Every time I’ve done any major transitional step, I’ve been stunned by not just the relief from my dysphoria but also new feelings that come up. I feel better and healthier but also empowered to go through my life being able to project the me that I see on the inside.
A lot of my transition has been defined by very strange dualities in my experience. Being catcalled sucks, but it’s also an indicator of how people are seeing you. Things like that.
Having a vagina alleviates my dysphoria and helps me be me. For the first time in my life, the thought of being sexually intimate with someone doesn’t come with the knowledge that I will have to actively work to cope with my dysphoria just to connect with that person. I feel better and I also feel sexually empowered to finally connect with someone my way, on my terms, without a part of me being dedicated to pushing down tears or self-disgust.
I’m feeling like, again just for me, that my breasts will do the job my beard used to do, but to help me. Long, long ago, in a session with my therapist, she asked me why I kept my beard if I hated it so much, and I remember telling her that it was what kept me safe. It kept people from suspecting me, but it also kept me “locked-in” because it would make me so sick that I couldn’t bear the thought of trying on feminine clothing because I knew I would look wrong. It was my “studio in session” light, a reminder that I was on the job and needed to keep the act up. I had nightmares and panic attacks because I was so afraid of what would happen, that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself if I cut it off.
And seeing it grow back, ever, is like watching that studio in session light slowly growing brighter even though I’d removed the bulb. It’s like something from a horror film.
Having prominent breasts will be the opposite for me. They’ll keep me safe, in a way. Yes, they’ll alleviate my dysphoria. They’ll also project me out. They will so overtly signal me that I will be safer and able to worry less. When I imagine my body, I’m hit with a wave of emotions: relief, followed by safety, then by empowerment. When I close my eyes and imagine looking down to see my body, I feel confident performing more of the me that I’m now realizing I still subdue and hold back out of fear.
And you know what? I’m excited. Maybe it will get old after a while, but there’s a part of me that is excited that every top I wear will be just a little bit slutty. I’m excited to feel confident in my appearance and sexuality. There’s a part of me that will be excited to see people’s eyes on me in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m being inspected or suspected, and instead, I will be appreciated or even enjoyed. I grew up with a cleft palate, and then underneath the glow of those studio lights, performing ill-fitting masculinity. People have looked at me with disinterest, disgust, curiosity, and fear for much of my life. And now? I mostly blend (pass) in almost all situations but I can tell people are still looking at me with curiosity. I’m different somehow. I want to feel safe and I’m excited to have people look happier for seeing me. I even want to feel desirable. I don’t need to be desired, I want to feel like I could be. The distinction is important.
The same goes with my facial surgeries. I already blend in such a way people assume that I’m cis. They’re for me. They’re so I won’t slink away from social events because every single second I’m worried about how I appear. I’ll get to feel like I can take pictures where my face doesn’t have to be perfectly straight on. And also, maybe for once in my life, I’ll get to feel like I’m beautiful. I won’t look in the mirror and be obsessed with all the myriad things that I notice, but nobody else does, that testosterone did to me.
My bottom surgery was important — my mental health and life have improved immeasurably from it. These next two operations are about the me that I get to put on display when I step out my door — the face that I’ll see reflected in others’ eyes and the silhouette that everyone will see when I walk. Finally, when people look at me they’re going to see me — and I’ll see them looking at the real me. The cover will finally match the book in total. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel safer letting other people flip through those pages.