I will arrive at the hospital no later than 5:30 AM on March 24. When I arrive I will have a penis and testes. When I go to sleep that night, I will have a vagina and labia. No other day in my transition will be quite so stark as this one, nor so dramatic. This is the culmination of months of preparation and will be followed by months of healing and self-discovery.
At every step in my transition, I’ve turned out to be nothing like the woman I thought I’d be. I manufactured in my mind a person who was like I was at that time, but just more feminine. When I started transitioning I imagined a disheveled, nu-metalish woman who lived in her band tees and jeans and whisky bottles. I imagined her being self-conscious and hiding her body. Because that’s all I’d known.
I could never have imagined me. And that’s funny. When I started transitioning, I lied. I lied to everyone and myself. I said, “I’m still me — the same me as always. I’m just getting my body right.” I made promises to people that nothing would really change. I thought it was true. I really did. But looking back, I had no clue. And how could I?
And you know what? I’m so glad I was wrong. I was so wrong, and I have loved every minute of finding out how wrong I was. I thought there was a preset Evey Winters piloting that “male” body, and all I had to do is get her out.
But that’s not how it works. I’ve been discovering her, bit by bit, as I chip away more and more and more of the things I carried. And she is beautiful to me, the more I see her. And maybe if I had been left to my own devices as I began carving her out of what I once was, she would have looked very much like I imagined. But I wasn’t left to my devices.
Womanhood changed me. The lived, breathed, experience of living and working every day of my life as a woman? That changed me. It changed how I saw things. It changed how I imagined the world. It changed what I wanted to be. And women changed me.
People keep asking me what I think of womanhood, having lived such a different life. And I think they want to hear from me about the ways men treat me (awful, btw). They want to see it in my eyes that the things they’ve had to worry about and fear are actually real (they are), and that they weren’t “being crazy or imagining things” about men talking down to them. And I do experience all those things. And they’re scary, and they hurt, and they make me cry. But that’s not womanhood to me.
Womanhood is women. When I started my transition on HRT, I had no idea what was going to happen to my body. One day, as my breasts started to bud, I was panicking because of the itch. I thought something was wrong with me. I don’t have a relationship with my mom, I didn’t know what to do. So, I asked some girlfriends. They didn’t shame me. They didn’t say it was awkward. They had a matter of fact talk with me about what was happening to my body. I’ve never had that before.
The first time a man lurched at me on the street, all of my cisgender girlfriends leapt in to care for me and talk to me about how to stay safe. When I needed dating advice, they were there. When I needed to cry they were there. They talk to me casually in stores about their children. They share their hurts with me. They let me be there, too. They come to me when their partners do something obnoxious, or when they just need to vent. We are there for each other. I run a group where I’m documenting my surgeries; it’s over three thousand members large and most of them are women. Every time I express a frustration about my body or life, they’re right there.
There’s a lot of bad that comes for women, I won’t hide that. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, obviously. Not all women treat each other well. And yet. I still see this sort of bond between us playing out over and over in our actions and even how we talk to each other. And that’s the part of womanhood I couldn’t have before I started transitioning. And it was so much more important than I could have imagined.
I thought I was sculpting Evey Winters alone. I thought I needed to scurry to my studio and find her all at once. I’ve been pressured to know who she is, what she likes, and who she wants to be. I’ve been pressured to talk about who she loves, how she speaks, who she’s gonna sleep with, how she’s going to dress. What’s her favorite music? Her favorite color? Food? I’ve been asked to contextualize her as a political statement. Every part of her is under the microscope. Is she being sculpted with stereotypes in mind? Is she a mockery of womanhood? People wanted to see my assumptions about womanhood reflected through her. They wanted to see proof that I was just styling myself as a woman, that I wasn’t really one. I’ve been pressured to know everything about her. About me.
I don’t know me and I’ve never been so happy about not knowing. She’s turned out so much more radiant than I could have imagined. She’s so beautiful, stubborn, and surprising. She hid her body, now she models lingerie for advertisements. She cries her tears, gathers herself, and does the next right thing. I have no idea where she’ll go or what she’ll look like in 10 years.
When I started chiseling her out of all that misery, I could only imagine a more beautiful misery — a more pleasing version of the cold, hard person the world gave me to work with. I knew there was a woman inside there. But it was women who brought me the tools to get her out and taught me how to use them. They taught me how to make the edges flow and turn marble into flowing cloth and welcoming edges. It was women who gave me comfort when I was ready to give up and room to rest when I needed it. When I needed guidance on what to do next, women were there. When I was scared I couldn’t do it, women pushed me forward.
When she heals from this surgery, when there are no more huge steps in her transition, where will she put all that fire and energy she’s had to use to make it this far? What can she accomplish? What will she learn on the other side of healing? She could be anyone. She could settle down with her loves. She could travel the world. She could finish those books. She could change the world. She could raise children. She could grow old. She never thought she might grow old. She could wear vintage dresses and soft makeup, or maybe she likes band tees and jeans after all.
Who cares how I dress her or what music she listens to? Who cares if her favorite color is pink, and she loves vintage dresses? What kind of woman is she? I don’t know her shape yet, but I see her. She’s the woman women taught me how to make.
And I love her.