Week 163 – Queer girl – part 2

(Continued from Queer Girl, Part 1)

We cut through the bar to get to the restaurant. Holding the side door open for her, I could smell stale grease and smoke hanging in the air. The bar was roadhouse style. Dim lighting hung from the ceiling in large metal fixtures and tall booths of black Naugahide with black Formica tables ringed the wall. A pool table with red felt stood in the middle of the room. The requisite Budweiser light hung above it. A CD jukebox played Aerosmith.

Above the long wooden bar, a Rainier red R neon sign was flanked by Olympia and Henry Weinhard’s mirrors. Bud, Bud Light, Rainier, and Olympia were on tap.

The patronage was thin at the early hour. Middle-aged barflies in blue jeans, jackets, and ball caps sat at the bar nursing schooners filled with pale beer. The booth tables contained a loose scattering of couples nursing cigarettes, bottles, mixed drinks, and fried food served in red plastic baskets with black and white checkered paper.

I followed Hailey across the floor towards the restaurant section, her boots clicking on the hardwood floor, appreciating her walk and curves while wondering what I had done to deserve being her date. Halfway across the room, the usual bar chatter fell silent as guy after guy at the bar swung around to stare at her with glittering, hungry eyes.

A quick sweep of the room showed that even the men with their girlfriends or wives were staring with the same look, while their companions scowled hot daggers. The room suddenly felt claustrophobic as leering, predatory faces with toothy grins mentally undressed and fucked my date on the pool table, over the bar, in a booth, and wherever else their minds took them. Hailey seemed unperturbed and if she noticed, she didn’t show it.

If I was a guy, I suspect I probably would have felt like the cock of the walk and strutted appropriately. I wasn’t, so I almost had a panic attack and my feet felt like clumsy cinderblocks.

Latent sexual malice filled the air like an arcing electric current from man to man and I felt afraid. The room felt claustrophobic as the leering faces seemed to morph into predatory, toothy grins. I feared some invisible switch would be thrown to set off a chain reaction, and my mind whirled and my heart hammered in an attempt to formulate some sort of response other than fleeing.

A guy would have probably put his arm around her to clearly signal that she was his, but I wasn’t, so Hailey turned to take my hand with a big smile and pulled me along behind her and out of danger. Passing through the baffled doorway into the restaurant, raucous laughter swelled behind us.

It was a moment I’ve returned to several times. How did she so easily ignore the un-ignorable? Why did I feel so lost in that moment and not know what to do? It was another piece of the puzzle of figuring myself out.

The first question was answered last but faster when I began my own tentative steps out as myself a few years ago and learned first-hand the feminine art of watchfully ignoring the male gaze and comments. It’s self-protection and self-preservation against a man’s world hostile to women.

The second question I wrestled with for years. I used to tell myself it was because I wasn’t a very good at being a guy because I didn’t understand the signaling well. Throughout my life I had been coached on how to ‘be a gentleman’ but no one had ever covered how to be protective of your date. It’s apparently such a fundamental behavior, it wasn’t considered worth remarking upon.

The truth is that I wasn’t a guy, so of course I was terrible at. Hailey’s behavior again lit the way: get the hell out of there as fast as possible with a smile on your face to hide any fear.

If she showed any concern at my lack of gallantry, she didn’t let on. Conversation over dinner was nervous first date talk about family, weather, and the current events of 1990.

Halfway through our second beers I realized she was flirting with me. Between sips of beer and through lidded, smoky eyes she said, “I think you’re really cute.”

I stammered out a thank you while realizing she had probably been flirting with me all through dinner, but I was missing the signals so she decided to be more direct. I returned the compliment and after a bit of back and forth she suggested we shoot some pool in the bar.

This struck fear into my heart. Head back into dangerous territory? But how could I say no? I couldn’t and didn’t. After paying and being fortified with beer I followed her back into the bar.

There were more people now and the tenor and makeup of the room had shifted to more of a younger, louder, after-work crowd. This was a relief to me. There was safety in numbers and diversity.

I racked the balls and Hailey leaned over with a smile to break, providing me a direct view down into her ample cleavage. I swooned with triangle hanging in my hand. The crack of balls clattering in their scattering brought me back.

We played a couple of games and she asked for my help a few times. Being the dumb bunny I am, it took me a while to realize was maneuvering me to touch her.

A few men tried to insert themselves into our game and each time she’d sidle up to me and sweetly blow them off. I was content to let her handle this, because I had no idea how to get rid of them.

After being pounded on by her with the cluehammer for most of the night, one entered my head. I asked if she wanted to come back to my place in Seattle. She agreed.

I shared a rental house with my best friend and his girlfriend. It was your typical small, Seattle box house built in the 30’s. By the 90’s and after years of being a rental, it was a beat-up shack with a chain-link fence and gate in the front yard. A long-unpruned apple tree graced the back yard next to a rusting garden shed. A wild tangle of white grape vines grew on the side next to the car port.

On North 87th street up the block from Aurora Avenue, a tavern was on the corner, street walkers strutted up and down cruising for dates, and gunshots were a regular occurrence in the summer from the tavern or the motel a block north. The neighbor across the street had his Jetta broken into twice, both times to steal the front seats.

The night we moved in we watched a large cocaine or heroin deal go down on the sidewalk out front by a guy on a moped and called the cops. They never came. If she was concerned about where I lived she didn’t show it as I parked in the car port.

My room was in the basement and we entered through the ground entry in the back to avoid the kitchen by the front door and my roommates. The state of the kitchen often ranged from untidy to health hazard and there was a 50/50 chance my roommates would be arguing.

We kissed standing in my room and the smell of her intoxicated me. Her soft body felt lovely to hold. My excitement was rising. And per usual, I was lost as to what I should do next. Squeeze her butt some more? Rub her breasts? Start to undress her? Undress myself?

Sensing my uncertainty, she pushed me back and shyly pulled her dress off. Taking the hint, I started to undress. She looked slightly embarrassed at being seen in the shapewear she wore under he dress and, if anything, this made her more attractive to me. I would have killed to have her body. Feeling more certain of the next steps I led her to the bed and we began the final steps of the dance we started when she had beckoned me to her table.

The entire act was unremarkable except for the fact that while we both seemed to want each other, we were wildly out of sync. She offered zero guidance and little feedback as I blundered about trying to prolong things.

I’d ask a question like, ‘Here?’ or ‘How’s that?’ and receive not much more than a shrug. There were awkward pauses as she looked at me like she was expecting me to do something and then looks of confusion when I didn’t do whatever it was she was expecting that she didn’t ask for. This was and remained a common motif in my life for many years when it came to dating and sex.

In my first relationships hormones drove passions on both parts and mistakes were a part of figuring things out and easily forgiven. My second serious partner claimed throughout our relationship she never had an orgasm, and I look back and laugh at what was either my naïveté at a blatant lie on her part to get me to try ever harder or our shared naïveté at being unable to recognize her orgasm.

The rituals of courtship were still slippery things for me to grasp up until a little over a year ago. I’ve been on a few dates post-transition and they’ve been…easier. There’s an ease I never felt before in just talking and getting to know the other person.

The navigation of these encounters has been smoother because instead of being a woman pretending to be a man for a woman who’s expecting me to act like a man, I’m a woman for a woman who expects a woman.

It shouldn’t surprise me because I’m more comfortable with myself, but it still does. It’s been another one of those pleasant post-transition surprises. The energy is just different in a more relaxed way.

And what of Hailey?

After our awkward sex we went to sleep and I drove her home in the morning. On the way there she asked if I wanted to get high and while I’m not opposed to it, I don’t drive intoxicated. She looked at me strangely and proceed to light a joint. We fell to talking and she told me her parents moved to Washington to get her away from her friends, who they had deemed a bad influence.

She also said she went to visit them once a month as part of her job.

‘Job?’

‘Yeah, I take the train down to California to visit with them overnight and then bring a suitcase full of pot back up with me that I hand off to some other friends up here.’

‘Oh.’

Dating a drug mule whose friends were probably in a biker gang didn’t fit into my life plans so I dropped her off and didn’t look back.

Posted in coming out, gender transition, LGBT, personal history, relationships, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Week 162 – The wedding

Saturday I attended a wedding in Portland for a friend I’ve known for almost twenty-five years. He and his bride, his parents, his kids, and some people who I’d only known online for over a decade but met for the first time there knew I was trans. It was a small wedding, so I’m reasonably certain most people there knew I was trans. This was the first wedding I’ve attended since my transition.

Other than the groom misgendering me after a few drinks, my correcting him, and him apologizing later, me being trans was a non-issue. I got to wear a pretty dress with some high heels and even gave a brief toast to the couple over a microphone.

In the hours before the event, I was anxious. Doubts began to cloud my thoughts. Could I really pull off this dress? Am I just faking it? What if someone says something rude? Am I going to topple off my heels? Why did I agree to come to this and make a spectacle of myself?

Silly thoughts, all of them, but such is the leech of dysphoria. It feeds silently on doubt until you can’t but help noticing its engorged body. You hesitate to pull it off out of fear you’ll rip off skin with it.

I took a deep breath before I left my hotel room, wrapped in my scarf and clutching my clutch. ‘I can do this. I can do this. I can do this,’ I told myself.

I did. And I had a good time.

The leech only came to feed briefly when I saw the young nieces of the bride, with their up-dos and pretty flowers in their hair, and when I had to walk across the empty dance floor to the bathroom. In the former, it was from wistfulness about a youth I never had. In the latter, it was about having a body that doesn’t move the way I’d like because my hips are the way they are.

After the wedding I changed and went out for drinks with one of the groom’s sons and a couple of those people I’d never met before. We were just people out having drinks after a wedding. Nothing more, nothing less.

Which is exactly where I want to be right now.

Posted in coming out, friends, personal history, transition, transgender, gender transition, LGBT | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Permission to transition

As I struggled with the decision to transition, I looked for someone, anyone, to give me permission to transition.

I wanted my wife to give me permission. I wanted my doctor to give me permission. I wanted my counselor to give me permission. I wanted my friends to give me permission. I wanted the trans people I communicated with on the Internet to give me permission. I wanted medical science to have a test to prove I was trans and give me the permission I desperately sought. I wanted the facts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt transition was the thing I needed to do to feel whole and the permission it would have given me.

How much easier it would have been!

Instead, I shirked responsibility for myself and attempted to offload it onto the people around me. It was a form of dissociative mania that gripped me. It was a desire to look away from the truth of myself and not have to take responsibility for myself. I was the person trimming hedges with a lawnmower who slipped and cut my arm off and then complained the label never said to do that.

In the end, my abdication of responsibility made things worse. One of the most truthful things my ex ever said to me was, “You’re not owning this and it’s making our lives hell,” as I again sought her permission to do what I knew I’d eventually do way back when I was fourteen.

It was as if I’d asked, “Excuse me, I’ve had this lifelong dream that has left me emotionally crippled because I haven’t been able to pursue it. Is it okay if I do it now?”

What madness!

When I owned it, when I gave myself permission, a switch flipped. My ex was still not happy about the whole thing but she no longer spat daggers at me all the time. I felt calmer. I had a plan and a future instead of the foggy, pink cloud high I was chasing with ever diminishing returns.

If it helps, I give you permission to transition. But it’s not mine to give.

Posted in coming out, gender transition, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A visit with my mom

My mom’s had a cough for a while and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her, so I took her out to lunch. As part of catching her up on my news, I told her I had updated my birth certificate and she got a confused look on her face.

“Why did you do that?”

“Um, it’s not my name or gender anymore.”

“But you weren’t born that way.”

Sitting in the restaurant’s bar while she was asking me to speak up every third sentence wasn’t the time or place to tackle the nuance or explain the whole epistemology of the physicality of being trans to her again. Especially since I didn’t want the ladies at the next table to hear my trans life story. So, I swallowed my annoyance.

“It’s important to have my ID match.”

“But you already have your passport and driver’s license. I don’t understand why you need to change your birth certificate.”

Sensing this was her way of saying she missed her son, I backed out of the minefield.

“It’s important to me. How’s the cough?”

“Worse.”

The topic drifted to politics, and how I have loose plans to maybe leave the country if things get really weird. I mentioned South America as one potential destination.

“How about Brazil? Do you know if they’re tolerant there?”

I seized on the teachable moment.

“Well…from what little I know, some are very tolerant and others aren’t. Earlier this week a Brazilian trans woman was videoed being pulled out of her house and beaten to death, so it’s a mixed bag. Here in the United States there have been eight or so murders of trans women since the start of the year.

“We’re murdered at a very high rate compared to our population, with trans women of color bearing the brunt of it.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say. I pressed on.

“So, I worry much less than some, but I stay vigilant all the time.”

She changed the subject.

We finished lunch and walked back the three blocks to her place, stopping four times so she could catch her breath. During one of the breaks, I brought up the birth certificate again.

“Does it bother you I changed my birth certificate?”

She looked surprised and cornered, “No, no, no. I just don’t get why you felt you needed to do that.”

“It’s so I don’t get inadvertently outed and discriminated against.”

She stopped to catch her breath. “Outed? What does that mean?”

This surprised me. For some reason, I assumed she knew what it meant.

“It’s when someone I know discloses I’m trans without my permission. I don’t always pass, which means to blend in, and when I’m outed, I’m treated differently.”

“Oh.” She looked somewhat uncomfortable.

“People become cooler to me and it can lead to some really awkward moments or worse if they know I’m trans but I don’t know they know.”

By the look on her face, she’d outed me. Maybe many times. It was not a conversation I wanted to have in an alley.

“Anyway, having my birth certificate line up with my other ID means I worry less.”

“Let’s go.” She waved forward. She must have caught her breath. It was also a convenient way to change the subject.

Back at her place, I helped her boyfriend figure out some sort of cleaning wand he had bought her. As he handed it to me to examine, he deadnamed me, then immediately corrected himself. A minute later my mom referred to me as he, and as I was correcting her, she corrected herself, knowing she’d screwed up.

Not for the first time, I considered having the talk with her about how it’s been almost a year since social transition and two and a half since I came out to her again. It’d be a gentle talk. I know she’s trying.

“I need to go lie down.”

“I understand.”

Right on cue. Another day then.

I wished her well, told her to go see the doctor again, and that I loved her as I gave her a hug.

© Heather Coldstream

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A letter to Heather Coldstream, age 14

Dear Heather,

Yesterday you had a life-changing insight and I know it scared the shit out of you. You are not losing your mind. Yes, you are a transsexual. In 2017 we mostly call ourselves transgender or trans for short. People who aren’t trans are called cis, short for cisgender. Trans and cis are chemical terms for opposite and next to. Don’t get hung up on the labels.

You’re probably wondering who the hell I am, why I addressed you as Heather, and why I’m writing to you. That is your name now; I am you in 2017. It is my deepest hope that you will listen to your heart and to me and set aside your fear. With effort, it is possible to live as a woman. You should as soon as possible. The process is called transition. You need to get from who you are to being Heather.

Let’s start with the basics. To keep it simple, you were born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. Yes, that dream we had when we were five where our head was swapped onto a girl’s body? Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

Raised as a boy, your young, plastic brain took in a bunch of socialization cues for how you were supposed to behave. This explains the almost-persistent discomfort of feeling like you don’t fit in when you’re around most boys and why even though you know the rules of the game, you constantly get stomped.

I still hate some of your bullies. It might make you feel better to know that the worst of them are living lives of quiet suburban desperation and haven’t taken care of themselves physically. One has had a liver transplant because he burned it out with drugs and alcohol.

The good news about the bullies is they are almost done calling you pussy, faggot, queer, punching you in the shoulder, and shoving you roughly into lockers. Their abuse in high school will be more sophisticated, mostly annoying, and rarely physical, so the worst is almost past. But don’t waste your time thinking about them. Focus on you.

Transitioning as soon as you can will save you from the years I lived with guilt, confusion, shame, and emotional pain as deep as the ocean some days. It won’t solve other things that make your life hard, but it will free up significant mental and emotional space in your life.

Transition won’t be easy. From 1982’s vantage point, you already know queer people don’t have it easy. When I transitioned in 2016 things were easier, but it still wasn’t easy. Even so, I’d trade those thirty-four years in a heartbeat for your harder transition.

Failed relationships, opportunities missed, and feeling like I was the most confused person on earth filled many of those years. I lost so much time to wishing, pining, aching, dreaming, and imagining instead of doing. Take however long you think you’re going to live right now and add thirty-four to it. That’s where I’m at now, except instead I reduced my lifespan by thirty-four years. It’s sobering. Start transition today.

Here’s the plan: you lay the groundwork for transition over the next few years, and when you go to college you enroll as a young woman. This sidesteps trying to transition in high school and will deliver you into an environment where hardly anyone will know you used to live as a boy. You then try to live the rest of your life happily ever after.

Today, more kids like you are transitioning in grade school with the support of their families and friends. They’re very lucky. Your school and family in 1982 will not be as supportive.

Step one is stopping your male puberty and starting a female one. Start taking estrogen. Some trans girls need a testosterone blocker. I haven’t needed one so far. Hopefully you’re just as lucky. In any event, you need to monitor the levels of estrogen and testosterone in your blood and adjust dosages accordingly.

The estrogen will make you grow boobs, keep your skin soft, change your body odor, and mellow out your mood. Boobs are great, except when they’re getting in the way. They get in the way because they ache when growing and it’ll take you a few painful bumps to realize where they are in front of you.

You can safely take estrogen at full dose and experience all the physical changes with few people noticing. The 80’s are all about tight, preppy clothing or punk. Go punk. Wear big baggy, black t-shirts and if you want to get way ahead of a 90’s trend, wear an oversized flannel shirt on top. Under the t-shirt, wear a binder. It’s a compressive garment designed to squish down your boobs.

The hormones are important because if you wait, more of your beard will come in. Let me tell you, removing a beard through electrolysis is a long, painful, and very expensive proposition. Every facial hair you prevent from sprouting is one to five minutes of your life you won’t spend on a table with an electrical probe in your face.

We have lasers now that zap a whole bunch at once. They don’t work on light hairs. You have many light hairs. Depending on how much has come in, you might be able to get away with tweezing. You might not.

If you can get a prescription for estrogen, do. Try Planned Parenthood. They dispense it for birth control. If they won’t prescribe you, ask a cisgender female to buy it for you. You know a couple who might help.

Clothes are going to be the same. I didn’t buy my own women’s clothing for the first time until 1995, but your girlfriends will buy some for you. Focus on buying basic things from thrift stores at first to save your money. You need to get a feel for sizing and cut, and hormones will change the shape of your body and your style will change. Much of what you buy early on will need to be donated in a couple of years.

Yes, the frilly underthings are fun. They are also overpriced and wildly impractical. Save your money for something you simply can’t pass up. Lean towards cotton prints instead. Buy bras whose bands fit comfortably. Do not buy a bra that is too small, even if it makes your boobs look fantastic, otherwise you might almost pass out in a movie theater someday. Just saying.

You will need a purse and some makeup. Same drill. Find a girlfriend to help. Wash your face before you go to bed every night.

Shoes are going to be a pain to find due to the size of your foot. Thrift stores and Nordstrom, maybe?

Grow your hair out. It’s punk and you’ll be well-poised for the late 80’s when you don’t have to hide behind punk any more. Once your hair is longer and the hormones have done some magic, you will be happily amazed at what you look like in women’s clothes.

Get your ears pierced. Go nuts on jewelry. Silver looks good on you.

There’s a gender support group in Seattle. Find it and go. Talk to other people who are trans. Learn from them and teach what you have learned to others. Go as Heather to start building your confidence in being yourself. Women’s bathrooms are only scary if you feel like you don’t belong there. You belong there. Don’t be weird about it.

You need to be careful as a trans woman, but don’t live in fear. There are people who would hurt you just for being you. Be aware at all times.

When you turn eighteen, you can legally petition to change your name. You will have to go to court and stand up in the front of the courtroom and talk to the judge. It’s kinda scary, but you will look like Heather after three years of estrogen, so roll with it.

If you can, get your driver’s license as Heather. Enroll in college as Heather and get your student identification. Having at least one correct ID is super-important. You may or may not be able to change your driver’s license or birth certificate. Ask trans people who have transitioned if they have and how they did it.

Your friends and family will have a hard time with your transition. You’re lucky though, most of your best friends are still yet to come. Anyone who doesn’t stick with you through this is someone you don’t want to be around anyway. Listen to and support your girlfriends. They will be your lifeline when you need one.

Your job opportunities as a woman will be more limited than a man’s and the expectations are different. Welcome to another exciting part of womanhood. Instead, buy Microsoft stock when it goes public and keep buying until 1995. Sell some shares when you have transition expenses. Sell it all on December 31, 1999 and buy Apple. Sell Apple on May 29, 2015 and retire. Maybe move to New Zealand? The United States in 2017 is…weird.

Transitioning is hard, but it’s also easy in a way, and it’s really, really worth it. You’ll wonder how you ever lived as a boy.

Trust me on this, you.

Love,
Heather

Posted in clothing, coming out, community, family, friends, gender transition, hair, hair removal, HRT, mental health, personal history, safety, self-acceptance, transgender, transition, work | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Week 161 – Changing my HRT regimen

One of the things being trans has forced me to do is experiment with my body to become more comfortable with it. These experiments have ranged from the innocuous, like wearing different clothes and growing my hair out at different times in my life, to the more risky modification of my hormonal balance to drive physical changes. I’m about to try another experiment with injectable estrogen to see how I respond.

Risk is relative, and since there have been no longitudinal studies on the effects of estrogenic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in trans women, we are forced to rely on studies with cis women and extrapolate. The known risks (I list some here), can of course be exacerbated based on genetics, lifestyle, and pre-existing conditions.

This is a great point to pause and point out that while there are some great HRT information resources on the Internet and a bazillion personal stories from credible trans women about how HRT affected them, you should talk to a doctor about your personal risk profile and how HRT dosages and formulations could impact it. Some of the risks are life-threatening and you don’t want to mess around with HRT without knowing your baseline hormone levels and having your blood work checked on a regular basis to ensure everything is staying in the safe zone.

I’m lucky. For the time being, I have health insurance to help cover the costs and a fantastic regular doctor who listens and works with me on this. I know that many don’t have the same options or availability of care that I do. For those that don’t, Planned Parenthood sounds like they are now supporting HRT and larger cities often have clinics with sliding scales. The U.S. sucks this way.

So far, I’ve had a total of three and a half years on sublingual oral estrogen (I let the tablets dissolve under my tongue), and for the past two years, my doctor has been nudging me towards injectable every now and then to reduce the processing load on my liver. So far, other than an unexplained spike in estrogen about eight months in and my free testosterone creeping back up, I’m lucky in that my body has responded well and I’m mostly satisfied with my physical development.

What I would like is to have boobs proportionally sized to my chest, a slightly bigger butt, and wider hips. While I’m at the outside of the typical range for full breast development (usually 2-3 years), there might still be some time for me to have more fat deposition (maybe another year and a half), in those other places. It’s also not impossible that I might get a minor chest bump. With those possibilities on top of my doctor’s nudges, I’m going to overcome my fear of needles and give injectable estrogen a shot and see how the experiment plays out.

Posted in gender transition, health, healthcare, HRT, personal history, transgender, transition | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Born again

My amended birth certificate arrived in the mail on Saturday, and it made me the happiest I’ve felt on this gender journey so far. It’s really something to see “Sex FEMALE” on the certificate, and I’ve been peeking at it a couple times a day just to savor it.

Being able to look at my birth certificate with my real name and the correct gender marker is nothing short of exhilarating. Everything I’ve been through the past few years feels distilled down into a sense of indescribable achievement.

This was the last government identification I’ve been waiting on to have updated. Last year after changing my name, I updated my Social Security card, my voter registration, my driver’s license, and my passport.

Unless some bureaucrat goes digging in my files to look for the paper trail, as far as the government is concerned, [deadname] the guy doesn’t exist any more. No more will I have to suffer the indignity of paperwork not agreeing with reality.

I am Heather, born female. I have been reborn.

©Heather Coldstream


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