Learning to be yourself and to ignore the parameters set by the world around you.
*Today marks the one year anniversary of my coming out, so this piece is befitting that anniversary*
The entire purpose of Transition is to become who you truly are, be it emotionally, physically, visually- in whatever way feels right to YOU. But for those of us who came into this world in the body of a boy, grew up in that role, and especially those of us who transitioned after puberty or well into adulthood- there is a long and evolving road to overcoming that programming instilled in us despite how we feel about ourselves.
No matter what, this process does not make us any more or less valid than one another. You don’t have to grow up being flamboyantly effeminate in order to be able to say “well, yeah I guess the signs were always there”. Many Trans women, including myself, had a vast array of feminine traits in our childhood but forcibly tried to suppress or snuff them out as we got older because we felt that we had to be who the world expected us to be. We often lived with this fear on a daily basis, ever mindful that someone might be able to see through to who we are before we can fully accept that ourselves. In my case, there was a long evolution that took me from fearful and guarded to out and proud.
When I first was able to be honest with myself about who I was, I was still fearful about being visible or allowing myself to be vulnerable. For a long time, I had been trapped in a mindset of:
- I have to be/look tough
- I have to be emotionally rock-solid
- I have to act like a man
- I have to dress like a man
- I have to speak like a man
- I have to do “guy things”
- I have to be masculine
What do all of those points share? The words “have to”. I was so stuck in what I perceived that I had to do in order to maintain the status quo in my social life, family life, employment life, and even in order to be respected by random strangers in everyday life. Anything that deviated from that had to be hidden, locked away, or was simply off limits.
Although I know that the coming-out process can be a very long and arduous one for many, with some even being on HRT for several years before being able to be themselves in public, for me when I came out to my parents, regardless of their initial negative reaction, it removed one of the largest hurdles- in fact the one that I had feared the most for my entire life- that it made the others seem immensely smaller and potentially possible to overcome. Especially when I started hormone therapy days later and I began to feel the sense of calm and inner peace that comes with the realization that things are increasingly as they should be.
As time went on, that fear of being who I was outwardly largely melted away, regardless of my ability to pass 100% of the time or not. I am still self conscious at times, but the change from where I started is night and day. I attribute this to a paradigm shift that allowed things associated with “being female” to NOT be off-limits (I’m a girl, after all, so why would they be!) as they were before (I was never truly a guy but it sure as hell felt that I had to be because that was what I grew up with and was all that I knew for a long time) and, because practice makes perfect (supposedly), the ability to see being my true self as the new normal. Instead of sheepishly stepping out my door, scared to death of being seen or spotted by someone I knew- I walk out confidently, purse in hand, dolled up as much or as little as I want to be without any sense of feeling apologetic to the world whatsoever.
So lets take a look at my previous list and see where we are:
- I can be soft and cute, but it is still ok to look tough or to be strong
- I can be vulnerable and cry but am also more emotionally healthier.
- I can act however I want to, which is very classically female by default .
- I can dress how I want to (I love cute tops, shoes, pull overs and dresses)
- I can speak in a way that is true to myself (Usually quite soft spoken and ranges from androgynous to female from the perspective of traditional vocal characteristics)
- I can do any activity either women OR men could do.
- I am feminine because it feels right.
This puts to light what Transition truly is- aside from all the hormone treatments, hair removal sessions, potential surgeries (which can still be extremely important, dare I say crucial. for many of us including myself)- it is the ability to cast aside fear of deviating from the gender role in which we were assigned and allowing ourselves to live and exist in whatever place on the vast spectrum that we feel is true and right for each of us. Some who may identify as gender fluid or non-binary may not take as many steps as someone who switches from a binary male to a binary female or vice-versa, but when we take those steps to be true to ourselves it is a transition just as valid as any other.
Fear can be and often is crippling, restrictive, and subduing, but when we are able to say “enough is enough” and systematically work our ways over each of the hurdles that contribute to that collective fear, then we can know a true freedom greater than we have ever felt in our lives. Despite the tendency for these hurdles to vary widely for each of us, no two journeys are the same. But being able to be honest with yourself about who you are is the first step, and when you are able to embrace and love yourself for it, the inner strength that comes with it can be called upon to help bring down the other barriers that stand in your way. In my case and from what I have heard from many others, once the first steps were taken it was like a floodgate had been opened and it washed every bit of the old, unhappy, untrue-to-myself me (save for a few elements of testosterone poisoning that will still need work to fix) away.
I want to encourage anyone who is feeling this fear that they have to fit inside a neat little box of whatever society has seemingly dictated based on assigned gender to dig deep and ask themselves why they feel this way and if they feel that they are truly alive? Are you living for yourself or others? Are you letting fear control how you portray yourself to the world or are you allowing yourself to shine in an authentic manner that feels right? This type of thinking can open more doors than you can imagine!
If you are interested in my story, you can follow me on Instagram under the user “avidlyallie”. I have taken the approach of leaving my entire pre-transition life up to the present visible. If you look back a ways, one can see every back and forth, up and down, subtle hint as I came to understand and admit who I was and take my first steps down the path to my current journey of self discovery.