actually stepping out the door is extremely nerve-racking
It has taken me many many years to accept that I am transgender as well.
Saoirse
32

Walking across campus in a dress and I was hyperventilating

Transsexing Is the Goal

I remember this like it was yesterday. The very, very, first time I was serious about it I was with a cis girl who helped me look okay. She lived near campus and we walked across the university and past the fraternities on a Saturday night with college “frat” guys everywhere, I had the mixed horror (this was the 1960s) of passing as a coed, but guys were suddenly feeling totally free to make wolfish comments. Girls put up with that!? Well I never!

Later I went out in daylight and solo, a whole other thing and I was too frightened to speak. I was almost hyperventilating. I went to a “safe” place — a museum and the like.

The first time I was on campus in the daytime and actually had to speak and my first words I ever uttered in public, “I’d like a cup of black coffee please.” And the guy brought me the coffee and didn’t grab and ax and leap over the counter. In fact what surprised me was he showed no emotion whatever.

The hormones helped immensely but there were hours of voice practice with a coach and electrolysis, but as a student I was androgynous (non-binary?) and still had a boy’s name and though I got called fag by guys in passing cars, it was okay because I wasn’t really trying, right? If I’m not really trying, I’m not really failing, right?

But graduation was coming and I had to look for a job and corporate recruiters were swarming campus and push now came to shove. I had to interview en femme. And on the advice of some people in the know, I did not bring up that I was TS. That had nothing to do with how well I could do my job. Don’t ask, don’t tell. They didn’t ask and I didn’t tell. And I got a lot of rejections until I got hired by a big Silicon Valley company that two guys started in a garage and I got no funny looks or anything. I was in and the rest is history.

But that in-between stage was the toughest. I could write a memoire of it, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times . . .” kind of a catchy opening, don’t you think? Horror and ecstasy. Triumph and failure. Setbacks and progress. And the bottom line was, “You have to get serious if you are seriously going to do this.” This was no drag show. This was being a 20-something college grad working in a serious job in a serious company as one of the 5% of females who were in a highly technical company, all of whom had technical degrees up the wazoo.

And then came SRS and HR did not get involved. I had to deal with insurance directly and my therapist was on the phone and he convinced Blue Cross Blue Shield that this surgery was medically necessary and apart from a 10% deductible, they paid it all.

And once I had the surgery, everything changed. The hormones now really took. And with that ugly thing gone, I relaxed. The stress of it was far more than I could ever have imaged — more than I let myself realize. How deeply I had suppressed my anxiety. It was how I had coped and only after I had “my happy place” did I understand the psychological cost I had been paying. My confidence went through the roof. I could be on a date and if the guy got fresh and made a grab, he’d find the same stuff as on any other cis girl — not that I’d like it but that does happen to cis and trans girls because that’s how at least some men are some of the time. And not to get all political, but most of the trans girls that get killed on dates have not had their bottom work. It doesn’t make you bulletproof, but I’ve never had anyone, man or woman, complain about what they found. Also having your OB-GYN tell you that you look “normal” helps. The labiaplasty helps. But the main thing was going to work where I had a closed narrative took the fear away.

The folks who say gender is performance have a point, sorta kinda, and I think I grok how they mean it. People who have transsexed have incredibly nuanced insights on what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and sometimes their take can come off almost flippant. However, the insights are profound in their own way. But I am taking us off track in order to get to the final point.

For others to take me seriously, I first had to take myself seriously. To be treated as female, I had to vibe female, 24/7, and attend to a lot of details and make a lot of biological changes and shift my thinking and self concept and accept a lot of limitations that all females face in navigating a patriarchal world and while I wish it weren’t so sexist, it is how this place runs.

And why am I not surprised? It came through loud and clear the day way back when when I walked across campus dressed as a co-ed in the 1960s. Welcome to the women’s world.