I got an interesting question from a reader about feeling discomfort after transitioning.
I’m not what my body says I am, but I know I’m not wholly male either, just transmasculine because it’s comfortable and clearly-not-female. But I’ve recently come to the decision to start taking hormones, because this world/society is one-or-the-other. I’ve begun looking forward to building muscles, to maybe having a beard one day.
Somedays though, I don’t know what to do about being read as male more often than not. I mean, mostly that’s a good thing, I welcome it, I want it to happen. Sometimes, though, I want to scream I am not, I am neither gender, I don’t want a gender – but I remain quiet because I know the world can’t really conceptualize that. The dissonance makes me nauseous and I start to doubt myself, even though I also remember that when I decided to make the first doctor’s appointment I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day and it felt so right to be taking that step.
Do you ever experience this? If so, how do you handle it?
Getting used to new name and pronouns takes time. Even though we’ve thought it through to exhaustion and are at ease with the idea, hearing these out loud, expressed by someone else, is a distinct experience. This can be the first thing to make us feel shaky, prompting to ask ourselves “should it still feel this awkward?” or “am I doing the right thing?” Even though it’s been almost a year, I am still not totally accustomed to being called “he” or “Micah” and it does throw me off sometimes.
I’ve also noticed that I’m called certain gendered words now that weren’t used for me before, like “dude, guy, sir or young man.” I guess I took these words for granted because I never heard them directed at me, so had never associated myself in direct reference to them. It can take me by surprise when somebody calls me that. “Who, this guy? Wait, are you talking to me?” I certainly don’t think of myself as a “young man” (I’m not so young, and I’m not a man).
I do experience dissonance when hearing this – it’s not me! Then I start doubting myself. “What the hell am I doing? Who do I think I am to be called sir, to demand being called “he” when I’m clearly not? People aren’t fooled by this; it’s all a sham; I’ll never feel ok with anything. Is this even worth the trouble?” My subconscious sympathizes with yours.
The bouts of doubt haven’t gone away, but what I can tell you is that the nagging gets quieter every time. I just repeat to myself the reasons why I’m doing everything I’ve done. I have to continue to trust myself because my decisions so far have made me very happy, much happier than I was before. You said this yourself: keep thinking about that smile you had after that first doctor’s visit. Consider it scientific self-suggestion based on prior evidence. 🙂
If you’ve been reading most of my journey, you’ll know how long it’s taken me to get to this point, meaning it doesn’t happen instantenously. In the end I’ve decided to be (seen as and treated as) fully male in society because it’s where I’m more comfortable, given the options. But it’s not where I’m most comfortable – that ideal is not realistic, at least not for me, not today, and maybe not ever. I relish in situations where there are no pronouns, no gender, just a chance to be me. Although those are few, they are ones which I have carefully cultivated.
The urge to shout out “but I’m not a man!” hasn’t dissipated entirely either. I think this antsy discomfort stems from the idea that, despite being more comfortable by transitioning to the other side, we’re still not being 100% ourselves, and we might never be. This, I believe, is the crux of living with a non-binary identity in a world where an inescapable gender binary permeates our every moment.
I used to want to sit down with every single person I came across and explain to them my entire identity. I would concoct sneaky ways to create an opening that would prompt people. I would proudly wear my Legalize Trans* shirt to the office in hopes this would ignite some sort of conversation. I called it my “badge” – I literally wanted to walk around with a name tag that said “I’m trans* – ask me about it.” But in most cases, people don’t ask, either because they’re too polite or too naive.
What has helped for me is seizing every opportunity that does come up to shed a little light on who I am, and letting that be enough. Nobody really sees the entirety of what goes on inside me except me. In the end, we always reveal only one facet of the many identities we embody.