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10 Lessons Learned in Transition

A great deal of you are going to read this and say, “well duh Michelle, we know that already”. Try not to though because saying ‘duh’ makes you sound like a teenage goon from an 80’s movie just waiting to have his ass handed to him by some smart-alecky punk named Corey. This is for people who may be coming to the realization they are trans, or may know someone who might be. I think it would have been nice if someone gave me a list at 17 along with a smart whap on the back of the head. Like the last list, this is kind of tongue in cheek, except in this case not really.

Also, a lot of people thought my last list was all labeled #1 as some kind of clever statement when in reality, WordPress and PE changed all my numbering and I wasn’t savvy enough to fix it. Consider my 11th and 12th lessons to be “learn non- MS Word text editing”, coming right after “learn how to edit text in MS Word”.

1. If You Ignore It, It Still Won’t Die – Trying to fix yourself through denial is about the same as slapping some black electrical tape over the engine light after it comes on. Having done both things, I have come to find that this simply reschedules the problem for a much worse time, and probably quadruples the cost. I dimly remember the Bible admonishing “thee” to not hide a candle under a bushel as an allegory to something, and have confirmed this was sound advice when the fire started. If you can mentally deal with it now, it’s probably going to be easier, and even if not, at least in the near future it will have been in the past; my favorite place for things I would much rather deny.
 2. The Military Will Not Make a Man Out of You – Now, I don’t regret for a second that I joined the Air Force and served my country, but from the outlook of a trans person, boy did it suck. After attempting to ‘man up’ by joining various teams and the Boy Scouts when I really wanted to hide and read in my cage, my thought was that nothing fixes you up better than the Air Force (except for the Army and Marines, but definitely not the Navy). True, it kept me focused with the high intensity learning of my career, and the higher intensity learning of the tens of thousands of rules and regs, many of which seemed aimed specifically at me, but it didn’t change my trans-ness. Not even when dodging camel spiders or attempting to solder a microchip while wearing a gas mask and huge rubber gloves. By all means sign up if so inclined, but don’t expect it will change anything.

3. Exercise Full Disclosure if Getting Married – This is probably a good idea post-transition, but I’m talking about the first time around. Most people get hitched with a basic understanding that their partner is going to remain in the gender they met them in. When this changes all of a sudden, not only does it seem like a big ‘fuck you’, the first thing they do is look back to see how they were duped. Chances are, you aren’t going to fess up about being trans at this point because you don’t really understand that yet, but we all know there were clues. Knowing how to put on pantyhose by the age of 8 without getting a run would be a big one and probably shouldn’t be left out. When the walls of the façade you have been propping up all these years finally come tumbling down, it sure doesn’t hurt to have an “told you so” or two in the bag.

4. If You Ignored #3 and Get Caught Later, Don’t Half Ass It – She found some pictures; he accidentally opened your breast binder. Yeah, now is a good time to catch up your partner to the past you have been dodging. True, you might not be ready to admit anything to yourself yet, but filling in some of the blanks is a lot better than slapping a deceptive looking band aid on the problem and hoping it won’t start gushing later. Just like the engine light, waiting till later is really, really bad. Downplaying things is like telling your trigger happy alcoholic uncle the noise was “probably” not a burglar, knowing full well the fuse to a cherry bomb is fizzing down behind him.

5. Your Therapist Might Be a Dick – I’ve talked to a few people now, still on the cusp of transition, who tell me, “Yeah, I went to see Dr Z, but man, was he a dick! I never went back.” Not everyone has this experience, but some do, and I kind of did. Don’t let this dissuade you at all. The therapist is a major gatekeeper, even though they get upset if you call them that. They take the Standards of Care very seriously and are genuinely interested in making sure you should be starting on this journey. After all, you may just be gay, not that there is anything wrong with that. If you think you might be trans, it is totally worth it to put up with some irascible badgering to make sure.

6. Foundation is Not Your Friend – Before we begin much needed beard removal, we still like to go out and about. I personally found that schmearing on a whole bottle of Covergirl did a wonderful job in masking that shadow and making look like a child’s nightmare at the same time. On a hot day you can prepare to look like you just opened the Ark of the Covenant, and on a cold one, keep a watch for a Madame Tussaud patrol vehicle looking to recover you back. Yes, we all hate to have anything mannish about our appearances, and with light make up, someone up close may notice something. Too much though, and they will notice you from across the street and peg you as a recently fired drag queen. Less is more.

7. Prepare a Damn Speech – When you are ready to come out to people, it’s pretty exciting and scary. Chances are, if you cold call it, you are going to ramble all over the place and sound kind of loony as they look on quizzically. Conversely, after you told the 67th person, it all gets just a little bit onerous. If you have a speech prepared, you can recite it rote, right from memory, as you mentally categorize your fingerbowl collection. I know that sounds cold, but even after 67 times, without something prepared, you are still going to fuck it up.

8. Don’t Assume People Know Anything – We, or at least I, have been there a few times. “What I wanted to tell you is… I’m transgender [dramatic pause]”. It’s good to remember that all of our trans jargon sounds really familiar to us, but to the majority, you might as well tell them you are chtmoiderated. They will look at you quizzically as they attempt to recall if this is some disease or ethnic group they should know about, but don’t. Chances are, you are kind of hoping for a good response to your news, and making them feel stupid and uninformed right off the bat sure doesn’t help. Saying transgendered is cool, as long as you follow it with a short definition. This gives them the option of pretending they already knew. People with saved faces are much less likely to spit in yours.

9. Don’t Be a Big Prickly Pants – Yes, you will have people insisting on calling you ‘Roy’ instead of ‘Renee’ just to be a jerk, or out of some weird passive aggressive way of teaching you that you are “wrong”. Most people though are simply going to screw it up, and probably a lot. This sure is going be weird and awkward for you, but get used to it. Unless they do it three times in a row slowly, it’s probably an accident they are going to feel bad about. Same thing with the pronouns. When I was outed at work, the first thing I did was assure people that I wasn’t going to get upset and the anxiety level all around seemed to drop immediately. Just like people who constantly correct others spelling and grammar, you will be technically correct, but much hated for it.

10. Don’t Write a Blog That Is Clearly Attributable To You, Includes Your Pre-Transition Name, With a Picture, and Easily Searchable by Google and Other Fine Products When Still Closeted at Work –  Um, I don’t think I need to spell this out any more clearly.

In the interest of making everyone clear on this, yes, I am the grade A ditz who did exactly all of these things except for #9 (or Don’t Be a Big Prickly Pants in case I screwed up the numbers once again). If I can prevent one person from doing one of these, it’s all worth it, so long as they don’t avoid two of them and make me look even worse. Don’t worry, I’m sure I”ll have more as I go along.

Top 10 Reasons Middle Age Transition Doesn’t Suck

I’ve noticed that a lot of the really cool bloggers out there like to make Dave Letterman type Top 10 lists. OK, maybe not me, or any of my excellent blogger friends in my b-roll way down to the right, but people do this. Now in the past, it’s always been my firm policy to observe what the cool kids were doing and run in the opposite direction, you know, just to be different. Not that being different was a big chore for me, but whatever. Wouldn’t it be really, really different if I made like a monkey and aped the cool kids? No? So what, I’m doing it anyway. And yes, these are all tongue in cheek before you get all ‘Analytical Annie’ on me.

Without further ado, the Top 10 Reasons Why Middle Age Transition to Womanhood Doesn’t Suck:

  1. It’s Way Better at Making You Feel Young Again Than Buying a Corvette – Seriously, what in life is going to make you feel younger at 40 or 50 than going through puberty again? Just a few months of blue pills and you are right back with Margaret doing those “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!” exercises. The added bonus is that you don’t even have to keep tampons handy in your purse for when your special friend finally arrives. Way beats looking like a ridiculous looser in a sports car everyone thinks you bought for penis deficiency reasons.
  1. Suddenly You Are the Interesting One at High School Reunions – I’m going to take a wild stab and guess that not a whole lot of us were the captains of the football team. We all know we secretly wanted to be cheerleaders or on the synchronized swimming team; let’s not lie to ourselves here. When we show up now, suddenly Johnny Brewski’s 4 touchdowns in one game in 1986 isn’t such a draw any more. It’s OK, he can sip Old Grandad from his flask while the crowd of people you only sort of remember lavish you with positive attention.
  1. Very Low Probability of Ass Kicking in the Forecast – OK, we all deeply envy the kids they like to show on Nightline who both figured themselves out at like 5, and had the guts to insist on it at the same time. No yucky male puberty, and get to do all the girly stuff we are now too old for. We also didn’t have to present as teenage girls with a penis. I’m sorry, but that just seems like it’s got to suck and super dangerous if inclined to date. Teenage boys are simply not known for non-violent restraint when their masculinity is threatened. Yes, at our age we can find ourselves in the same boat, but by now we do have some common sense about it, plus we don’t have to wait what must seems a horrendous amount of time to take care of things. At 40, a few years is but a blink.
  1. We Can Just Go Buy Pretty Things – Just getting started and building your wardrobe for the final time after Purge #8? You can shop anywhere you want, and buy anything you want, anywhere, anytime, even in total dude mode because (1) everyone is going to assume you are married and doesn’t even blink and (2) you just don’t even care anymore anyway! Remember those nerve wracking trips bringing a dress from the K-mart clearance rack up to the register at 21, sweating and blushing the whole time? Those days are done sister!
  1. We Can Buy Those Pretty Things in the Right Size – Nothing was a bigger bummer than ordering that sweet looking dress online and failing to understand what the ‘P’ meant on the size chart and looking like the Morton Salt Girl as a result. By middle age and after dozens of heartbreaking Salvation Army donations, we are finally no longer attempting to stuff our feet into way too tiny shoes, or wearing pantyhose that cut off all our lower circulation. The feeling like we are still trying to squeeze into our younger sisters outfits when just trying to look nice is done as well.
  1. Chances Are, You Got Your Shot at Having Kids – Maybe not true for everyone, but the majority of us had the joy bringing life into the world. Maybe not the way we would have wanted, but still. We can’t all be as smarty pants as Dr McGinn and think to freeze our sperm before starting HRT, so our younger, more male-ish lives were the best chance we were ever going to have. [Note: Dr McGinn, in the tiny chance you read this, it’s all tongue and cheek! I certainly don’t need my potential surgeon getting miffed (So, little Miss Michelle thinks she’s so funny, eh?) and adding 4 additional testicles or something.]
  1. The Value of “Comfortable” is Well Ingrained – One thing we learned in the years of acting male is that men generally refuse to wear anything truly uncomfortable for any length of time. Even ties are really not that bad. Younger trans women, as well as a great many cis women, are willing to subject themselves to fantastic levels of suffering in the name of looking good. Four inch stilettos, way too tight clothes, jewelry that makes barbed wire seem like a good time, and so forth. By the time we hit middle age, we are generally willing to suffer pantyhose when necessary, and maybe a pair of heels on special occasions. We are saved excruciating pains up our feet and shins just through the knowledge that looking pretty good in flats or low pumps is way better than looking really good in foot shredding, ankle breaking platforms.
  1. Lower Expectations – Back in the dude days, people didn’t expect a whole lot out of you when it came to the softer side of life. You could forget everyone’s birthday for 5 years straight, then make it up with an animatronic talking fish head wrapped in the classifieds section and be lauded as truly swell. Now that you are revealed as female, it’s time to stop being such a sandbagging lump of crap and actually read through the Hallmark section a bit before randomly picking something for your mom’s birthday that says, “To My Nephew Who is 5!”. By this point, after all the years of really screwing the pooch at this, anything you do is going to look like a huge improvement, even if the same thing from your sister would raise eyebrows of disapproval.
  1. Old People Kind of Look Alike Anyway – OK, you saw how fast the last few decades have gone, and how exponentially faster every added year has been as well. With the way this is going, it’s not long before you are going to be “get off my lawn” old. I’m sorry, but this isn’t the place to pull punches; there just isn’t time. The good news is that once you hit about 65, the great big public difference between the sexes seems to be boobs, hair, and clothes. And just barely at that – there is a lot of overlap. That’s just 3 things you have to worry about  to pass in public with never a person looking at you with the hairy eyeball. Sure, your chances of ever looking like Natalie Portman may have fled, but there is something to be said for being unquestionably a Ma’am as you munch your senior Moons Over My Hammy at Denny’s.
  1. Your Older Relatives Are Probably Dead – I’m not saying we should be jumping up and down yelling, “Yay! Aunt Bernice is finally pushing up daisies!” At the same time, the older we get, the less of the preceding generation is left kicking around to call us pansies, Nancy-boys, or worse, all while peppering their language with the ‘N’ word and making it to the polls do or die to vote against us. We still miss Aunt Bernice, and her constant attempts to trip us with her cane and steal the cough medicine from our bathrooms, but it’s OK to be a little glad we don’t have to try to explain this. She just wouldn’t understand.

And so concludes my latest attempt to witty, whimsical, or simply copy other people who actually are. Fear not my munchkins, I’m sorry to say that I’ll probably be doing this again, as I thought of a bunch more after I already typed ‘10’ and didn’t want to go all the up to the top of the page just to correct.

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