…and where I’m going.

The goal is to live full time, and to achieve a gender presentation that allows me to pass as cis when I need to. Not because I necessarily want to hide that I’m trans, but because in some cases I’ll need to, just for safety’s sake. The Human Rights Campaign (not exactly known for its sterling record of handling trans issues) has estimated that trans women have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered. This is about 4.7 times the combat mortality rate of US servicemen during World War Two. I’ve heard that others have disputed this claim, and said that the transgender murder rate is “only” 8 out of 1000, or approximately ten times the national average. So while I intend to live openly as a trans woman and not hide it from collages and friends, I would like to be able to hide it from, say, people on the bus, which if you think about it is a metal box that you lock yourself inside of with a bunch of strangers, any of which may be carrying hidden weapons.

To achieve this goal I have two main projects I’m working on: hormones and voice lessons.

My endocrinologist appointment is on March 18th. I don’t know exactly what will happen on that day, but I expect I’ll get blood drawn for some tests, maybe have a physical, consult with the doctor about what will happen when the hormones kick in, and then go home and wait. I hope that they’ll run the tests quickly and bring me back so that I can start treatment right away.

I need to be more diligent about my voice lessons. It is possible to train a masculinized voice to sound feminine, as many of the simply amazing trans women on YouTube demonstrate. It takes a lot of practice and fine muscle control. I’ve bought a CD+DVD set of voice lessons to do at home, but they’re a bit awkward to use, and the lady who gives the lessons is frustrating to listen to (fucking narcissist! I don’t care to listen to you pontificate, just get to the goddamn lesson!), so I don’t practice as much as I should. But I will slog through it and I will get my new voice. I’ve finally started to figure out how they’re supposed to be used (the lady on the DVD says they come with a booklet, but mine didn’t, and there are no instructions), so I hope that I’ll be able to make more progress in the months ahead.

Another hurdle a lot of trans women have is figuring out what they’re going to do about stubble. I’m extra lucky in this regard: my beard has never been very thick. I can shave once a day and it isn’t noticeable at all unless you rub your hand across my face later in the evening. This is wonderful news because I don’t have the cash for electrolysis and probably won’t for some time.

I feel optimistic about my chances of being able to pass when I’m done transitioning. I’m only about six feet tall, and I’m blonde, so aside from my slightly receded hairline, I could pass as a Scandinavian chick. The hair will be dealt with either through haircuts, hats, a scalp advance, or (and this is what I really hope for) new stem cell treatments for baldness that I’m following the progress of.

Fashion and girls clothes are another hurdle. My transition buddy took me to Ross the other day to get myself a pair of girl jeans and I was horrified to learn that most girlpants have teeny tiny little pockets, unsuitable for anything. There’s a lot I don’t know about dressing like a girl, and while I think that I’m into the sort of formless androgynous nerd girl look, I don’t know for sure. I need to learn to dress myself again.

I used to have this really clear image in my mind of who I wanted to be on the other side of this. She was a strong, responsible, disciplined woman who didn’t have any of my faults and was just super duper awesome wonderful. I’ve since realized that such an image is setting myself up for failure. Some of my faults will carry through the transition. That’s okay. If I let myself get trapped into a mindset of obsessing about the parts of me that I don’t like and don’t think are good enough, while dismissing or ignoring the parts of me that are pretty neat, then I will always hate myself. It much more important to me that I become a person I can be proud of despite my flaws, and transitioning is only a part of that process and is not a silver bullet. From now on I will try to focus on what makes me happy to be me, not what makes me sad not to be some figment of my imagination.

But if I could still be the head bitch in charge some day, that’d be pretty cool, too.


…where I am…

Without being too maudlin or dramatic, I hope I can explain why I currently consider myself in exile. I am an Oregonian. I’ve spent half my life there. The last two and a half years I was there, after college, were the hardest years of my life. And yet, I love Portland in a way I can’t quite put into words. It’s home. I feel more right there than anywhere else, even when I’m unemployed and scared and wondering where I’m going to live and how I’m going to eat.

In December of last year, my life blew up. In the space of four hours, every single facet of my life in Portland came spinning apart in a wild spray of shrapnel. I was out of money, had no prospects for a job, had just been rejected from an apartment complex I was counting on to get me away from my increasingly scary roommate before he graduated from screaming at me to hitting me, and I failed all my classes. So I skipped town and headed down to San Francisco. The City, as the locals like to call it, didn’t work very well for me, so I kept going south until I hit Mom’s condo in Pasadena. I’m now stranded here, and uncertain when or how I will escape back to Oregon.

After the first few nights down here I started having panic attacks. I’d planned to transition after grad school, and if grad school was on hold, then my transition seemed hopelessly out of reach. Every night I’d have an attack, fighting myself to stay quiet so I wouldn’t wake Mom. (I should mention that her condo is a single room about the size of the bedroom I had when I was in high school.) After a couple weeks of this, I decided to postpone grad school and transition starting now, and the attacks subsided.

And so here I am, waiting for my appointment with the endocrinologist, practicing my voice, and growing my hair out. Mom isn’t very supportive, but at least she’s not trying to stop me. There’s still a lot of friction between us, though. I’ve got some pretty serious self-loathing issues that are unrelated to my gender identity stuff, and they are really making it hard to recover from this meltdown. Mom is trying to be helpful by hectoring me and treating me like a child and generally disapproving of everything I do that doesn’t involve me getting a job. It’s not working.

I’d like to return to Portland immediately, but there are logistical concerns that I’ve yet to suss out. I want to start hormones before I go, too. It seems easier to get them started here and then transfer to a new doc up north than to move and wait an eternity to get an appointment for a doc to start them after I’ve moved up there.

Where I’ve been…

I realized I was a girl in January of 2008. It felt like the world had been kicked out from under me. I locked the door, drew the blinds, shut off the lights and set up an anonymizing onion router and began ever so slowly my research. Every moment I was terrified, ashamed, exhilarated. It suddenly made sense for me to have increasingly long daydreams about waking up in a girl’s body and being fine with it.

It took me more than a year to feel safe enough to come out of the closet. That’s probably the first surprising thing I learned about being queer: the closet isn’t all bad. At first, it’s kinda nice. It feels safe. You’re hiding, and they can’t see you, can’t see the you that you aren’t ready to show them yet. But then the air gets thick, and the walls start to stifle you. You begin to resent the lies and the omissions and the delicately steered conversations. Eventually, the refuge becomes a prison.

And so in March of 2009, I flew down from Portland to tell my friends in Santa Cruz that I was a girl. It went better than I could have possibly imagined. The first thing that happened to me after I came out was for a very dear friend of mine to hug me and tell me she was proud of me for coming out. The rest of my friends were also supportive, but nothing ever matched that high point. Nothing ever could. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me at that moment, and I cherish it always.

Telling my family has not gone as well. My mother was the first family member I told. She’d come up to visit me in Portland, and we’d walked around the city for a while. I steered us towards a park on the waterfront and we found a tree to sit under. We talked for a bit, and then I told her. I said that I had distanced myself from her for the past several years because I was trying to figure out who I was, but that I had started to find out and I’d like us to be closer from then on. She smiled and reached out to squeeze my hand. I said that part of me figuring out who I am was coming to terms with the fact, and my voice faltered, with the fact that I am transgendered.

She recoiled. She pulled her hand away.

By the end of the trip I’d convinced her that we could get through it, and by the time she was leaving I’d convinced myself that it had gone well.

But she had recoiled.

Months later, telling Dad on the phone was a similar experience. My parents don’t try to stop me, don’t try to stamp the queer out of me, and for that I am grateful. But I can’t help but notice how they act now, like I’m either a misbehaving child or an alien or both. [Edit: I’ve decided that this statement isn’t terribly fair to my father, who I’ve only seen in person once since coming out to him on the phone. To his credit, he didn’t act any differently towards me, but I’m not sure how much of that was because my grandparents were present and I was presenting as male for their benefit. I suppose I’ll learn more about his thoughts on this when I inform him of my intention to transition.]

It makes me wonder if they’ll ever accept me again. I don’t want to lose them. But if I do, I know I have a new family I can go to. My wonderful friends who have stuck by me through this, and who I love very much. I feel so lucky to have them.

Hi there

My name is April, and I’m a trans woman from Oregon. I’m currently living in exile in southern California. While I’m stranded down here, I’ve decided to make the best of it and begin my transition. This blog will document my journey from here to there.