Tag Archives: Female behavior

Exile

TransitionCrop

ohhhhhhhhh……aaahhhhhhh…..aaaahhhhhhhhhhh…cough, cough….sob…sob…

it went on and on. I tried to cover my head with my pillow, but I could still hear the moaning and sobbing. I understood what she wanted. Someone, anyone to come comfort her. Cough, cough, cough…. then a bit of silence. Maybe she fell asleep I hoped? Then a minute later, ohhhhhhh….sob…sob…aaahhhhhh. I was so tired. I’d been at school all day then a two hour swim workout after. I was exhausted.

I got out of bed wearing only my pajama bottoms as was our custom. At ten years old I would only wear a PJ bottom. Somehow to my three brothers and I this represented our growing maturity. My room was furthest away from hers and I wondered how come none of my brother’s seemed to have heard the moans. I walked around through her doorway and peaked in. She looked up from her bed. “Jer-bear?” “Is that you?”She asked in the dark. “It’s me.” I said walking over to her bedside. I looked down at her as she lay there holding her chest. She was so frail, thin and sickly. Almost bald, her skin paper-thin and gray with oxygen tubes coming out of her nose. “Sit here” she said patting the bed next to her. I turned slightly and sat with my legs dangling towards the floor. Her bed was the sort you would find in any hospital. It had the bars on the sides that could be raised or lowered and even had wheels in case she needed to be moved. She rested a hand on my arm. “Such a nice swimmer body” she said smiling. “Are you OK Mom?” I asked. “Oh yes sweetheart.” she said as if nothing was wrong. The stacks of pills on her bedside table, the filled ashtrays, empty glasses of bourbon and the twin five foot oxygen tanks told a different story. She was in constant pain and had been the last 6 years or so since she’d had a double-mastectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy. She’d had her adrenal glands removed too and had a permanent open wound in her chest we changed the dressing on every night. The skin wouldn’t heal anymore and her bones were like swiss cheese from all the radiation, small fragments of which would occasionally appear in the wound and have to be removed. All of this she dulled with a crazy combination of narcotics and Jim Beam. Each of my brothers knew how to mix her drink. A tall water glass with two ice-cubes and a splash of water. “Why aren’t you sleeping?” she asked. I wanted to say, “you know very well why” but I couldn’t. I felt so bad for her lying there all day and all night alone like she did. We were the only break in that monotony when we arrived home from school in the afternoon and then again later when we would each come in to kiss her goodnight. For all of this it didn’t seem strange to me, she had been like this almost as long as I could recall.

There was a time in my dim memory of a different woman. She was tall, blonde and statuesque. She wore mink and smelled of expensive french perfume. I rarely saw this mother though. That one usually left us with our nanny, Gloria. We only saw her as she left for glamorous outings with my famous plastic surgeon father. Later we might hear them drunk and fighting. She screamed for us then as we cowered in our beds. “Help me boys!” she would call as my father beat her but none of us responded. At 3 or 4 years old there wasn’t a lot we could do. I know my older brothers had each finally confronted him but they suffered for years listening before that. The mother of this world was exotic far off and mysterious like a tragic Queen. Sometimes she was”ill” and we wouldn’t see her for weeks. Then just as suddenly she was back joining us on Sundays for church in her pencil skirts, red lipstick and heels. Outside of church she was never without a cigarette held elegantly in long manicured fingers. The only place we went as a family then was Mass. I had six siblings but the older three no longer joined us. They were separated from the younger four of us by a gap of eight years. We rarely saw them anymore. They were off in college or busy with friends. More often than not the other three younger brothers and I were shepherded around by our angry nanny. She resented us for being privileged and white. Two things the young overweight black woman from rural Georgia was not.

But that fabulous mother was from another mythic time in a fairytale past. The one I sat next to longed for those days but her fabulous King husband had abandoned for a younger princess to adorn. They apparently even had a new set of children to fill their new kingdom although I’d never met them. The mother I sat next to would often regale that man for leaving her exiled and broken. She would cry bitterly calling him a fucking asshole or some other words I had been schooled in church to never use. Sometimes this mother would get up from her bed and dance in a narcotic and alcohol fueled memory of wonderful outings shared in former grand ballrooms with my father. She told me what a great lover he was and how he had swept her off her feet. Like Mrs. Havisham in The Dickens novel, Great Expecations it was as if time had ended when her husband left. The music had stopped and the guests had all left. Now it was just the 5 of us in this echo hall of past grandeur. My mother and my 3 brothers.  I was number three. I had one younger brother who knew even less of the past than I did. The older two each knew more and I think were more injured for its memory.

“Want to watch a movie with me ber-ber?” she asked. Tired as I was, I agreed. “The life of Henry the Eighth is on at ten.” “Masterpiece Theater!” she said with some excitement. “Great Mom.” I answered crawling up next to her in the hospital bed. She lifted the remote and turned on the televison. “You’re going to learn a lot.” she said looking down. “I know Mom.” I answered back. I loved being with her and although I was tired, she was right. I learned a lot on these nights but most of it had nothing to do with the show on TV.

 

The Bitch

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Something is different. At first I wondered if I was imagining it but now I am certain. I’m definitely not the same as I was before I started hormones and transition. To some that would seem patently obvious, but when it’s happening to you, it isn’t so easy to see. I’ve recently had to grapple with what that means and trying to find my footing as this new person.

I don’t think anyone would argue that hormones play a major role in how we behave as humans. After all, much of our life revolves around finding a mate. We are perhaps most aware of the sudden injection of hormones in our early teens as we go through puberty. Things change rapidly as testosterone or estrogen begin flooding our young system for the first time. Boys experience a new interest in girls and vice versa. Often our behavior is erratic or strange. Parents are often left scratching their heads. I would imagine in some cases, my friends and family are doing the same.

As a male I found it an easy task to be calm and collected most of the time. My temperament went from calm to mildly happy and mildly angry. Rarely did I get into the ecstatic or furious ends of the spectrum. In addition, if I did feel these things, people noticed and reacted because it didn’t happen often and I was after all, a man. When men became annoyed or angry, people notice and listen. When women have these emotions the reaction from others is quite different. As a woman, I have to admit I am irritated far more often but also experience a higher level of joy and happiness. The pendulum swings are broader. Life is richer in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. The downside of this is that people take this for granted and depending on which portion of your behavior they experience more regularly you can find yourself categorized. “Bitch” would be one such category I have become newly familiarized with.

Part of the reason I find myself being “the bitch” is that no one seems to listen to what I have to say. In my experience I am universally less regarded when speaking and my status as an authority on almost anything has dropped significantly. When I speak to a man or even a boy about respecting me and things I formerly considered simple regard for others I realize it doesn’t work that way. I often see their eyes roll back in their heads and can tell, all they hear is wa, wa, wa, wa like the teacher in a Charlie Brown show. This in turn annoys me more and I begin to raise my voice in order to be more clearly heard. Now they really aren’t listening and I’ve crossed into the “Bitch” zone.

Once you have entered the bitchdom, it is almost impossible to return to being a normal female. Especially in the eyes of those you have been a “bitch” to. Bake them cupcakes, get them cards, bring a casserole, it won’t matter. They will be looking for signs of the bitch in everything you do from there on in. I may not understand everything about being a woman yet, and maybe there is another way out of being the bitch that I haven’t learned but at present I’m unaware of any.

Not that being a bitch is all bad. If you are a bitch then people will be more careful around you. They will fear re-experiencing the bitch forever after you first unleash her. In addition if you bitch out a man, they generally aren’t going to punch you. This allows a lot of leeway I never experienced as a man. If you confront another man in public as a male you had better be ready to throw down. Men are more careful about going to the anger place for that reason as much as any other. Women however can absolutely go there and are more likely to do so as a result.

All of this is new territory for me and as a mature person going through puberty I imagine a few mistakes are acceptable. Women understand better but to my male friends and family I have entered an unknown land. I suppose along with all the imagined “perks” of being a woman the were bound to be some unexpected turns in the road. Coming around the corner and encountering myself as the bitch has been one.

 

10 things to do before Transition

Gen_Transition

Every day I encounter things that I formerly never concerned myself with. Often I take them in stride or am very happy that thy are a new part of my life. Others are just part of the new territory. Not exactly “chores” but I wouldn’t always call them enjoyable either. Most of them were “optional” before transition, but now are advisable or necessary. Sitting at the nail salon today for 40 minutes getting my nails done I wondered how many Trans Women have considered what it takes to be a woman 365 days a year 24 hours a day.

  1. Nails- Let’s start here since I’ve already mentioned it. Your hands, feet and nails. Manicures and pedicures. Most women take good care of their feet. Usually far better than their male counterparts. Men are quite alright with ugly discolored claws growing from their cuticles. Dead skin, skin fungus or peeling it’s all good. They’re men after all! Only “Metro” guys go in to manage their hands and feet. How many men do you know that get a regular manicure? Some? Pedicure? Probably less. Realistically there are no real penalties for men with beat up hands and feet. That is all perfectly acceptable. While some women won’t do these at a salon they will at least do it themselves. After all, men prefer a maintained woman and most women do too. Women usually couldn’t tolerate the level of self-neglect men are comfortable with. If you are maintaining your nails at a salon you will need to visit at least once a month. Plan on spending a minimum of $50 for mani-pedi (and that’s cheap). If you get gel or acrylic nails the cost goes up significantly. Good information to know for the guys who like the “high-maintenance” gals. Press-on nails don’t work for daily wear either. These are fine for a single club outing, but if you plan on using those hands for something other than lifting a martini glass, you are going to have to get the real-deal. This is only the beginning ladies so get your credit cards out!
  2. Hair- Of course, this one is probably obvious. Everyone knows that women will be going to a hair salon regularly to maintain that most important crowning glory. Younger girls (under 40) can possibly get away with a cut every few months. For simply being a woman and walking into a hair salon, your fee is doubled or tripled compared to what a man will pay. It doesn’t matter if it’s long or short. You are not paying per square inch, but for not having a “Y” chromosome. Most simple cuts start around $80. If you are getting a regular cut and color, as most more mature women do, the cost and frequency will go up. While young women aren’t turning gray yet they may have a preference in being blonder than their natural God given dishwater or dull mousey brown. Color usually lasts about 6 weeks. Most women will stretch that out until their roots are really showing so call it every 8 weeks. This will add another $70-$80 to your price tag as well as a longer time commitment. Plan on setting aside another hour and a half to two hours for this one. Wigs you wear out on the weekend aren’t the same for my Trans-sisters. Get in the habit of a regular cut and color and see where you are at with it. Now remember this is just the long term part of mane maintenance. You will need to invest in hair products to protect your investment. These will have to be applied daily. While people differ on what works for them, most women will have some sort of hair product and require some styling time every day.  Brushing it out at night and keeping it clean are a given. Checking it regularly throughout the day is standard. If this is too much, consider staying part-time.
  3. Teeth- Now here’s a sneaky one. One could argue that both genders need to maintain their teeth, right? Well, hopefully. I would have to argue that women are asked to have “better” teeth than men. Women are expected to have a bright healthy smile with all teeth present and accounted for. Healthy pink gums and definitely NO food lingering after a meal. Girls will give each other the smile check after a lunch especially with any meal containing something pesky and green like parsley or spinach. Men can rock up missing a tooth in the back or side and call it a battle-scar like an old pirate, but a woman looks homeless if she does the same. Whitening either with whitening strips or at your dentist is mandatory. Crest whitening strips run about $60 and this pack will last about 6-8 weeks. Whitening at the dentist is about $300. A good place to start for aspiring Trans Women is taking care of your dental work. Get that out of the way first and then move past “Go.” Getting a boob job while you still have a couple of missing teeth is putting the “Ox before the Cart” if you will. If you can’t maintain your smile, you aren’t going to get very far in this game.
  4. Body/Facial Hair – alright, the secret is out, women DO have these! After having extensive laser hair removal and electrolysis there are still those annoying little gray whiskers on my chin or random strays on my chest that will pop up. What a relief to find out that other genetic women suffer the same plight. Who knew?? Women, especially as they mature will often get more hair growth in areas they formerly never concerned themselves with.  While comforting to know I’m not alone, it doesn’t mean it’s ok to let them stay. No, they must be eradicated with severe malice. Plucking them is fine and will do the trick temporarily, but if you really want them gone, it’s going to require a bit more intensity. Electrolysis is the only guaranteed method for permanent removal of gray hair. If you’ve ever accidentally been shocked by a 110v outlet you will have some idea of what electrolysis feels like. Imagine a torture in which someone inserts a needle like electrode into your hair follicle and then explodes it by administering a painful shock. Now imagine doing that over and over about every 3 seconds for an hour. Imagine doing that once a week for months or years.  This is what most Trans women will need to tolerate in order to deal with the hair they don’t want. Genetic women may just go ahead and pluck theirs but for those that want a permanent solution electrolysis at least 3 sessions for each unwanted hair is it. Once again, it ain’t cheap. Usually about $75 an hour. Trans woman if not naturally hairless can shave close and that will last long enough for your Saturday night date, but if you don’t want 5 o’clock shadow as part of your look, it will have to be dealt with. Then their are the brows. While the unibrow may be OK in the Cro-Magnon world, Homo-Sapien women are expected to have a far more groomed creature over their eyes. For my Trans sisters, start off by shaping them. If you are still living as a man, get in the habit of shaping them anyway. You don’t have to get the full Goth-girl arch going but keep them neat and definitely pluck the ones that are closer to your hairline than your eye socket. If you can handle this, you have some hope of joining the sisterhood.
  5. Legs- Obvious some say again, but perhaps not for my Trans sisters. Do you shave daily girls? Every other day? Every third maybe? Some can get away with waiting longer but most women will need to shave at least twice a week. I rarely go 2 days myself. I love the feeling and still enjoy it but if you aren’t doing this yet girlfriend, you need to get in the habit. I would once again call this a minimum requirement. The cost on this one is negligible. If you can’ afford to start with the more expensive entry requirements (above) at least do this. Make sure you get it all though. No one wants to see a strip of hair running up the back of your thigh honey. Attention to detail and a full length mirror are your friends.
  6. Chatting- Now why would I say this? Genetic women may not get it, but I am here to let you know you girls love you some talking. I was chatty before and considered myself quite the small talk pro, but that was before I transitioned. Now I have been properly put in my place by many of you GG’s (Genetic Girls). Trans sisters, if you can’t spend some chat time with your GG sisters you are going to have a rough time connecting. A woman’s world is about slowing down the action and spending more time discussing life. Oh, don’t expect men to care about what you have to say either. You are there to smile and be impressed with their exploits. I don’t care if you are an astronaut and landed on the moon, you will have to feign interest in some computer nerd’s thrill with his RC helicopter. Make sure and boost his ego or he will move on and talk with someone who can. If you hate chatting, you may want to consider lip-synching as a drag performer only.
  7. Make-up – Mandatory? Well, I do know many GG’s who wear little or none. My sister is one of those. I would call these women rare. There are a few very naturally attractive girls who can pull this off. I happen to know a whole family of women like this, but once again, they aren’t your average woman. If you are like me and don’t have or aren’t confident with going make-up free, then applying it daily will be part of your life. Getting your little kit started with the foundation, eye-shadow, mascara, lip-sticks or glosses, blush or toner and then all the expensive brushes to apply it will set you back at least $200. Even women that don’t wear make-up regularly like to have it handy for special occasions. For my Trans-sisters the upside of getting your facial hair removed will be you will need less make-up when going out. Lots of Trans girls have to wear a thick foundation or cover stick to hide their beards. While GG’s don’t have this concern, they often do some regimen for their skin daily. For my Trans sisters, include a little time with very light toner and lip care as part of your morning routine. This will be a small intro to doing your full make up daily and help you get your timing down. Don’t think you’re done here though. Make sure to bring a compact mirror with you in your purse or bag. You will want to check your make-up around lunch and then again around 5pm. A girl needs to make sure her mascara hasn’t become a black smudge or that her lips don’t look like she has Beri-beri or some other exotic disease.
  8. Clothes/Shoes – Now this may be unique to my Trans sisters but you will have to invest in a “real” wardrobe. Just fyi, GG’s don’t wear sequin mini-skirts, tube tops and platform heels every day. You’re going to want to tone all that down a bit and attempt to blend more. Consider in a real way (as all women do) what your strengths and weaknesses are. Be honest. If you have a 44 inch chest and beer-belly, don’t buy yourself a lot of skinny jeans. Think about wearing skirts and dresses that accentuate a “shape.” Every GG has to do this and so will you. We all wish we looked like Marilyn Monroe and had a J-Lo booty, but unfortunately no matter what that guy at the bar said, it just ain’t reality for most of us. Now if you are over 6 feet without heels (as I am) consider buying lots of flats or lower heels. Some of my GG friends will disagree, but there aren’t as many women over six feet as their are men. Even if you are stone-cold gorgeous as a woman, you will still want some flats. My daughter AND my new daughter in law are both gorgeous and over six feet. They are stunning in heels because their legs go on forever. While that is fun and will turn every man’s head, most of the time they don’t want that. The majority of life is spent taking care of mundane things and getting that sort of attention just gets in the way. Heels are fun, but unless you are a smaller girl they should be worn for special occasions rather than as your only option. If you simply have to wear pumps 24/7, you may have a foot or shoe fetish. If that is all that interests you, just get a Frederick’s catalog and go to town.
  9. Diet/Eating – Now here’s one that all girls have to deal with and one many of my Trans sisters may have not entirely considered. Women generally eat less guys. I’m sorry, but it’s true. (Especially in public). Some of my GG friends may find this offensive, but macking down the chili cheese fries when you’re out to lunch along with your dude friends just ain’t going to be real attractive. Eating with your mouth open or talking with your mouth full are pretty much unacceptable. While men are celebrated for putting it away, women are condemned for it. You will have to slow it all down and take smaller bites. Chew bites and swallow before speaking. Please check that you don’t have a piece of cheese on your chin if you have the least doubt. Sit up straight and practice your best table manners. Knowing how to hold a fork and knife are a plus. Your fork is not a shovel and there ARE other utensils that have a purpose while dining. I’m sorry if this sounds snobby, but coming from the other side of the gender tracks it helps to do more than you think is necessary to pass rather than less. Having a trim figure, improved digestion and elegant comportment are the rewards for these efforts and from my perspective well worth it.
  10. Walking/Movement – Now I know plenty of GG’s that move like linebackers, but they are GG’s and they can get away with it. Walking bow legged down the street may be alright as a part time girl but my Trans Sisters will want to work on this. Have a look at how a woman moves and walks.Women naturally have more hip movement because of their anatomy. Trans women can approximate this by placing your foot steps more towards your center line. Imagine you are taking a drunk test and need to walk along a chalk line. This will cause your hips to move and give you more of a runway model look. No one will object to that comparison. Sit with legs together wether wearing a skirt or not. Hands in your lap, elbows off the table. Scratching yourself, grabbing your junk and spitting are verboten. Remember to bring a tissue in your purse for a runny nose and check for unwanted nasal objects regularly. Try and slow your movements down and be more aware of your appendages. Are you swinging them wildly or are you considering other’s space? Getting up from a table and knocking over another table’s drinks just seems less common among women because they are generally more aware of their own physical body. Being the drunk and sloppy girl is pretty much not attractive and quite dangerous. The unfortunate reality is that there are more male predators out there for women than men. That one has been hard to wrap my mind around because I used to feel quite able to defend myself. Even if you are men might not perceive you that way and you will have to consider that. Don’t go out at night alone and walk with confidence if you have to. Women rarely go into bars alone for this very reason. Men see you as available and vulnerable. Be advised girls, going out alone will be seen as an invitation by many guys.                                                                                   While there are probably more things I could list, I’d say these are the 10 biggies. I sometimes wonder what I would have thought had someone given me this list before transitioning. I did have some guidance beforehand. I remember the first therapist I shared with challenged me with some of these. She noticed all the ways I was not prepared and challenged me to come up to speed BEFORE I made some of the larger changes. I believe transitioning can be done more smoothly if it is done somewhat strategically. Start with the easier ones. See if you are able and or interested in doing them before tackling the bigger more expensive steps. Keep your goal in mind but try and be realistic. I hope this list helps someone out there to understand what they are up against. I hope it will serve as informative but not discouraging. Like any really important move in life knowing what you are getting into ahead of time usually helps.

Skin Deep

Ardhanashvara

So now after living a a woman for more than a year, people have begun to ask, was it worth it? Any regrets? After living as a man for 52 years, what is it like to be a woman?

What regrets? Pondering this, I suppose the only regret I might have is that I wasn’t more open and less fearful about being transgender before I transitioned. Surprising and or hurting anyone when I revealed myself as Transgender is something I regret. There are those I could have possibly told sooner and saved them some heartache. Almost every time I “revealed” myself as Transgender it had a negative impact on the relationship. It “hurt” the “us” part of the relationship. I had withheld information for good or bad. So I regret hurting anyone by withholding knowledge from them regardless of my reasons.

What’s it like? Now that’s a much more complicated question. That assumes I know what it’s like to be a woman. In fact, I will never entirely know. I wasn’t born genetically female and can only partially experience what a woman experiences. Two of the biggest parts of being a woman are her reproductive cycle and baring children. I will never know either. I can’t say I’m sorry about not having a period. I’m sure most women would rather not. Having children however is quite different. I would have loved to experience that and many women say this was the single most powerful moment of their lives. I’ve witnessed my own children being born and even as an observer it was (and still is) the most profound thing I have ever known. To carry a child for 9 months and give it life is the most extreme thing a human being can do and any woman that has a child has to go through this. It’s like doing some ultra-extreme athletic event and a spiritual pilgrimage at the same time. No matter how well prepared you are, no mother gets away without confronting that challenge. This concept is staggering to me. I will never have to ask that of myself. My inability to experience birth or participate in the cycle of reproduction keep me somewhat separated from knowing what it is to be a woman.

In other ways, I can comment on what it feels like to live as a woman. Perhaps the best way is to discuss how it compares to being a man. After all I had 52 years of attempting to do that. I might start by saying that everything has gotten more complex. Relationships, socialization, appearance, dining and eating, athletics, business. I don’t think there is any way I could have grasped much of it before transitioning. Going out cross-dressed occasionally can never prepare you for the reality of living female 24/7. The “fun” of dressing up for a club outing is quite radically changed when dressing for another audience. Women have a myriad of considerations in dressing that men do not have. Men typically dress more or less the same every day. If a man is a white collar worker, often the only thing that might change is the color of his tie or perhaps his shirt. They are otherwise the same style, cut and color. If a man is a blue-collar worker, he will wear jeans and t-shirt or some sort of labor uniform. They may even wear the exact same clothes for multiple days. Don’t ask a woman to do that unless she is a “Tom-boy.” Even then it would be rare. When men go out their requirements are equally simple. If a man wants to be identified as flamboyant or “artistic” he will experiment slightly with the print and cut but more or less stay with the same clothing as every other man. If a man does care to be a creative dresser that’s considered a “plus” and generally he will get lots of attention for putting any effort into his appearance at all. There isn’t any potential downside. Other men aren’t going to be jealous because of what another man wears.

Women on the other hand are expected to be creative and pay quite a bit of attention to how they dress. In addition there is make-up and jewelry. All need to coordinate and be handled well. If you wear a blouse that is slightly too low, believe me other women will let you know either verbally or with dirty looks and whispers. If a woman works with the public in retail, the very last thing she wants to do is offend other women. Is your make-up too heavy or dark or colorful? That skirt too tight or clingy? Those heels to tall? What men often want to see in women, other women will crucify them for. A drag queen is free to go over the top because everyone knows she’s not trying to look authentic. A Transgender woman need to hit the mark like any other girl. That is IF she ever wants to make friends or get a job.

This same scrutiny applies to all aspects of a woman’s life. Better be looking in that mirror regularly girl. NOT because you’re vain but because there are so many things to check. How’s the hair holding up after a few hours at work. You may have spent a solid 20 minutes on it this morning but guaranteed it will have become unruly by noon. Make-up? How’s that lipstick? Cracked and flaking? Are your lips looking like you have some exotic skin disease? Something in your teeth after lunch? Good Lord! Not a lot of forgiveness for accidentally unbuttoned blouses or jeans. Men get a chuckle but women get a judgement. Women (if they are friendly) will let you know when your “gig” is out of line somehow. Others might just point and giggle. Something akin to having a sign taped to your back all day. Having a girlfriend give you the once over every now and then is a priceless and necessary partnership. Men always assume they look great. Women always assume something is wrong.

Better stay in shape too. Don’t get flabby with a big booty and muffin-tops. No forgiveness there either. In this case however it’s the men who are judging. Women do forgive each other and have compassion for this faux pax. Men want every woman to be lean and super-model beautiful but still miraculously have D-cup breasts. In this I may have some advantage. Having been male and still battling the evil hormone testosterone daily I tend to be leaner and more muscular than the average gal. The downside of being so lean is I’m naturally less curvy. I was extremely self conscious about this and tried to dress so that I seemed to have a waist. This process will sound familiar to any woman but not so much to men. M<en think they are God’s gift no matter how out of shape they are. What I’ve learned is that women come in all shapes and sizes but they all strive to hit the same abstract ideal. Turns out my struggle to be that is the same for every woman.

Now what about the upside of living as a woman? Obviously there must be something women enjoy about their gender. From my perspective there is quite a bit. Most men wouldn’t help another guy out if he seemed to be hurting emotionally. Women do. Women will step in and help another woman far faster than a man. If she needs help, the girls will circle their wagons. Men tend to cast out the “weak” ones and let them be eaten by wolves. Women have a gentle nurturing culture which seems in stark contrast to all I’ve said earlier. Delicate in touch and thought in ways men very rarely possess. Women are far more communal and supportive and I have definitely felt the difference. If a woman likes what you are wearing she will tell you. “Beautiful skirt!” or “I love those earrings!” Imagine a man doing that for another man….NOT! Having been a single Dad I can tell you men aren’t good at reaching out. I could have really used a “Daddy and me” back then. There weren’t any support groups for Dads. When my kids were with me, we were on our own unless I recruited a woman (possibly with her own kids) to join us. Back then I didn’t know how or feel comfortable reaching out. Now it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Men treat me differently too. Much of it I enjoy. Now doors are held open for me with a smile. I’m greeted warmly often hugged or even given a little kiss. Men will try to chat me up, buy me a drink and are generally far more interested in me than before. They, of course, have an agenda which I may not have. Sometimes the looks they give women can be quite frightening. Just FYI guys, don’t just sit and stare. That freaks women out and you will be labeled “creepy.” Women are almost always receptive to a compliment if done tastefully. Intelligence, cleanliness and smelling good are all huge. Please don’t be the too-drunk guy either. A woman wants to be chosen by someone who is actually discerning. I’ve had my share of weird encounters now but in the balance I really enjoy my new relationship with men outside the workplace.

At work though men have become a new adversary. I’m a small business owner and wear many hats. Formerly as a male, most of my business encounters were as direct as possible. Men in business are expected to be that way. Not so for women. Especially in dealing with men and their fragile egos. Every woman knows men require special handling. Be direct in making a man aware that he screwed up and you will be labeled a “bit@#” pronto. Suddenly you will be out in the cold and your communications will become significantly more difficult. Judgements will go against you and no one will say why. What I’ve learned is to stroke them and ask for help rather than doling out blame. Men love to help a woman. Anytime I try to lift a heavy object or get my hands dirty around a man more often than not they will ask if I need help. Learning to say “yes” and allowing them to assist me was initially quite unfamiliar and awkward especially if I knew I could do it better. Bottom line, if you want male friends, let them help!

Last but certainly not least is just the joy of feeling free to be me. I didn’t wait 52 years to transition lightly. It was incredibly hard to wait and search for happiness without feeling whole. Every day I put on a skirt or make-up, jewelry or do my hair is a celebration of finding myself finally. I love it! To be accepted into female culture no matter how well I represent a genetic woman has been worth it in every way. All the pain of surgeries and procedures to get there joyous moves in the right direction. I have not regretted any of it. I am here, finally and every day is my best day ever.

The Locker Room

so, I decided to start swimming in the pool again. It has been almost 6 months since I last swam laps, something I had done quite regularly. Formerly I had been swimming as a male. I wore a male speedo and used the Men’s locker room. That had been fine until I started to develop breasts. About a month before my surgery my breasts had gotten too large for me to swim comfortably dressed as a male. I began swimming at my local beach in a bikini. Although my body was changing, my face and voice hadn’t kept pace. I still felt a bit awkward. Fast forward to a few days ago and I pass easily as a woman every day. In most of my daily life I feel comfortable now, but the pool, and the Women’s locker room presented a daunting new frontier. How would this work? What is it like and how do women behave differently there?

My big opportunity to find out was as I said, just a few days ago. I had purchased a new one piece blue and pink Speedo racing suit. Looking in the mirror at Sportmart I thought I looked pretty good all things considered. The young salesman had even flirted with me when I was looking for the ‘swim’ section. I imagined I looked like a powerful older female athlete dressed in my slacks and tailored blouse. Maybe he was ‘cougar hunting.’ He had seemed disappointed when I had thanked and dismissed him. In the mirror I felt confidently feminine. I decided to wear my suit under my yoga pants and tank top as I prepared for the big outing. That way I could undress on the pool deck if I wanted. I felt like a child on my way to Disneyland as I drove the 10 minutes down the coast to the pool. I loved swimming that much and had really missed the sensation of gliding weightlessly in the water. Butterflies hit me as the sunny pool deck came into view. I checked the mirror one last time as I parked. Light make-up, my hair in a bun wearing only two earring studs. I felt appropriately athletic as I walked through the front door of the small pool facility. Even that was something a man would hardly need consider I thought. Women have to consider everything more. Having mascara or shadow bleeding down your eyes is no one’s idea of beauty. I purchased my entry from the woman at the front desk. No problem there. She was nonchalant and friendly talking to a young male lifeguard as I walked onto the warm sunny pool deck itself. 25 yards and eight lanes wide this was a small local pool. Only 4 of the lanes had swimmers doing laps I noticed as I scanned the scene. A female guard sat slumping in the guard tower on the near side. She looked barely awake wearing dark Ray Bans. I selected an empty lane setting my pink bag on the plastic chair behind the starting block. I looked around again. No one paid me any attention as I pulled off my pants and black tank top. The male guard from the front desk walked by as I dropped my clothes into my bag and began putting on my yellow “King of the beach” cap. I got this cap for a one mile ocean swim and 6 mile paddle I’d won a couple of years back. Even then I wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of the classic beach ‘King.” Tall and lean I had hair past my shoulders. I had never paddled a racing paddle board before that day and all the macho “contenders” were shocked when I snatched the trophy out from under them winning both parts of the event. I jumped in the water feet first with goggles in hand. The water felt warm and wonderful. My body exhilarating in the sensation of being completely immersed. I grabbed the wall as I surfaced and put my green reflective goggles on. The woman in the next lane stopped and looked over with a friendly smile. I smiled back and then pushed off the wall under water, my arms overhead and toes pointed gliding away in a streamlined position. I could feel all my muscles and joints rejoice as every connection extended into the wonderful weightless environment. I rolled to my right side my arm pulling back as I took my first breath. My lungs expanded deeply pulling the air in before I rolled back into my next stroke. I crossed 25 yards in a dozen pulls and then rotated over into a flip turn my muscles responding to the memory of thousands it had done before. My legs landed back near the wall my momentum carrying my feet expertly against it as I compressed and then pushed off once again streamlining now returning towards my starting point. I swam like this for about 500 yards before stopping for a rest. I hung on the wall and pulled up my goggles. Even though I was easily the fastest swimmer in the pool, no one paid me any attention. “This is wonderful” I thought to myself. I really had missed being in the water like this. My body felt alive again. I changed things up doing some laps kicking on my back and a few doing other strokes. After about 30 minutes of swimming I felt ready to call it a day.

I pulled off my goggles and looked around. There were a few more people in the pool. It looked like the lunch time triathletes were arriving. I was familiar with this phenomenon from the other pool I used to swim in prior to my transition. Triathletes are classically very serious about their training. Former competitive swimmers tend to be faster but don’t take themselves as seriously. A few triathletes in a pool can change the vibe from relaxed to tense quickly. It was definitely time to go. I realized yanking myself straight up doing a press with my arms on the pool deck to get out would be unusual for most women. I decided to follow  a method I’d seen women often use by grabbing the start block and pulling myself into a seated position on the edge of the pool deck. From there I stood up and walked to the plastic chair where my bag was and pulled out my towel. As I dried off I decided I would leave my cap on. I was still a bit self-conscious about my hairline scarring especially when my hair is wet. It’s very likely no one would notice but I decided to play it safe until I got in the locker room.  In addition I wasn’t sure if the small amount of mascara and eye shadow I had on when I got in the water was now running down my face. I realized these are probably exactly the same concerns every woman has getting out of the water especially if they don’t do it often. I had many female friends in the past make a big deal of going in the water and now I understood much more why they had felt that way. I dabbed my face and gathered my things walking past a tall lean male triathlete who had seen me getting out and was clearly going to take my lane.  I realized I was at least his height and perhaps an inch taller but his build was similar to mine about a year and a half ago. My body had changed significantly since I’d begun hormones but even still I’m sure I must have appeared a very powerful female athlete. I pondered what I used to think seeing a woman like myself. There was a time I would have been slightly intimidated by a valkyrie like me but that had been when I was much younger. As I matured I found powerful women more and more appealing. Perhaps I began to see people as more than just their gender classification. Athletic women were typically fun because they liked to DO things and were less fearful of life. These were qualities I enjoyed in all people, especially those I wanted to spend time with.

I walked around the deck to the woman’s locker room door. It’s difficult to describe what I felt as I opened the door with the woman logo and walked in. I suppose I had done so many moments like these over the years that I knew  to just follow through and not over think it. I can clearly remember the first time I went to a public place dressed as a woman. I had been terrified and actually shaking. Sine then there had been many challenging thresholds to cross including the woman’s restroom years ago. The oddest part of these experiences is that the brain behind my eyes is the same one I had all those years as a man. The only difference now is on the exterior. The movie being played in front of my eyes has changed but the viewer hasn’t. Sometimes I find my anxiety building when I forget how I appear now on the outside thinking I still look male. It’s only when I pass in front of a mirror that I realize I appear as a woman and the anxiety goes away. Entering the locker room I had one of those moments. I felt a bit anxious but followed my technique of suppressing my thoughts from racing. There were 3 other women in the first space which was a shower area. An older woman was rinsing with her one piece suit on as a mother and young daughter toweled off on a nearby bench that lined the wall. The girl was talking in a whisper to her mom trying had not to look at me. I looked over and smiled. My female partner had informed me that women tend to be very private in locker rooms often attempting to not make eye contact. She said it was out of respect for each other because women tended to be self-conscious of their bodies. I found this fascinating because it was quite a bit different in the men’s locker room.  Men will often stand naked and have long conversations with another man just as if they were wearing clothes. No one is ashamed or self-conscious at all. I thought of a joke my partner had shared, “Men always think they look better than they do and women always think they look worse.” I would have to say that is an accurate statement from what I had witnessed in life so far. I set my bag down on the bench and hung my towel on a hook above it. I turned and walked over to the shower avoiding eye contact with the older woman now finished washing. I rinsed off leaving my suit on. I had decided earlier I would just leave it on under my clothes and change at home. I noticed there were shower stalls where a woman could have privacy if needed.  This was something I had never seen in a men’s locker room. Apparently this difference in modesty had been translated into the construction of the 2 locker rooms. Maybe I would use those in the future, but would stick with my plan today.  After rinsing I walked back to my towel and began drying off. The mother and daughter were almost dressed. I began pulling on my pants and top. I noticed the little girl attempting not to look at me again and whispering to her Mom. Children are so guileless. She couldn’t hide her curiosity about me. My mind ran through the reasons she may find me interesting. Number one was probably my size and strength. At 6’1″ and 160 lbs. I am a powerful and tall woman. I have learned that ALWAYS gets attention no matter where I go. If I wear heels it gets even more. It can be fun to walk into a club or bar in 5″ heels and see the heads snap around. The second reason may be the 25 inch scar I have running down my right leg. I broke my femur in 5 places mountain-biking when I was 28 and had 3 surgeries to fix it. I had metal put in and then taken out. The scar ran from my hip to my knee and although no longer bright red as it had once been was still very obvious. The last reason and probably least likely was that I was just an odd woman.  This was the kind of thought I sometimes had to work hard to not entertain. Fear and paranoia are never good under any circumstances and certainly won’t improve any situation. I had leaned from many years of going out as a much more obvious man in a dress that it is always best to act with confidence and let anyone who has a problem just get over it. Operating from fear just identifies you as a victim and I wanted none of that.

The Mother and daughter finished dressing quietly and exited the locker room. I moved to the dry area beyond the showers where the actual lockers were. Women’s racing suits hung from many of the gray locker doors. I guessed there were age-group or high school girls who actually had assigned lockers here. The fact that they felt comfortable just hanging their suits like that said a lot about the security and safety of the pool facility and community. The older woman I had seen in the showers was getting dressed on a bench across the room.  There was a row of sinks and mirrors along one side of the space. I guessed this part of the locker room was identical to the Men’s. There was an outside chance there were less mirrors, but everyone needs sinks and mirrors. Women just tend to spend more time using them. I know my mirror time has gone way up. I finished drying my hair and had a look in the mirror. “Ooh” I thought, “drowned rat with red eyes, Lovely.” I hadn’t brought my hair brush in my bag but did have a beenie so pulled that out and arranged it over my flat tangled hair trying to improve or at least hide it. After arranging as best I could I admitted I wouldn’t be winning any beauty pageants like this. I knew I wasn’t far from home and made a mental note of other things I should bring next time to facilitate a better look exiting the locker room. Once again, very few men spend much more than a glance at themselves as they exit. The majority never look at all. Their apparent self-confidence or society’s lack of interest in their appearance evident in this small behavioral difference. For now I had finished up my first excursion into the women’s side and learned a few things. I would be more comfortable the next time and the next and soon think nothing of it all.