The Way I Feel

Friday, June 22, 2012

So... There's been something I've wanted to write about for a while now. A few months, really. But this is the first chance I've had to really devote some time to it. Things have been quite frantic since I started at this new job back in mid-March... which is when this tale really took a turn. An interesting one.

(Quick aside: the job is still, well, bleah. I had my second hormone-induced meltdown earlier this week as a result of the craziness there. Wow, those just show up in a hurry! (lol) And they leave you with emotional whiplash too; I didn't know I had that many emotions!

I can laugh about it now; in fact, I laughed about it shortly after reaching DEFCON-5 hysteria. The good thing is they arrive *and* depart in a hurry, I suppose. But for now, I'm just biding my time until I can find a paying gig that doesn't induce needless stress that leaves me in a post-meltdown emotional stupor for the rest of the day. Would that it were so now)

Anyway, I'll backtrack a bit. I can't recall if I read them somewhere or if they're something I came up with on my own (I suspect I read them on one of the blogs I followed that is no longer around), but at my very first session with M last May, I told her I'd made two promises to myself during that late, late night when I realized I had to transition:

I would no longer allow fear to rule my life.
I would not allow myself to be limited in any way.

They've stood me in good stead so far, I'm happy to say. At a recent session I told M I would never want to go back to being him (even if I still look like him on the outside, mostly). She replied that I couldn't go back; I've come too far for that.

One of the big areas to which these promises apply, needless to say, is around sexuality. I've always been attracted exclusively to women, although that has been a long, hard, road, as far too many of us can, sadly, attest.

I used to pray to be gay, in fact, if it meant that those other feelings would go away. I grew up in a less-than-supportive environment, but at least I knew people would understand homosexuality, even if they despised it. I didn't understand why I was a transsexual (once I even knew what that meant); how could I expect others to understand it as well?

But of course it doesn't work that way; I was strictly attracted to women. During my very first session with M, she asked me how I felt about the possibility that this could change as a result of transitioning.

"I would go with it," I said promptly. "What's the point of doing this if I wind up simply exchanging one closet for a slightly larger one?"

I shook my head.

"No, I'm open to whatever happens."

Having said that, I must confess that, in retrospect, I didn't really believe it could happen to me. I wasn't afraid, or even concerned, looking back on it; it just seemed... unlikely. Sure, several of the women who wrote other blogs I admired may have had experienced it... but me? No, I didn't think so.


Shortly after starting HRT late last year, I struck up a friendship with another blogger. During one exchange of email messages, she asked if I was straight, gay, etc.

When I replied I'd always been only attracted to women, she said she was interested in both, and asked if I'd ever thought about what it would be like to be with a man. I confessed that I hadn't.

She said that she wasn't speaking about being with a man as him, but as myself, and asked if I'd ever thought of it in those terms. Again, I said, truthfully, that I had not, and the conversation moved on to other topics.

Over the course of the next few days, though, I found I *was* thinking about it. Maybe it was the hormones beginning to have an effect, maybe it was just really giving it more than a passing thought for the first time, or maybe it was simply noticing something that had been there for a while (my friend C affectionately used to call me Captain Oblivious, due to my penchant for missing the obvious at times). But whatever the cause... this time was different.

To my surprise, I was, in fact, wondering what it would feel like once I was finally myself both physically and emotionally. "Huh," I remember thinking. I was a bit surprised, but that was pretty much the extent of it. I told my friend as much, but I didn't give it much more thought than that after another day or two.

I realize, now that I look back on it, that I was really thinking about it in the abstract. It made sense when I thought about it from the physical side of things. After all, as a friend joked, if you going to go through all the trouble of getting the right equipment, why wouldn't you be interested in giving it a test run?

One thing I've learned as I transition, though, is how important the emotional aspect of transitioning is to me. It is what truly resonates. The sense of calm and, for lack of a better word, rightness, that I felt within a few weeks of starting hormones confirmed me I had made the right choice.

After a lifetime of preventing myself from feeling anything, I was learning that how I felt was paramount. As a previous therapist had helped me learn, feelings aren't good or bad; they just are. The emotions I had spent a lifetime suppressing weren't something to fear, but something to cherish.

Moreover, I was learning to trust my instincts. Again, a lifetime of telling myself it was wrong to feel a certain way were fading away. I didn't have to hate myself for what I felt; I could embrace it, because I was simply being me. And that was actually a pretty good thing.

It was a lesson that would stand me in good stead in the weeks to come.


As I mentioned previously, I received my letter from M, my therapist, the day before I was laid off from my job. After several months, I worked up the courage to actually schedule an appointment with a doctor. And several weeks after receiving my prescriptions, M helped me realize that I didn't need to wait for another job to actually start taking them.

"You've spent your entire life waiting to get to this moment," she pointed out. "Are you sure it's really about your job search, and being able to afford your prescriptions and so on, and not something else?"

I quickly realized she was right; it was that old bugaboo, fear, rearing its pesky head again. And once again, I remembered my pledge that fear simply was not a good enough reason. Not anymore. So a few days later, I took that big step. And as mentioned above, I quickly realized it was right.

Anyone who has ever been laid off for an extended period likely remembers the sense of being in endless limbo. (This is not an unfamiliar sensation for those of us who are transitioning, needless to say.) You're just waiting for *something* to change.

And when it finally does change, you're grateful, even as you scramble to hang on as your life suddenly switches from days and weeks of... waiting to all of the adjustments that go with starting a new job.

As I've written about the past few months, this was certainly true in my case - and then some. The short version: I started what has turned out to be a challenging job (in all the wrong ways) in a new state, which meant a) moving myself on the weekends and b) living with parents. Oh, and I did all this after breaking my ribs the day after I received the job offer.

And this is the point where our tale picks up.


On the day that I received - and accepted - the job offer, I had longstanding plans to visit my family for the weekend to celebrate my father's birthday and to get together with some friends I hadn't seen for a while.
I'm being intentionally vague here, because... well, just because. :c) Again, how I felt about it is probably more important that what "it" is. Or "who," to be precise.

Shortly after faxing back the signed offer letter, I headed over to meet my friends at a local bar/restaurant before I headed off to spend the weekend with my family.

I hadn't seen them (all men, by the way, since, of course, initials dont tell you that) for several months, so it was good to catch up. We're all musical omnivores with similar tastes, which dominated our conversations, as it normally did.

I was sitting a table having an in-depth discussion about the relative merits of John Prine's post-major label albums with my friend B. I was making the case for German Afternoons ("It has "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness"on it!" I enthused), and was gearing up to extoll the wisdom of using New Grass Revival as his backing band.

I casually glanced over at the adjoining table where several other friends sat. And as I did so, my friend S happened to glance at our table at the same time.

And that's when it happened.

As I told a friend later, all of a sudden my toes were tingling. lol I felt as if I were back at the first junior high school dance in junior high, looking at the girls standing on the other side of the gym in wonder. Who are these people, and why do I feel so funny inside all of a sudden?

I don't know any other way to describe it. S clearly had no idea what had happened, as he simply lifted his chin slightly in recognition - the universal "guy nod" - then carried on with the conversation at his table.

B, on the other hand, knew something had happened. Even if he had no clue what it was.

"Dude, you OK? You were just going a million miles an hour about Sam Bush and Bela Fleck, and all of sudden you just stopped dead in your tracks. And now you look like you're in a daze."

I was at a loss for words - a rare occasion when I had worked up a head of steam talking about music. B, fortunately, picked up the slack, saying he was convinced and would be ordering a handful of Prine albums, before moving on, as he always did, to the genius of Warren Zevon.

I was barely listening, to be honest - a sure sign this was a big deal, as I bow to no one in my admiration for Mr. Zevon. I was thinking, wow, what the heck just happened? I really was in a daze, as B had noted.

And just as I was beginning to process what was happening, I heard B say, as if from a tunnel, "You know, S and R both have all of Zevon's albums - hey, S!" And he was gesturing at S & R to come over to our table.

Oh, s***, I thought. S and R picked up their beers and sat down at our table. Luckily the lights had just been dimmed, because I'm sure I was blushing. I certainly felt completely discombobulated (to use a favorite word) of my niece.

I tried desperately to avoid eye contact with S, because each time it happened I became even more flustered. I finally resorted to taking off my glasses, the first time in my life I was grateful to be almost hopelessly blind without them on.

I somehow managed to make it through ten or so minutes of conversation without making a total fool of myself (I hope). The conversation turned to The Beatles, for whom both S and myself had a similar passion, when I stood up and mumbled that I had a long drive ahead of me.

"Dude, you sure you're OK to drive?" asked B in his relaxed, surfer-dude way. "I know you don't drink, but you look like you tied one on here."

"He's right," chimed in S. "Are you sure you're feeling all right? You look flushed."

"Right, you don't have your usual Irish pallor," said B with a grin. "And I say that as a fellow sufferer."

"Mm-hmm, I'm OK," I stammered. "I gotta go - see you guys later."

"Leaving while we talk about Revolver?" said S. "Usually that's enough to make you stick around, even if it means having to spend time with us."

Not this time, I thought to myself. Not this time.


Normally, I find driving to be a distasteful, stressful chore, particularly longer trips. But this night I was grateful for the 90-minute drive to my parents house.

As I struggled to process what had just happened, I thought back to a conversation I'd had with my mother several years ago. She was telling me about my nephew C's first day in high school.

"He's just like you used to be when you were growing up," she said. "He gets nervous when he's faced with something he hasn't experienced yet. But once he's had time on his own to get used to it, he's fine."

I gradually realized that was exactly what was going in. I was, in fact, OK with it. I was simply taken by surprise, and needed some time on my own to process it.

Several weeks later, I had a similar experience, again with another casual friend. In idle moments, I would find myself thinking about what it would be like to be with them - even though, in both cases, they were married. (In fact, S and his wife were expecting their first child.)

The only difficult part was struggling to articulate exactly what I was feeling. I had dreams about both of them, which were, um, memorable. :c) But what I was feeling went beyond that. Well beyond that. But I couldn't figure out what it was, beyond a deep, deep longing. And even that failed to do justice to how it felt.

I wasn't frustrated, exactly, but I was wondering what it would take to help me figure this out.

And again, as has happened so often during my transition, it was a conversation with one of my friends that helped me understand.


I was conversing online with a friend whom I hadn't chatted with for a while. After some friendly back and forth kibitzing about who owed email to whom, we began to get each other caught up on our busy lives.

It turned out that my friend had me trumped. After I finished describing my adventures with my new job and moving and my broken ribs and so on, she talked about her big news: she had a boyfriend.

After the obligatory teasing about her frequent admonitions to me to not rush into things, to be absolutely sure, to wait until the time was right, etc. etc., I told her how genuinely thrilled I was for her. And I was. She was simply reaping the rewards for years of hard work and sacrifice to become herself.

When I told her about what *I* had been experiencing the past few months, she was taken by surprise. After assuring her I was fine with it (and even more surprised than she was), she discussed how it simply felt... right.

And that was what finally helped me articulate what I was feeling: *that* was how I felt when I thought about being with someone as myself in a relationship. I want to be the girl.

And as I confessed to her, I realized I was both thrilled for her... and jealous. Very jealous. I suddenly knew that I want what she has so badly it hurts.

She was wonderfully understanding, and said she knew exactly how I felt, as she had felt the same way when she was at the same point in her transition. And that while she couldn't promise I would find someone, she could tell me that I was doing all the right things to make it a possibility. As she noted, that is as much as I can do at this point.

It's a valuable lesson, one that helps keep things in perspective when I feel as though I will simply never reach the point she has reached. I can't see what the future will bring; all I can do is the best I can to become myself. And for the first time in my life, I believe that this is a good thing.


I wrote recently about a frantic session I had with M at the end of a challenging week. My conversation with my friend took place during that week. On top of finding out my job was moving to a new, much less convenient location, and a staggering workload - all while fighting a nasty cold - I was dealing with this intense longing.

I desperately wanted to discuss this with M, as we had not met for over two months. But it was not to be. I told her I wanted to discuss this with her, but there was no way to do justice to it in 15 minutes.

M was sympathetic, and asked how I felt about this. I told her that I was fine with it, but that I wanted to wait until I was full-time before I embarked on *any* relationship - be it with a man or a woman.

She paused.

"During your first visit, you told me you had made two promises to yourself," she said. "Do you remember what they were?"

"To not let fear rule my life, and to be open to whatever happens," I said.

"That's right," she smiled. "And you have done just that so far. And you should be proud of that.

"But... do you think you might be using going full-time as a reason to put this off? Im not saying you are... I'm simply asking you to consider the possibility."

We were well past the 15 minutes she had so kindly given me, so I promised I would think about her question. As I drove home, I realized I hadn't done a good job articulating how I felt. It wasn't surprising, given the circumstances surrounding the session. But I told myself I would be better able to explain my feelings at next session.

And I was.

In the intervening weeks, I found that I would feel that same mixture of happiness, jealousy, and pain when I saw couples together - particularly a fellow trans girl with her boyfriend.

I also noticed that I was having a harder time separating my attraction to women - which is still present - from my jealousy of them. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it feels as if the balance between those two emotions has changed somehow, and is now tilted more towards jealousy.

I told M all of this at my next session. She expressed her sympathy, saying knew it was difficult to experience these feelings, and that it was good to be able to talk about them openly.

I told her I had thought more about whether I was using waiting to be full-time as a reason to avoid thinking about having a relationship.

"I realized on the way home that I didn't really mean I wanted to wait until I'm full-time," I told her.

"What I want to do it wait until the way I look outside matches the way I feel inside - like a girl. I want someone who wants me for who I really am - not for how I look right now - him."

I paused.

"That doesn't make me a shallow or vain person, does it?" I asked M.

"Of course not," she said kindly. "That's normal. And it's partly why you've been attracted to the men you have.

"How so?" I asked.

"Well, right now, you're going through puberty," she said. "And who are the first people young girls are attracted to?"

"People who are safe," I said with a smile, suddenly understanding. "They go for boy bands... and I go for men who aren't available."

"Exactly," she said. "They're married, with children... and they're friends."

"Wow," I said, once again impressed with the power of the subconscious mind. "So essentially I'm doing a test run, then?"

"Yes," she replied. "You're learning how to process your emotions to prepare yourself for   when you... well, 'grow up' isn't the right term. But for when you're ready."
"My friend C told me recently that she thinks of me as being in puberty," I said. "She said I just seem really young when I talk to her now. I guess this is what she's talking about."

"I think so," said M. "You're taking the right approach. Try to have fun with it, and enjoy these feelings. After all, you never got to have them when you should have."

And so I have.


I haven't told all of my friends about this yet, simply because I haven't seen or spoken with some of them for a while. But the friends I have told have been 100% supportive. M, as he has so often in the short time since I told him, understood immediately when I told him.

"That makes perfect sense," he said instantly. "You're a girl; why *wouldn't* you feel this way? And if you realize you like girls more, well, that's fine too. Whatever, or whoever, makes you happy. That's the only thing that matters."

As I've said so often... I have really great friends. :c)


And that is where things stand as of now. I don't know what is going to happen in the weeks and months to come; I just know that I'll be OK with whatever does - or does not - happen. I've come too far to let it be otherwise. I'm certainly looking forward to the journey, however!

Stay tuned...


I couldn't figure out what to title this post... and then I looked down at my iPod's album browser and got my answer. (Oh Apple... what can't you do?!?) lol

I had always enjoyed the Gordon Lightfoot's songs I heard on the radio. But a Canadian friend convinced me to go beyond the hits and check out his albums about 15 years ago. It was one of my best musical investments. 

Bob Dylan has consistently expressed his admiration for Lightfoot, saying repeatedly that he is one of his favorite songwriters. (The others, in case you're wondering? Smokey Robinson, Warren Zevon... and Jimmy Buffett. I can only assume His Bobness is referring to Buffett's stellar string of early to late 1970s albums, which are uniformly excellent.) If he's good enough for Dylan, he's certainly good enough for yours truly.

Perhaps I'm simply listening to him with new ears, but his voice has a distinctive blend of masculinity and sensitivity that I never quite noticed before. It is quite appealing, I can assure you. :c) Check it out for yourself:

 And here is what is easily my favorite song of his:

Judy Collins does a stellar version, but nothing can top the original in my mind.

And last but not least, a song from the great American folksinger Greg Brown that is uncannily evocative of his Canadian counterpart. There's something about this type of  chord progression that evokes a mental image of a wind-swept wide-open Alberta prairie in the crisp Canadian sunlight.


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