psychoanalyze a person), but I can’t help but feel like they feel betrayed when they see me. As their gaze says, “What’s wrong, are we not good enough for you?” And as someone who cares quite a bit (perhaps too much) about other people’s feelings, that sort of thing can eat me alive from the inside out.

But enough about interacting with strangers, let’s talk about closer interpersonal relationships.

It’s easy to forget that coming out affects others – not just me

I don’t always recognize the judging glances when I go out to dinner with friends or what passers-by are thinking while I’m sitting in the park with my dad having a heart-to-heart. I’ve spent so much time – over 30 years – worrying about what other people think, I just don’t care anymore.

Of course, therein lies the problem. I want to start focusing on making myself happy for a change before it’s too late, but doing so means leaving the people I care about to reconcile the aftermath I leave behind. Thankfully, most of the people in my life have been more than understanding in that regard and know that I need to start showing a little self-love. That said, it’s not an easy thought to handle and I frequently guilt trip myself about it.

 

Cisgender people get misgendered too

Not to mention any names, but I do have some older ladies in my life that have struggled with misgendering. They’ve lost the figure they had in youth, stress has caused hair to thin, and I have to imagine that it hurts just as much for them to be called, “Sir,” by a cashier as it does me.

That said, it does help me deal with it a bit better. Sometimes, honest mistakes happen and no one means any harm. Just politely remind them and try to move one if they start getting indignant.

Of course, if you’re the sort of person that KNOWS better than to call me a man and you still do to insult me or because you’re too ashamed to call me a woman around your friends, I’m going to be judging the s*** out of you for the rest of your natural life.

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