Autumn Interview #2, November 2015

“Everything is going fine. Physically I’ve noticed my skin has become softer and my body hair is fairer. My fat is redistributing more, my calves are thinner, and my hips are growing more womanly. That in itself makes me feel more comfortable in my body. Before I felt out of sorts with my body, but now it doesn’t feel so much like a stranger’s body, like I am trespassing in it. It is very difficult to explain; to most people it is an abstract concept. I need to search for metaphors to describe the feeling.

I can’t eat as much because my metabolism has changed. It was easier to lose weight when I had a male body. I have never enjoyed becoming muscular so I only did aerobic exercise and now especially I don’t want to build muscles.

I have been feeling much better emotionally. I feel more connected to the world around me, not as conflicted, more at peace. I feel like my progress in regard to having less anxiety and the ability to be with people is continuing at a good pace. When I look in the mirror I see a sparkle in my eye. I used to hate looking at myself without clothes, but now I feel more comfortable with my body.

I recently saw a lot of people for the first time since I started transitioning. I was waiting for my old college friends Steve and Rachel at Penn Station. Rachel hugged me and Steve hugged me as well. That wouldn’t have happened before. I was so touched by it. Then I attended a family wedding in Vermont. My relatives hadn’t seen me since I let my hair grow and dyed it blond. Maybe they didn’t recognize me because I had big sunglasses on. They walked right passed me and I had to say ‘hi.’ They were really nice about my decision to transition even though they are very conservative people. My uncle told me about a colleague of his who transitioned back in 2005. The person had to leave the company because the atmosphere was so difficult for her. My uncle is still haunted by this.

At school having to break the ice is always awkward at first. I am very used to being withdrawn and socially anxious because I could never be myself before. But I have recently made a lot of friends so I am very pleased with that. Some people are still awkward though; they don’t want to see someone who’s transitioning in a women’s bathroom. When they see someone in a dress but hear a male voice, they may be uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say or do. People don’t ask about my transition unless I bring it up. They don’t want to make me uncomfortable. But everyone once in a while you get a question from a curious person. That usually happens once I have developed a level of intimacy with someone.

I have experienced hostility. My school is in downtown New Brunswick. I live two miles away and walk to school to get the exercise. I get harassed about once a week. It is usually men who are hostile as well as older people, generally in working-class neighborhoods. I was recently walking past a bus stop and two men were talking. As I passed by one started laughing and told his friend to turn around. That kind of thing is not unusual for me and I have gotten pretty inured to it, which is sad, I guess. At the same time I realize there is nothing I can do to please everyone in life and I feel a lot more comfortable with myself and a lot less anxious about what I could confront. But a couple of times it has really scared me. Quite honestly, deep down I expected a lot worse. It has gotten better as the year has gone on, as I go through my transition and also the culture is in transition. I feel like there has been a huge sea change, not overt bigotry, but now there is more implicit bigotry. People don’t want to seem like jerks or be ostracized themselves. It’s a good thing in social issues but it means that you are still dealing with the animus.

I have no doubts at all about my decision. I wish I had done it so many years before, although then I would have faced a lot more outer hostility. At the same time I would have had less self-criticism. I would have explored myself more. I feel like I have wasted three decades of my life, like everything I’ve done before hasn’t amounted to anything. It seems like I was just born when I finally accepted myself. I feel so much more alive. Before I was dissociated and I wasn’t myself. Didn’t feel authentic.

I guess I am surprised at how much more outgoing I am. I used to be afraid to speak up in class. But sometimes in my class I was the one person who had done the reading, and I was practically carrying the class. I never imagined I would be that type of person. I was worried that I would be more volatile emotionally but it didn’t happen.

Does gender permeate every aspect of my life? I feel like it does reflect every aspect of your life—how you dress, how you relate to other people, how you carry yourself, who you are comfortable with. Also, because there is still such a societal segregation between men and women. Being a transgender women is always in the back of my mind. If I meet someone new, will they dislike me just because I am transgender? Will they be hostile, will they be uncomfortable, will they make me feel like crap? Self-conscious? If I am in a subway station in New York I worry someone will push me into the tracks. I worry about getting mugged or targeted because I am transgender.

One thing that really annoys me is when people ask, ‘have you seen I Am Cait?’ The last thing I want to do is inundate myself with more of what I am doing.

I did join a Facebook support group related to transitioning, but I have so many friends in general that I have gotten distracted from LGBT issues. I have become fast friends with this girl Alyson. She is a bisexual queer girl. There are some similarities between us because being bisexual there is a variant, you are non-binary. It is similar because you are not in just one pole. It’s a grayish identity. I don’t go to a support group anymore because everyone at those groups is still trying to come to grips with who they are. They are support groups, not social groups. Many are still struggling to accept who they are, and haven’t some out to friends and family even. They just feel isolation and a sense of anguish. At this stage of my life I am fortunate to have that behind me. However I would like to find social groups of transgender people.

I feel like my future is coming into focus. I feel a vision emerging of what I physically will look like and where my place in the world will be. I used to have a fantasy of escape from the hellish present or I would have a very downbeat, negative outlook. And now I feel a lot more realistic, a lot more down to earth; my ideas for the future are more based in reality. I hope for a good relationship, a coterie of friends to hang out with.”