Autumn Interview #4, May 2016

“Physically, things are great; my body is changing a lot. I feel more at home in my body, even more than I did three months ago. I have been on hormones for more than a year now. It seems like so long ago even though it is so recent. I have been through a lot, taking hormones, moving to New Jersey and going back to school. I am learning about myself. I didn’t really know myself before because I just buried myself completely. I just tried not to think about it. Whenever I would think about the way I really was, I would just bury that thought, and bury my feelings.

Coming out and being on hormones has enabled me to find my voice, to find out how I best express myself. For example I will be 32 in June, and I never really wanted celebrate my birthday before. I never wanted to be the center of attention. But now that I have a lot of friends, I can be honest with them so they actually feel real. So this year I decided to have a party. I enjoy the idea of having a party that celebrates me. So its things like that that I didn’t really expect. Little things like that I can appreciate now that I have come out.

Mentally, I am more at peace than I was in February. Maybe because its spring and sunny weather, but I just feel like I found my voice. I feel visible. I didn’t feel like I existed before I came out. Now I feel like I have an identity.

How are my relationships with others? Before transitioning I didn’t realize how key a component being honest is in a relationship. You grow fond of a person, you like having them in your life, but when you are hiding something so fundamental to your identity, the relationship is a lie. You don’t know how honest that relationship is. You feel like a fraud when you are in the closet like that. You can’t even admit to yourself who you are. So even if you do have friends, it feels false because you can’t be your true self. At this point in my transition, it is hard to find people to have a romantic relationship.

I have been going to Philadelphia for support group meetings so I can be around other people going through what I’m going through. In the transgender community there are also generational differences. People who are in their sixties and seventies, what they’ve been through is so much different than what I’ve been through, and people who are younger than me have had an easier time in some ways. I don’t want to dismiss their experience, but they have less patience with small slights where I take them more in stride. They are more militant. Maybe that’s just part of being young. I have many friends who are not transgender. For one thing, I don’t want that to be my only identity; I don’t want to be pigeonholed.

For this summer I was not able to get an internship related to my field; I am doing market research part time for my old company. I tried to get an internship but it was a really hectic semester. I went on interviews, but I didn’t get a bad feeling regarding the fact that I am transgender.

I usually feel comfortable walking around but I do get stares. I walk a lot for exercise, but maybe once a week there will be an incident. It is almost entirely guys who will stare at you or laugh at you. I had a really scary sexual harassment incident when I was walking in New Brunswick in March. I was walking down the street to get to my car and for whatever reason there was no one on the street except for this panhandler who I had seen before. He stopped me to ask for change and I gave him change. So he said to me “You are a man, right? I regret that I was really stubborn; I should have ignored him, but I said ‘no.’ So he approached me quickly and it was too late for me to hightail it out of there. He said in a very salacious way, ‘so you have titties. I want to be with you. I’ll see you around.’ I have never been more terrified. He was bigger, a young guy, in good shape. I finally got out of it because I said I was meeting a friend at the corner bar.

Everyone thinks, well, welcome to being a woman. But for transgender people there is a lot more going on. There you are, dressed like a woman, so it’s a sexual thing. Then you are a marginalized person so that’s another strike against you. Because there is so much discrimination against transgendered people they often can’t get jobs and have to work as sex workers. If you are a transgender women, like a lot of women, you face harassment. A majority of transgender people have experienced sexual assault.

It took me three or four weeks after that incident to open up about it because there was a survey at my school as to whether it is a tolerant place in general. My classmates said there is no prejudice. But while there is no overt prejudice at my school, I felt a lot of subtle prejudice, or just general cluelessness that didn’t make me feel welcome. I wrote about it on Facebook, and then someone came out to me in private, so that was a good experience that came out of a bad experience.

Many people are at the point where they are not yet ready to be out at work or even among friends, but I am at the point where I have been through so much anxiety and depression that I have to be myself. I just find it so tiring to hide, to lie. I just have to be open about being transgender. Now that that weight is off my shoulders I just don’t want it ever to come back on my shoulders. Even If I ever ‘pass’ as cisgender, I would still want to be open about being trans.

I am having electrolysis now that my busy semester is over. It is incredibly costly, but I have to do it. That and voice therapy. It’s not the kind of thing that’s usually covered by insurance. I am a perfectionist, so I don’t wear makeup because I would get too overwhelmed with the details and it would have to be just so. It would become counterproductive.”