On Tuesday afternoon, as I was lounging around the house waiting for my next dilation session (and it's never a long wait), the doorbell rang. I was wearing a tee shirt, pyjama bottoms and slippers, with no makeup and my hair tied back haphazardly. I hadn't planned to do much but stay home and dilate, so this is my standard uniform these days. I figured I could ignore the doorbell easily enough, but it might be one of the neighbors stopping by for a chat. That would be an excuse to invite them in and have another cappuccino. So I answered it.
It was a college-age kid working door-to-door sales. He called me "ma'am" right off the bat, and didn't seem put off by my appearance or the least bit confused about my gender presentation. Hormones, electrolysis and voice training work. It was a nice feeling. It could have been really awkward and embarrassing, but in the end I was only embarrassed that here it's almost 2 in the afternoon and I haven't even gotten dressed. There was a time when I thought that would never happen without cosmetic surgery.
I still have reservations about going out without makeup and/or dressing like a slob. It feels silly picking out an outfit to go to the Home Depot to buy painting tape, or putting on makeup just to run out to Whole Foods for soy milk and bananas. Passing as a woman at all times is important to me, even if I don't always feel like putting in an effort. I don't mind looking androgynous as long as people can tell I'm female. I don't like the feeling that I've got to be constantly working at it to maintain a female identity, like I'm putting on an act. It's getting less and less like an act, and more like just me.
"Passable" can be a sensitive buzzword in the trans community. A transperson who's not passable is every bit as transgendered as I am. Someone whose gender presentation causes people around her to react with gawking stares is not any more or less "successfully" (another sensitive term, by the way) transitioned than someone who is accepted readily and completely by society. But not being passable means being in for a harder time generally and being at greater risk for discrimination and/or violence. Passability goes a long way towards acceptance. To me, it was probably a dealbreaker on this whole transition. Not that I'm (quite) that vain, but if my overall presentation couldn't be female, then I'd have probably stuck with living as male or ambiguously-gendered. Transitioning's about expressing who you really want to be, but it creates a pressure to be convincing in the role you define for yourself.
Having had my new vagina installed (it's looking and working great, by the way) ups the stakes for me on the whole passing issue. Before, if I didn't feel like parts of me looked female, not only could I blame the penis for that, but it was also my ticket back into the male world if this got too difficult. Now, what am I if not female? If passing was important to me before, now it feels absolutely essential. The surgery doesn't help me to pass except for in very rare and specific circumstances, such as a locker room or the beach, and these are the very places where I'm still not going to feel totally comfortable with my body. I find myself scrutinizing it more, and whereas before I was pretty okay with the things that don't appear female, now I'm more critical.
It's hard work being yourself. Or, I guess I should say it can be hard work depending on who you decide to be. Really, we all invent ourselves, as some compromise between who we are and who we want to be, between who we are on the inside and who we are on the outside. Both concepts are flexible to an extent. Successfully transitioning is accepting what's on the inside and being satisfied with what's on the outside. Being passable only helps other people to accept you, but if that didn't matter, we wouldn't care at all who we are on the outside.
I'm sure it's a lot easier being a stand-up comedian if the audience laughs at your jokes. Transitioning's a lot like getting up on stage, except now you're hoping the audience doesn't laugh.
3 weeks ago