Tag Archives: Male Behavior

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.

 

Identity

Haleiwa_Barrl

The waves are perfect today. Head-high, clean, glassy right-handers peeling down the point. This spot only breaks in the Winter and then only rarely. This and the difficult access keeps the crowds down. Usually I see the same people in the water over and over. Mostly more mature surfers, lots of women and local kids just getting started. Today there are only 6 of us out and more than enough waves for everyone. The rides are a quarter mile long so every paddle back up the point is a long effort returning to the take-off spot. My adult daughter is smiling broadly as I arrive from another such journey. “Beautiful wave.” she says as I approach. “Yeah, phew!” I say sitting back up on my yellow and white Harbour 9’6″ longboard. “Yours was really nice too.” I return. She is riding a much shorter board so has to work harder for every wave. The short surface of the smaller board fighting her as she paddles the less buoyant craft. “You got a few good pumps down the line.” I add. She smiles her beautiful smile. Large white teeth, white blonde hair and fair complexion, she is like a Winter Goddess I think to myself. Always so comfortable in the cold water she lounges easily next to me in the 60 degree ocean. “Wow” look at that set!” she says excitedly pointing to the West as another perfect group of waves come marching in. We both begin paddling again up the point in the direction of the oncoming lines. Further out a single male surfer turns to catch the first of the over-head swells as it feels the bottom and begins to break. He paddles into it hops up smoothly and slides down the face angling in our direction. He races towards us as we take the whole scene in. There are 3 more waves behind this one and the lush green trees that line the point silhouette against a luminous stormy sky. An image we both feel burning into our memories. We clear the wave just as he wooshes by. My daughter gives him a hoot, feeling the contact high from the beauty we have all just shared. The next wave turns towards us and begins to stand up. My daughter is just in front if me and spins to catch it. I am filled with joy seeing how expertly she judges the wave’s position and her own, adjusting her paddling speed and direction to be in just the right place to catch it but not be caught by it. “Woo-hoo!” I shout as the wave rises up under her, her board suddenly lifting like a bucking horse its tail coming up and its nose down. She lets the nose drop and pops her legs under her as it falls away landing her feet on the deck of the board just before it careens end over end. She redirects the energy across the wave and slides away down the point another big smile spreading across her face. My eyes follow her like they have so many times before as she learned the skills necessary to be here now. Everything so much the same but then again so different. She is an adult, I can speak to her as a peer now in the water whereas before I was her parent and instructor, lifeguard and father. I am still her father however no longer in that male body. Today I sit in the surf line-up as a woman with my grown daughter after so many years as her male parent. The experience a completion of a long journey finally realized on my own part and hers.

As my children approached adulthood it became clear it was time for me to begin considering my own identity. I had spent all my energy safe-guarding them and nurturing their selves even as my own slowly drained from me. The more realized and conscious they became the more apparent my own stunted self was revealed. I had been living a half-life, always knowing there was someone inside whom no one could see. Every experience done as a voyeur, knowing I should feel more but always looking at it through a veil that separated me from the direct emotion. Having children broke through that initially. The profound moment of watching your child arrive still gives me chills and woke me from my sleep. They became the most precious things in my universe and my all consuming meaning. At the time they arrived I was married to their Mom and began to imagine a traditional family life. Perhaps this visceral connection to someone other than myself would be enough for me to let go of the constant awareness that I was not whole. Painfully and perhaps mercifully their mother could not live that broken reality and we parted ways as intimate partners but not as parents. I fought to be near them at times feeling short changed as their father but understood the deep need young children have for their birth mother. I became a weekend-warrior. I spent very Saturday and Sunday with my children for 5 years never taking one off. I worked the other 5 days but felt such a strong bond that I needed it as much as they did.

All was well or so I thought. I attempted other traditional male-female relationships but I could never get past the veil and my incomplete self. I dated multiple women, some met my children and some didn’t. Some I told of my incomplete self and others never knew. Some bitterly condemned me when I shared and others empathized but left anyway. None could live with someone who was only half present. As my children became teenagers I saw them less. I attempted to bridge the widening distance from my children by teaching them to surf and sharing my joy of the ocean. When my son turned thirteen I realized he needed a father to show him how to be a man. He wanted to feel special as a boy who could have his own unique time with his male role-model. My daughter had her Mother already. They shared experiences my son was not privy to nor interested in. He was all boy and wanted to feel that we had our own things and activities. He needed to bang his shield and spear together and I had to show him how. I began taking him surfing. We started with the easy spots and the smaller days. He devoured the experiences eagerly. Often we would get up before dawn and school to arrive at the ocean just as it was getting light. After dozens and dozens of surf sessions he slowly improved. I watched as his self confidence blossomed his body grew and began to display the lean muscles of a young man. This confidence spread into school and other areas as he started wrestling and playing football. He embraced the toughest male sports loving and reveling in activities I used to cringe at. By the time he was 18 he was a supremely confident Alpha male. It seemed whatever we had done had gone right.

My daughter I picked up again, perhaps a bit late after realizing she needed that same male influence. We suffered through a more difficult adolescence together. She trying to figure herself out in a world significantly more hostile to young women than men and I struggling with my own growing pains. I pushed hard trying to keep her near hoping she’d feel the love of the ocean as a grounding force in her life. Her strong intuition seemed to know I was hiding something. Her Mother worried I was harming her in some unconscious way. I felt my day of reckoning approach even as the waves come relentlessly across the water. I finally shared my struggle and split identity to my daughter in a therapy session when she was few weeks shy of her 18th birthday. I had always hoped to wait until she arrived at the that magic adult number to somehow preserve her childhood from my own complications and had nearly got there. Her struggles made it seem more imperative to finally be honest and let her in on who her father actually was.

Initially there was disbelief. This grizzled, athletic very male father was in fact a woman? I can’t even imagine how strange that must have been for her to wrap her mind around. My heart broke to disappoint another woman, but this time the single most important one of my life. I felt myself fall from her esteem. I, like every parent had the sudden descent from the Olympian pedestal to the shattered reality of a common flawed mortal. I pondered her mother’s need to help in the crash even as I knew of its inevitability. I shared with my 21 year old son, now a 6-foot-six heavily muscled man a few weeks later. He embraced me now towering over me and said, “I love you no matter what Dad.” Tears rolled down my cheeks at those words. The fear I had held so long at this moment dissolving on the shoulder of my beautiful child.

He has held onto that position even though I know there has been struggle for him to comprehend it. We surf less since he has graduated college and lives in another town with his fiancé but my daughter has recently returned. In the interim she has found her understanding of her world and herself and how I fit in it as a woman. In some ways she has become my mentor. After all ironically she has lived as a woman longer than I. She arrives from her long paddle back after her last wave with a huge bright smile. “Gorgeous wave!” I say as she sits up next to me. “Yeah, thanks Dad.” she grins. Just then the man who caught the wave right before hers paddles up. “You ladies still killing it over here?” “Oh yeah!” I respond. “You know it!” He gives me a big smile stopping for a moment to chat. “Girl Power!” I hear him say as he paddles off. My daughter and I look at each other and laugh out loud. “You have no idea!”

 

 

Christmas

AngelboyCat08Out

Christmas. A time of year filled with memories. As we mature we gather more and more of them. Some magical and bright filled with all the love and traditional cheer, others dark and lonely sometimes filled with regret, resentment or pain.

I was fortunate to have had a few years of magic. As a small child our family was wealthy and our Christmas holiday filled with big parties, holiday music, food, presents, Santa visiting in his red suit, turkey, a fully trimmed tree and the gift you had wished for under it. Like something out of a fairy tale those years live in my memory flickering with a soft candlelight glow. After my parents separated, we had a sudden wake up call to my 3 siblings and I staring at an almost barren tree with only four practical gifts. Our only  company, our mother dying in bed.

After my mother passed away 1o years later and my sister took over we agreed to not give gifts at all. At 14 we strung cranberries and popcorn to decorate the tree, made our own music, ate a small meal we prepared together and learned the true meaning of the day. We were happy to have each other and truly thankful for it. To this day I cherish that present of a simple lesson learned at such a young age.

Married with small children years later I lived Christmas through my children’ eyes. Watching their joy and delight at the tree, food and presents was priceless. I couldn’t afford the gifts they always wanted but did my best to make their holiday special. Most poignantly years later my son shared a story that brought me to tears. At about age 5 or 6 he had wanted a large rubber lizard for Christmas. All his friends had them and of course, he wanted one too. On my meager Artist salary his mother and I didn’t have the money so I made him one out of paper maché. I made it bigger than his friends’ and airbrushed it with opalescent colors. On Christmas day he was so excited to open this large gift, sure it would be the lizard he longed for. His face dropped when he saw the one I had made. His disappointment painfully obvious. Most remarkably though he put a smile on quickly and thanked me anyway. No complaints ever. Later he put the lizard away in his room and rarely played with it. After the divorce when we were dividing up his things I thought I would donate the lizard or give it away but he refused to let it go. He brought it over to his mother’s new husband’s large home and kept it there. I had moved into a very small 1 bedroom apartment. My kids’ bunk bed was only 2 feet from mine and they shared a single bookshelf for both of their toys. We had no room for the large creature. I moved many times over the years of their childhood, moving into bigger places where they could have their own rooms and then later back into smaller places. My children lived with me on weekends until their teens at which point they would simply visit so there was no point in keeping expensive empty rooms for them. I forgot about the lizard and imagined it was long gone. One day I was over at my ex-wife’s house and visited my son’s room as he was preparing to go off to college. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The lizard was still there. Of all the incredibly expensive and I’m sure much longed for presents he had kept this poor old paper maché toy. I asked him about it and his answer has given me many a teary eyed moment since. He said, “I kept it because you made it. It wasn’t what I wanted but I pretended to like it. Now it reminds me of you and how hard you always try to make Christmas special.”

I choke with tears writing this especially since I always felt so badly about what I could not provide. I would often pick my children up from their mother’s huge estate at Christmas time to bring them to my house. They had everything a child could want. A fifteen foot professionally decorated tree with electric train running around the base and presents stacked as tall as a person. Their living room warm and cozy, Christmas treats on every table, games to play and a roaring fire in the hearth. I almost felt guilty bringing them back to my tiny apartment with a three foot tree on a table and only a handful of gifts. With my son’s single statement about the toy lizard, all the feelings of inadequacy vanished and I knew he had learned long ago what Christmas really meant even as I had at 14. Of all the gifts he could have given me I  have cherished this one more than any other. Later my daughter shared a similar sentiment in a letter she wrote in class. The best gift we can give one another is love and acceptance. To receive it from my children has been priceless.

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.

Hair Salon

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The big day had arrived! Finally I was going to get my first dye job! My whole life (53 years) I’d had my natural dark brown hair color. The only changes that had occurred via sunlight and chlorine from swimming or surfing. Recently some grays had begun to show so I felt somewhat justified in my decision to color it. I had always wanted long styled hair as a boy, but for so many reasons that had always been a non-option. Until about age 7 or 8 my mother had given us the “regular boys” cut. My three brothers and I would be marched into a barber shop like soldiers. She would ask, “4 regular boys please.” A regular boys cut in the late 1960’s was short in the back and sides, trimmed in an even loop around the ears (aka “white walls”) and a little longer on top so the hair could be combed back and parted on the side with brilliantine or some other men’s hair styling pomade.

The only hitch in this plan was that I was anything but a “regular boy.” Every single time we went into the barber shop I wanted to scream and run to protect myself from that hideous hair style being inflicted upon me. All the wonderful hair I had accumulated in the last 8 weeks or so being shaved off by the sadist in the white apron. It was literally all I could do to keep from crying knowing full well what the consequences of that would be among my brothers and the other men seated in that very male sanctuary. I would tough it out and be a good soldier and leave feeling like Samson, his strength and person shorn from him along with the hair left to be swept up on the barber shop floor.

As if this was not bad enough, it actually became worse after my parents divorced when I was 7. Now that my mother was on her own and money was tight, she decided that she would buy herself a pair of electric clippers and save the $10.00 for the four haircuts by doing it herself. Many children have their mothers cut their hair but ours did it with an added level of difficulty. My mother would only cut our hair when she was drunk on bourbon and stoned on pain killers. Due to her terminal breast cancer my mother took an incredible cocktail of pain meds daily. Demerol, Codeine, Percoset and others she’d blend with a tall Jim Beam before beginning. By the time she got the razor out she could barely stand much less cut a straight line. During these haircuts even my normally stoic brothers wanted to run. Seeing Mom coming at you with a pair of scissors and the Wahl electric razor in that state was enough to rattle anyone. Brendan, my younger brother was always first due to his unfortunate place in the line-up. We would literally push him to the front of the line. There was no use resisting, our fate was sealed. It was just a matter of just how bad it would be. Brendan, resigned to his fate in this as in so many other unpopular things was our guinea pig. When Mom was done with him a few minutes later he would come walking out of the restroom eyes downcast his hair butchered into a series of gouges and lop-sided whitewalls. A perverse and butchered version of the “regular boys.” I  would have happily submitted to the “regular” humiliation rather than this new degradation. Being the next youngest I walked into the bathroom shell-shocked from having just witnessed Brendan’s fate. Mom tolerated no discussion of why this was happening. If I did resist at all, her pat answer, “do you want to be a pretty boy all your life?” would silence me. Even though I really did, I knew that was an unacceptable answer. To this day though I wonder what would have happened had I answered “Yes.”

Perhaps the most challenging part of these drunken haircuts came the next day at school. Our journey to school on our bikes was a quiet funeral procession. Like the condemned on their way to the gallows there was no conversation. We were all lost in expectation of what was to come when we arrived at school. Wearing our cheap Sears clothing we now had the added offense of looking like we were run over by a lawn mower with damaged blades. Upon our arrival the insults and jeers would begin. “Nice haircut!” This at a time when many of the boys were allowed to grow their hair as long as they wanted. Many had hair half way down their backs. “Hey Benny Goodman!” “Did yer head get caught in a blender?” “Hey Jarhead!” Taunts rained down. Regarding our anachronistic style, our Mother advised, “Don’t be such followers.” We certainly weren’t although we longed to be. By about lunch time each of us would have made our way into the principal’s office for fighting when we finally lost our temper. It was a sorrowful thing for the child who received our pent up wrath. Each one of us had long ago been identified as “dangerous” due to boxing lessons given by older brothers far larger than any of our schoolmates.

Fast forward now 40 years and I sat under a hair-dryer in a beauty salon, my newly dyed long dark auburn hair setting. I looked around unable to hear anything as the blower drown everything else out. My eyes took it all in. The women in the salon talking, cutting, grooming and just being women. A world so long alien to me I was now able to cross into with ease. The journey that had seemed unattainable would now be just part of my normal routine as so many other uniquely feminine activities had. I marveled at it all and to my changed attitude towards it. Conversations that not so long ago would have been excruciating I now enjoyed. Children, clothes, fashion, gossip had all become part of my experience and felt as natural as I had discussing the latest event in the Surfing or some other adenaline filled male pursuit. My stylist and I discussed kids, her father’s illness, getting old, breakfast favorites, local music, make-up and hair care with equal interest. I chatted and the words flowed effortlessly. I sat in the chair, hair slicked back with dye in the most unattractive way without fear that a man would see and judge me here. This was where women went to achieve the beauty men and society required of them. A safe place where any woman or female spirit might come and be welcomed as a sister in the timeless mutual grooming ritual. Even after 52 years as a man I was welcomed like any other woman.

My mother had passed away when I was 14. For a few years I grew my hair longer but by the time I was 18 employers would no longer tolerate it.  It wasn’t until I broke into being a full-time professional Artist around the age of 25 that I grew it back out. During the next 10 years it was often halfway down my back. At 37 when my wife divorced me the male spirit rose in anger over having been deceived and in protection of my place as a father to my small children. The hair came off in preparation for that battle. My 3-year old daughter administering the first lopsided cut across my pony tail. A stylist cleaned it up the next day and for the next 10 years I wore my hair short as I attempted to be the protector my children needed. Part of this was intentional and part was the result of hair loss. At around 40 my hair began to fall out and thin. I was horrified.

At 43 I had my first hair transplant. It helped with the recession on the sides but it was clear that I would need to take medication to stop the thinning as well. Rogaine entered my life. I was unaware that it also stimulates hair growth everywhere on the body. My God, what a dilemma for a female spirit! In order to stop my hair from thinning I had to become a Sasquatch! I began to disappear into a blanket of fur. Shoulders, arms, chest, back, neck, ears, you name it. Keeping it at bay became a full-time job. My eyebrow and nose hairs seemed to spring up like small trees over night and removing these deeply rooted specimens felt as if they were attached to my brain-stem. Something else had to be done!

I discovered laser hair removal at age 44. I found a company about an hour drive from my home that would remove all my body hair in five 2-hour sessions of pain 6 weeks apart. After shaving the afflicted area, the nurse gridded my body with a pattern of dots using a stencil. Each dot about a half-inch apart, they represented a location for the laser to zap the hair follicles in the area. Even though she administered a numbing cream I would sweat from the pain. The only thing that got me through was the idea that I might be released from the hair body suit.

Once completed I felt reborn. Suddenly there was a smooth body in the mirror I was happy to see. I couldn’t believe what joy I experienced feeling the wonderful hairless surface. I began to swim and workout again. I felt younger and more comfortable in my skin. I began to think there might be a glimmer of hope out there for me to be more feminine. Crossing over still seemed impossibly out of reach since I still had a very thick beard that grew down my neck. I could sport the fashionable 5 o’clock shadow halfway through the day.

I began laser removal of my beard at age 48. I started with my neck and worked my way in towards my mouth and up my sideburns strategically. I wanted to keep as much as was necessary to remain male should my goal of being a woman prove unattainable. As the hairs were removed the skin on my face smoothed without the coarse hair follicles disrupting the surface. At about this time I started taking Propecia to encourage my thinning hair to grow back.  Slowly as my beard disappeared, the hair on my head became longer and thicker. I became a man with nice hair. I began to find myself more popular among women my age and even much younger. This new popularity led to a romance that held me for a couple of years in limbo. I wondered, maybe this can be enough.Maybe I don’t need to go any further. My partner embraced me dressed as a woman and we would often go out to Gay clubs together. As time went on it became clear we were not otherwise compatible. I began to lose hope for us and along with it my last attachment to being male.

I began taking estrogen at age 50.The estrogen began making even more changes. Even as I began finishing laser removal of my facial hair my skin became softer and my hair even fuller. My body began to change too. My hard lean body began to soften and breasts began to grow. In the pool I began to slow. People I could have beaten easily before now became my equals and then faster. The clock was ticking. The time had come to make the final leap. I scheduled my facial surgery and swam in my local pool as a man for the last time.

Now, facial surgery behind me and living as a woman, the man I was feels like someone else. I ponder the distance I feel from him. It seems strange to me but I almost experience memories of him as if they were another’s life. I’m not entirely sure if it’s just from living this life for the last year as a woman and all that has meant or if the hormones have actually altered my mind. I suspect it may be a bit of both. My body now more and more feminine by the day. My skin is smooth and soft, my breasts a full c-cup, more fat all over and my hair thicker than ever. I sit at the salon my my first dye and cut complete. I look in the mirror at the new me. My hair now a deep wine color, almost burgundy with a chestnut undertone cut into layers that frame my face. My large blue eyes popping even more against the complimentary color. My stylist asks, “What do you think?” I pause for a moment letting it all sink in. “I love it!” I answer. I do. I love the salon and all it took to get here.

The Proposal

She was acting weird all day. So many probing questions. What do you want your future to look like? Do you ever see us living together? Do you need indoor plumbing to find happiness? Honestly I wondered if her meds were off again. Normally our morning conversations over coffee were lighter. We celebrated just being together and the wonder of actually finding each other in the first place. The view from my place was incredible, a stunning 180 degree view of the canyon and ocean from my deck was often the focus of our evening toasts “The Queendom” as we called it. Well, really She had coined that term, like so many others. There was no end to her nicknames for situations, people or locations. We usually laughed easily over all this joy and goofiness, but tonight was different, more serious. Her eyes were darker green, with that outline of blue, steady and intense like a predator waiting to pounce. I could probably read her moods by the color change in her eyes. I knew a few variations now. Passion was deep green with a bit of firey yellow in the center. Her eyes went a light ice green when her desire was satiated like the color of the local ocean underwater, cool and calming. I hadn’t really seen much anger yet except that one night at the bar in San Francisco when that gross guy wouldn’t leave us alone. Then they had gone like green slate. Dark gray green, ominous like a severe thunderhead. But today, today dark green with that clean blue outline. Were these her serious eyes?

Form. Maybe that was it. We had been “storming” as she put it. All fun and passion, desire and joy, reckless and care free. We’d gone to balls, clubs, parties, and on romantic road trips for the last 6 months somewhat neglecting our “real” lives. Maybe the time had come to ‘form.” Maybe. “Come sit down.” she said pointing to the couch. “Okay.” I said. “What’s up?” I asked as I sat where she pointed on my couch. Maybe we were going to have one of our “difficult” conversations. She liked to confront any issue early and head off misunderstandings before they got up steam. I must say I appreciated the concept as unfamiliar as this practice was for me personally. This didn’t really feel like  one of these “difficult” conversations though. She seemed…nervous. Yeah, she was actually nervous! I hadn’t seen nervous before. She was solid like a rock. Unshakeable as a granite mountain. Were her lips trembling? My mind raced. What could be going on here?

I thought back now. How long had we been dating?  We started last may and now it was March. 11 months. I do remember her saying something strange to me after our second date. ” I’ll be asking you a question in 11 and 1/2 months. I want you to be ready when I do.” Had it been that long? She would occasionally remind me. “I’ll be asking you a question in 10 months, 9 months etc.” She quit doing that about 3 months ago. I had sort of forgotten about that. Maybe this was that moment. She was acting really strange. She sat down on the coach next to me and looked at me with those direct serious eyes. “If I ask you to say “yes” or “no” without a question, what’s your intuitive answer?”  she said with a slight smile. I was a bit confused by the question. “What do you mean?” I asked.” “It’s simple” she replied. “Just answer the universe, yes or no?” “Okay” I replied. “Yes! I like to say yes more than no, so, Yes!” She smiled and stood up from the couch. “‘l’ll be back in 20 minutes.” she said. “What?” I asked. “Where are you going?” “I’ll be right back.” she said as she gathered her purse and car keys. “I say yes and you leave?” I complained as she walked out the open french doors to my small deck. “I’ll be back!’ She said now exiting the gate as I followed onto the deck. The Dark blue Mercedes SUV backed down my steep driveway then made the quick turn downhill and was gone.

I  finished the last few sips of wine watching the sky change from red orange to maroon and dusty purple. It had been a beautiful Winter day in Summerland. Coffee and a hike together in the morning after making love, we had parted ways in the middle of the day and I’d gone for a swim in the local pool 10 minutes away. She had returned with appetizers, a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a beautiful bouquet of orange and purple stargazers with green palm fronds. I had arranged the appetizers and flowers and we had brought it all outside to enjoy the sunset. It was something we’d done many many times in the “Queendom.” I loved it. Life was perfect. Better than I could have ever imagined. After my transition last October from male to female I had fulfilled a lifelong dream. My world had become instantly simpler without living the “dual” life as a man and part-time woman.

I never imagined what might happen after I transitioned. It had been the end of my plan, the “zero” moment. I had thought I may have to leave town to transition, even thinking of moving to South America or somewhere remote so I would be able to start over without judgement or embarrassing my children. I can see now that would have been insane even impossible for me.  Very extreme, but then, nothing about my life had been average. She had arrived even as I was setting the date for my transition surgery. She seemed like a gift from the Gods. My perfect mirrored soul in a female “earth suit” as she called her body. So many similarities in our lives I couldn’t imagine life now without her.

I heard the neighbors Golden start barking and then the engine noise of her SUV coming up the road. In a minute she had parked and came walking back onto the deck. “Welcome back!” I said “Thank You” she said  giving me a light kiss on the lips. “Come back inside.” she said grabbing my hand. “Can you sit down again?” She asked pointing to the couch. “Okay…” I said with a little emphasis so she knew I was really beginning to wonder what was going on.  “Do you remember how I told you I’d have a question to ask you when we first started dating?” She asked as she sat down next to me. “Yes.” I responded stating to get a little nervous myself now. “Well.” she said now sliding off the couch and onto one knee on the carpet. My heart began to pound. This was unbelievable I thought to myself. “Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” Realistically I knew it would be coming, but thought I wold have another month or so before it happened.

I had struggled with how to handle this moment should it arrive ever since she first mentioned “the question” 11 months before. At the time I was somewhat fresh out of a 3 year relationship in which I had proposed to someone else. That relationship was seriously flawed from the beginning but she had accepted. Fortunately we had broken it off and gone our separate ways. That along with a failed marriage 18 years ago had definitely soured me on the idea of doing it again, but neither had started as this relationship had. This time I had started as a woman.

And now I was having that quintessential female moment. She pulled the small black jewel box from out of her pocket. “I knew I wanted to ask you this from that first time you came over to my house.” she said looking at me with the most intense eyes I’d seen yet. They were green and gold and blue all at once. I felt like they were boring into me. My hair began to stand on end and I could feel waves of goosebumps sweeping across my skin. “Genivieve” she said, “Will you marry me?” She asked opening the box to reveal a beautiful round cut 1 carat diamond ring. Tears began to run down my cheeks. I was shocked. Was I really feeling like this? It was startling, unexpected and overwhelming. “Yes.” I said leaning forward and holding out my hand. There was no other possible answer. I wanted to always be with her. My eyes began to blur with tears as she slid the ring on my left hand. It fit perfectly. I looked at my hand with the long pink nails and diamond ring and thought, “whose hand IS that?” It seemed so strange to be in this position after having been on the other side before. I looked up and kissed her as the tears came down.  This is what I was always supposed to feel during a proposal I thought as the kiss went on with beautiful intensity. “This is honest unreserved love.” I thought. “This is what I’ve always wanted.” I never felt so sure about anything before. This was right.

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.