Expect Problems

A transition blog.

I always knew something was wrong. Something was different about me. I remember a thought when I was very young - maybe 4 or 5 - thinking that I wanted to be a woman when I grew up. I was just beginning to grasp that this wasn't a thing that I could pick, like a job or a partner or a house or a flavour of lolly.

Later on I remember feeling deeply uncomfortable and hurt when female friends treated me differently once we began to hit puberty and gender became a part of our lives. Same thing again when male friends would talk to me about women like I wasn't there. That's the way it felt, though it took years to unpack that. I felt uncomfortable, and began to try and make "sense of girls". In a sense that was like most boys my own age. But I also saw it as a very confusing problem.

I verbalised it later on as "I wish I was a girl", even if just to myself.

Thing is, I kept seeing sentences like "I always knew I was a woman".

These kind of sentences threw me, and actually fed into my fear of being 'found out'. I felt, "Well, I know I am not a woman, so that means I can't possibly be trans." Of course, I was looking for reasons to ignore it because I knew (or, thought) it'd be a devastating life change, and something I didn't think I could handle - or even actually do.

While everyone's experience is, of course, very different, I keep feeling that this kind of sentiment being parroted (especially in articles by cis people for cis people) can be problematic.

So many people I know struggling with their gender dissonance now say things that amount to, "I'm not sure I'm trans enough".

Like I did.

I spoke about this a bit in my post "I Can Cope".

But the fact is I didn't "think I was a woman". My rational brain prohibited that. I could clearly see that physically I was male. Which meant that I would write off dreams where I was female, finding myself unable to get off without picturing myself in a female body, or even occasionally accidentally walking into the wrong gendered toilet. When the rational part of my brain telling me "you are male because all evidence points to this, don't be silly" was having a nap, my subconscious took over and did it for me.

Once I met trans people, read papers on it (even psychology ones) and began to understand what gender dissonance was, I began to realise that because I "knew" I was male didn't mean that what I was experiencing wasn't gender dysphoria, or that I "coudn't be trans".

If I have one wish, it's that I'd had this explained to me earlier.

That yes, you can still be trans yet not "know you're a woman" either in the past or in the present. Gender dissonance doesn't work that way, and if you're desperately trying to talk yourself out of a difficult truth about yourself... that may be an extra reason you can't make that mental leap.


As I've written about before, one of the strange and relatively unique aspects of my current experience I keep running into is the combination of being in my mid-thirties and having a circle of cool, nerdy friends around that age or older... and the increasing pool of queer/trans friends who're ten or so years younger.

It comes, I think, out of the common experiences I have with them (coming out, transitioning and/or exploring new things about my sexuality and identity) at a similar time to people quite a bit younger than me.

It does mean my social experiences tend to flit between two large pools of people, and there is just one thing about this that I find stressful:

The bitterness or at least jaded mentality many of the older friends I have shows, especially when contrasted with the energy and passion of my younger friends. Not that I can blame them. But both behaviours are infectious, so I'm torn between admiring my more mature friends, but desperately wanting not to lose the excitement I share with my younger queer friends.

It's hard to figure out a solution, but I keep thinking of the moves some of my friends have taken to excise angry, bitter people from their lives for their own mental health.

It's not quite the same for me here, but I just know I want to try and stay positive.


Talking to a few other trans women recently, I began to realise something that's unshockingly personal for each of us is the things we find comfortable socially, when, and in what order during our transitions.

I thought it might be interesting to list all of the things I was uncomfortable with and then became comfortable - and at what point.

"Amount of time into HRT" doesn't seem to be a good measure here, so what I'm going to do is divide my transition into periods:

Pre-HRT

It doesn't seem like much I guess to some people, but a handful of things slowly became comfortable to me in these few months.

  • Coming out to friends. This was something that I had to train myself into. How do you even begin? "So, I'm trans." And what in the cases where they don't know what that means? It took me a half-dozen attempts to begin to feel even slightly comfortable with this, and even then it was mostly affected by how comfortable I was with the person I was coming out to.
  • Coming out to doctors. I'm currently seeing, technically, one GP, one endocrinologist, one psychologist and two haematologists for various things. I had to come out to each one early on. Then there are the nurses at the Red Cross for my blood donations, too. Fortunately, all the medical professionals I've interacted with here in Australia have been amazing. I'm sure not all are, but my luck (and research into picking some good people to see) made this easier for me than it might have been otherwise.
  • Ordering women's clothes online. This may sound like an absurd thing to be nervous about given the literally zero human contact involved, but I had spend my whole life up to this point desperately trying to ignore / bury feelings of being 'in the wrong body' that I still harboured this irrational fear that somehow a random person would "figure it out".
  • Saying, "I am trans". Even to myself. Before I'd even gotten comfortable coming out to people I had to accept that this was me. Accepting the label was helpful, but tough. It'd take longer before I stopped feeling secretly a bit ashamed of it, too.
  • Just going out generally. For me personally, losing my absurd coping mechanisms of acting hyper-masculine (it only worked as long as I wasn't accepting WHY I was doing it) was a huge problem. Many trans people I know were pretty comfortable with themselves before - often seeming a 'bit camp' to others and shocking few people when they came out as trans. Not me. So my toxic strategies for dealing no longer worked, and I had to re-train myself to go outside despite the fear of having dysphoria-related panic attacks whilst out with friends, at bars, etc.

Early HRT / Pre-Going Public

  • Going out. (Yes, again.) HRT hit me like a ton of bricks. Don't get me wrong, I'm lucky and pleased as hell that it did - within a month people were commenting on my face seeming different - but it brought a lot of discomfort with it. Not just physically (oh GOD my breasts were sore, even back when just saying that felt weird) but socially. I knew I was looking different... but saw my body every day and could never tell just how I had changed. So I kept being nervous that people I hadn't come out to would notice, and even a bit of discomfort around friends that knew, knowing they'd be watching me closely as they knew I'd started oestrogen.
  • Coping with breast development. Not all trans women develop fast, same as not all cis women develop fast. I did. It wasn't even fat at first - it was mostly actual mammary glands and related stuff (look at a cross-section of a human breast on wikipedia if you don't understand what I mean). This meant that before I was public, I took to wearing very tight women's sports crops under my t-shirts to... well... hide what was going on. Which meant even after I'd kind of gotten used to the rest of weirdness of going through HRT in stealth, I began paranoid people would notice "a guy wearing a sort of bra thing". FYI? Nobody ever did.

Going Public / Presenting More Female

  • "Looking weird". I knew I was beginning to look androgynous - even feminine. Which was good, but it took until going public before I stopped caring so much if people thought so. I felt less fear about the things that had bothered me before coming out. I started wearing training bras and, even though I still wore pants I began to wear low-cut or at least babydoll tops, as they begun to fit better than typical baggy masculine t-shirts.
  • Introducing myself as Elissa. Not everyone who transitions change their name. I did, for a number of reasons, but at first, given the name I'd chosen was quite feminine-sounding, I had trouble coping with slight nervousness at this androgynous-looking person who still looked more or less "male" introducing herself as Elissa. But every time it got easier. And easier. And easier.
  • Using female pronouns for myself. This may not make sense to people, so I'll explain: despite being trans, I and most other trans people I know didn't, despite the popular phrasing, "always know". I didn't "think I was a woman". Not in that sense. I occasionally made mistakes and walked into the wrong bathrooms (yes, really), which might give you a sense of the level on which this kind of thing operates. Very subconscious. But despite this, training myself to not feel awkward referring to myself with feminine pronouns and descriptors was strange, and took me a good six months to stop giving me a twinge of concern that someone would "correct" me.
  • Shopping in the women's section of clothing stores. This... actually was a lot easier than I worried it'd be. I very quickly found it just felt right, and that mattered so much more than any concern of people looking at me funny for being there.
  • Telling people I'm trans. This felt easy early on. In fact it felt good to get it out of the way. I knew I didn't really "pass", and wasn't sure I ever would - and hated that it was a thing that concerned me. So I liked just saying it if I was talking to someone for any length of time, so there was no weirdness. I kept imagining they'd be kinda suspecting it, even if sometimes they were genuinely surprised to find out. But I still had to get used to it.

Often Passing / Presenting Femme

  • Wearing Dresses. This was a big one. I didn't do this for a long time. I bought a few early on, but felt disenfranchised and upset that they didn't look good on my (at that stage) masculine body. But at a certain point, around the point I found I stopped fitting into old pants, I began to realise that I felt comfortable in dresses. Very comfortable. Now, I'm more comfortable in dresses than in any other clothing I own. I rarely wear anything else.
  • Bureaucracy. Gawds. Changing my name was nerve-wracking as hell. So were the numerous other things I had to do to change my name with companies I had accounts with. It wasn't fun, and it was nerve-wracking. But at a certain point, once I was wearing dresses and gendered correctly more often than not, it got easier. I've got two bits of bureaucratic junk left to manage, but I'm mostly putting them off because of laziness rather than nervousness. Not that dealing with big companies or government organisations is ever going to be anything but painful, though...
  • Small gendered bathrooms. I mostly go to small bars or restaurants. But it still took me a long time to shake the fear that someone would have a go at me for using the women's restroom, even when it was just one of a few tiny independent stalls, with no common gendered area. Once I began to be gendered correctly, it felt okay. I did it more and more often.
  • Telling people I'm trans. (Yes, another one appearing twice!) Early on, it just felt like admitting what I figured people already suspected, whether or not that mattered. What was important then was what I felt. What I worried about. But once I began to be gendered right, it became uncomfortable... all over again. "Do I need to tell them?" "Do they suspect anyway?" I almost felt like it was re-learning something I already knew. But I still do it. I don't tell randoms, of course. Not everyone needs to know my medical history. But if I'm chatting at a party and subjects come up where this matters, I don't hide it now. I've gotten used to just coming out to people. Again. And again. And again. I'll be doing it for the rest of my life, and I accept that now.
  • Flying. Like, on a plane. Going through security. Sitting next to strangers. That stuff I avoided for many months until I began to just lose the fear of being constantly misgendered or given weird looks from people. I didn't do it until 11 months into HRT and having been public for about 8-9 months.

And things that still make me nervous...

  • Large gendered bathrooms. Yep. In a sense this is the one last thing left to manage. I've done it twice now, and always with friends - and it's bizarre that it's such an issue for me. I can do everything else feel comfortable I will be gendered properly, or failing that I can deal with correcting people. But bathrooms, thanks to the shitty debates (mostly in the US) have done such a solid job of fear-mongering that I still to this day find being in a large bar or public place's restrooms nerves-inducing.
  • Flying overseas. Yeah. Haven't done this yet. I've still yet to get my passport gender marker changed - something I can do in NSW, fortunately, even without lower surgery. But going to the states for the first time since transitioning is going to be... shit. Very tough. Scary as fuck. But I'll do it. I don't want fears to dictate my life. So I'll manage it.
  • Taxis. Yes. Really. Ubers don't bother me so much as the destination is pre-configured, but at night getting into a cab and knowing that the driver is more likely to gender me based on voice rather than what I look like is... pretty nerve-wracking. I'm still dealing with that.
  • Dancing. Yep. I'm still getting used to my new body. And it really does feel new. Weight sits different. Muscles have dropped away and come back in other places. I still bump into friggin' walls sometimes. So dancing is waaaaay high on the list of "things that'll take me a while to become comfortable with". Fortunately, a super awesome and attractive person I know has been goading me to learn to tango with them...

So, I think that's it for the most part. These are the things I guess I considered to be the main hurdles. Things left to do. At least the social ones.

There are a ton of reasons I did things in this order, or became comfortable with some things before others. Some are physical factors - I look a certain way, and that's helped me with a lot of things. As I found out, the difference between someone who is often cis-passing and someone who isn't coming out to people is often quite different.

I'm quite glad it all went as fast as it did. It was an intense year and constantly felt like I was working on some social hurdle or other. But things have generally gone well, and I am now in a place where most social things that were horrible for me last year and in the years before are now coming normal.

My life is becoming one I'm comfortable with.

Finally.


One of the problems with gender dysphoria is that it's an enormously nebulous thing. Reading up on it you tend to find dozens of 'symptoms', a ton of descriptions and varying terms, concepts and ideas that may or may not apply to you at all.

But if I've figured one thing out talking to both professionals and the increasing number of trans friends I have, it's that dysphoria is different for everyone.

It's sometimes described (and I tend to think of it) as having a multitude of possible feelings and effects that, broadly, exist in two categories: social and physical.

Social effects might include the uncomfortable feeling that when people are divided up by gender for whatever reason (including having to use gendered bathrooms) that you're in the wrong place, and have an uncomfortable feeling that you'll be "found out", or similar.

Physical effects might include a profound discomfort in your own body. It might result in having no ability to ever see yourself as physically attractive, stop you from appreciating or using your body in the way "other people do", or might even trigger panic attacks when your body becomes the focus of anyone's attention.

More and more often when I talk to other trans people I see a huge variance in which issues are key for individual people. For some people intense social issues are the primary concern, others (like myself) it is mostly a physical issue, and, of course, the majority have concerns that sit across both sides of the spectrum.

But either way, dysphoria is a complicated thing, and it can be very tough to identify or admit you have it, even in an age where trans issues are more and more public and awareness is even becoming taught in some schools.

I mention all this in summary because of something I read this morning:

As a therapist, lemme just say: almost every trauma survivor I've ever had has at some point said "But I didn't have it as bad as some people" and then talk about how other types of trauma are worse.

The quote goes on, but it occurred to me that this is a common thing I've heard from people with depression or anxiety, too. Beyond mental illness, I've come to realise it also applies to many of us with gender dissonance.

I can cope is a phrase I've heard repeatedly, and realise I was telling myself.

Even several years ago, when I began to recognise that what I was experiencing was almost certainly gender dysphoria and that for damn certain I had gender dissonance, some part of me refused to accept that I was, well... worthy of help. That "others surely have it worse". Effectively? "I'm not trans enough. I should just suck it up."

But, most often, I told myself, "It's okay. I can cope."

Gender dysphoria hasn't been classified as a mental illness for some time, and that's an incredibly good thing. Because those of us with a dissonance between our assigned genders and that assigned to us at birth aren't sick. It's more complex than that, and it's not something you can treat in the same way you can with the various forms of anxiety and depression. That isn't to dismiss what those with mental illnesses go through - just that it IS a different thing to deal with.

There's no way to treat dysphoria chemically.

How you make your life comfortable and bearable tends to be a combination of social and even physical changes, some very expensive and uncomfortable.

And, like dysphoria itself, it varies enormously depending on the person.

But the first hurdle seems to be finding a way to rationally judge what you need to do in order to be comfortable - or even genuinely happy (and a lot of trans people, despite media portrayal of us, don't just become happier, but become genuinely happy people after we transition).

If I could give advice to past-me, or others in a similar place to where I was some years ago, it'd be this:

Just because you think you can cope doesn't mean you need to suffer.

I couldn't and would never tell people they should transition. It's not for everyone, and even if you do so, the nature of your transition if you do is always going to be enormously personal and unique to you.

But it's hard to make hard decisions about what you need to do in your life if you're stuck thinking like I did - that you "can cope", and therefore you should.

Those two things are never true.

If I had to venture a guess as to what caused my own internal insistence with myself that I could deal with it and so I should, I'd be guessing that it was out of fear. I refused to face my demons because I was sure that I couldn't handle what I'd have to do to fix my life.

I was wrong, as are so many people in similar situations.

Your life can always be improved. How tough it is to make this happen may be wildly different for each of us, but it's still an option.

Always.


It has been almost a year for me now on hormone therapy, about ten months of being public as a trans woman, and about four months since I was last misgendered. Over that time, I went from looking masculine (permanently-visible stubble and a pot belly) to (obviously) looking distinctly feminine. I went through a stage of looking sort of ambiguous in terms of gender - quite androgynous. I also changed the way I presented enormously.

This is a pretty massively short amount of time to go through so much change, and I'm enormously happy with it. I didn't really believe my endocrinologist when they said, looking at my blood work, hormone levels and body generally, "Your transition should go smoothly". He meant physically, of course. But it turns out he was right.

So in what now seems like a very short time I went from t-shirts and pants every day to dresses and, often, makeup, along with painted nails and dyed hair.

I recently began thinking about broad differences in the way I socialise as a result of this.

As always, I have to begin with a few caveats. The majority of what follows is anecdotal. It relies just as much the nature of the groups I socialise with and my own psychology as anything else - it probably says more about me than people in general. And finally, this: nothing I'm saying is new. It's more that these were the specific things I've observed which, most of which fit things other women (or people who study social behaviour generally) have been saying for years.

Early in the year, even shortly after starting to take oestrogen, I remember paying very close attention when I went out. I'd go into bars and note how bartender treated me. How fellow patrons treated me. Who looked at me and who didn't.

I did this because I was fully aware that these were the last few months where I'd get this kind of treatment - ever. That was a strange thing to get my head around, as dysphoria and discomfort aside, it's what I'd known for my whole life.

"Hey mate, what can I do for you?"

I'd ask about beers or drinks in general and get helpful but brief replies from male bartenders, recommending whatever craft beer or cocktails that fit my personal tastes.

I'd meet up with friends and get some variation on a deep-voiced "how're you doing, mate?" with a clap on the back or a handshake. Sometimes, if I was just joining a small group at a bar, they'd offer to buy me a beer. Otherwise, I'd disappear briefly to buy one for myself.

I would usually buy whatever everyone else was having.

Craft beers? I'd join in.

Cheap domestic tap beers? Same thing.

Wine? Same.

Cocktails? Well, that's a free pass. I'd drink whatever I felt like.

Within a month I had found that between a solid oestrogen carpet-bombing and laser hair removal, I had begun to look... androgynous. I had long hair, but still usually tied back. I had no noticeable breasts (although I was often wearing sports crops so I looked flatter than I was) but otherwise still wore the same baggy, masculine-cut t-shirts and the cargo pants.

I also lost a lot of weight. In fact, over the next six months I'd lose a total of 12kg - an absurd and almost scary amount of weight to lose, but for the fact that I began my transition sitting juuuust, I was told, in the 'overweight' category. I hid it well, but I was a chubby, unfit guy.

This was the point where men started treating me... differently. Skinnier and more effeminate, but not quite 'feminine', nor presenting as such.

I was still gendered as male by strangers, bartender, baristas and waitstaff, but the camaraderie was largely gone.

I found some of my male acquaintances began to treat me a little stand-offishly.

They had no issue with me transitioning. They were happy for me. But it was clear many of them found it slightly disconcerting not feeling I fit nicely into a clear, defined little basket that could be labelled either 'male' or 'female'.

Not long after, my breasts became impossible to hide. Fat redistribution takes a while, of course, but I have a fairly large amount of actual breast tissue - large mammary glands, as my endocrinologist pointed out. This was fine, but it meant I went (uncomfortably) from flat-chested to wearing a bra more or less out of necessity, albeit a small one, fairly quickly.

I was still trying to modify my existing style of dress, but feminising it a bit more.

I usually wore a tight, low-cut feminine top but kept the cargo pants and bulky masculine-style boots.

After a while, I hit another snag: I didn't look female, but I did look... young. Oestrogen softens your skin and it really did that for me. With less and less visible stubble and softer and softer features, I got carded. A lot.

But getting carded and presenting an ID which increasingly looked nothing like me was awkward. At best I got very bizarre looks - if I was wearing a low-cut top and presenting ID showing me as clearly male, I got gross looks at best, or refused service at worst. The one that always sticks in my head : "What're you trying to pull? That's not you."

I'd never been more embarassed.

So for a good few months in the middle of the year, while still sorting out a name change and figuring out when I should get replacement ID (I didn't want to do it too early, lest my photo very quickly stop resembling me)... I stopped going out.

I avoided bars, didn't buy much booze for myself without 'masc-ing up' first - wearing baggy jackets and looking dour (not hard to pull off, as GOD I felt awkward pretending to be male again).

Most of my socialising during this time was at house parties, or small gatherings at my place.

I felt uncomfortable, and I'm sure this didn't help the way many people treated me.

During this time, seeing how many of my male friends became awkward around me (not all, though - a few were amazing, supportive and just generally great people) drove me to spend more and more time with other women.

No women I know showed any outwards signs of discomfort at my androgynous appearance, so my life became female-dominated and, frankly, I felt more comfortable.

Because by the time that began to change I had new ID, my name had been legally changed, and, frankly, between growing hard-to-hide breasts, having much softer facial features, no visible stubble and having lost a lot of weight... I looked female.

I tentatively began wearing dresses, partly out of necessity. Feminine-cut pants didn't quite fit right, but men's underwear and cargo pants either didn't fit or felt very uncomfortable.

I played with makeup.

I had imagined myself as a kind of hardcore tomboy, but it turns out that wasn't me. Pants and nerdy t-shirts were no longer me. I found that dresses complimented my figure better than anything else, I loved how they made me feel, and began to really appreciate the artistic pleasure of shifting my look around with changes in my makeup, day-to-day.

I began to socialise again.

It hadn't been a long (self-imposed) social exile, but things were different. Very different.

The first time I turned up to a party wearing a dress, men I'd known for years who'd shaken my hand before would give me a hug and kiss me on the cheek.

It was a little confronting at first. To be fair, this is how they'd greet any close female friends, but it wasn't something I was used to.

I've never had so many hugs from men, usually unprompted, than this past six months. I've probably been hugged by two dozen guys, half of which I didn't know.

I would meet up with male friends at a bar and before I could even say hi one of them would offer to buy me a drink, and not take no for an answer. At first I wasn't sure if it was just out of happiness at seeing me for the first time in months after my little exile, but I began to notice it happening with many women. It just seemed to be an unspoken rule, even if the woman went on to buy her own drink and bought a drink in turn for the guy who bought hers.

One time, I went out to a bar with a lot of friends and several hours later realised I'd not bought a single drink for myself, and no one person bought more than one drink for me.

I'd flag this as a positive thing, but sometimes it makes me quite uncomfortable, especially when I offer to "get the next one" and get shot down. Sometimes, it's fine - especially if I know the person earns / has more money than me, but it can on occasion make me feel uncomfortable.

As I began to get back into socialising more and more I found myself at parties or gatherings with more and more men I didn't know, specifically.

It was when I found myself in the company of men who didn't know me that things began to get noticeably different.

This isn't a transphobia thing - it's just, I believe, that men who've known me for years see me more as 'me'. I may look quite different and even behave differently, but I am still a person they've known and hopefully liked for years.

But for men just meeting me, their behaviour became tougher to predict and, often, more uncomfortable.

A guy would introduce himself to me and his eyes would be very, very consistently flicking or even gluing themselves to my cleavage.

A guy would very quickly, during conversations, begin shuffling closer and closer to me until I made an excuse to leave.

Some men would touch me. A gentle hand on the shoulder or, in one case, flat out touching my leg. That time was in unique circumstances, but it still shocked me so much I actually didn't react at first. "Did that really happen?"

I began to get a little more cautious around men.

I noticed a change in behaviour from male bartenders too.

I'd walk up to the bar and order something, and found that quite often their behaviour and means of address would shift depending on what I ordered.

A beer might get me a neutral response. A wine, 'love', 'dear', or 'miss'. One time I ordered (very precisely) a Laphroaig, straight, with a small glass of water on the side.

I got "ma'am" from the same bartender who'd called me "miss" not fifteen minutes before.

Men would sometimes talk over me, in a way I remember doing in the past when I was 'trying to act masculine'. I was doing it as I was trying to mimic "alpha male behaviour" in years past.

I sometimes found myself in a group, sharing raised eyebrows with other women as men would hold court in a self-aggrandising way attempting to impress everyone and instead coming across as total arsehats.

I began to get cat-called. Despite how unnerving it was, my first thought was "at least it wasn't transphobic abuse" like I'd gotten quite a bit earlier on.

That quickly vanished and, while I still consider it a huge privilege that I 'pass' quite well - only for personal safety reasons, mind, I began to notice my behaviour in public changing.

I would hunch more.

I'd wear a jacket to hide a low-cut top just in case.

The hair would stand up on the back of my neck if a guy got too close, or if one tried to talk to me.

I practiced my resting-bitch-face to look unapproachable.

I began to pay careful attention to the people walking near me at all - my eyes instinctively flicked to men walking in a particular way, or groups of men, especially ones who seemed drunk.

Men stopped politely moving to one side on sidewalks.

Twice I got bumped into by men who just assumed I'd move out of the way for them, despite walking on the left-hand side of the path like any respectful perambulist.

Once, a car pulled up when I was walking home late at night (having made the informed decision I won't make again to walk the relatively short distance home rather than paying for a taxi/uber) and two creepy guys began trying to talk me.

"Hey, babe..."

I won't repeat the statements that followed from there, but I picked up the pace walking home, stopped listening to my earphones so I could hear anyone approaching me, and went home and cried, locking each external door to the house just for a my peace of mind.

I mention this because while it isn't "socialising with men" in the sense that I've been writing about, I'd be lying if I tried to claim it didn't affect how I reacted to men.

These handful of negative experiences got me more and more cautious in groups of men, and bad ones at parties when they happened only made things worse, to the point where a short while ago this happened:

I was (briefly) at a Thing. At this Thing, I joined a cluster of men I mostly didn't know. They were all a bit drunk, as was I, and there was just one person in this group I knew and trusted. I was the only woman.

I sat there for a while, listening to everyone talk and occasionally (but sparingly) throwing in 2c.

Then I realised I was doing something which, in retrospect, I found depressing: I had stood next to the one guy I knew and trusted. Not just next to him in a regular "I don't know anyone here" way, but I had shuffled slightly closer to him than I would normally have done. Not quite in his personal space, but close enough to, I think, subconsciously signal I was 'with him' in some capacity.

To give me a sense of safety.

I don't know why I did this, but I know it wasn't conscious, and it's depressing that I felt the need to do it.

But then, that's the story of this whole thing in a nutshell: my behaviour has changed in ways I didn't expect, and if not in conscious ways then subconscious ones.

My life, despite being a lesbian with mostly-female friends, is dominated by thinking about men, far more than I'll ever be comfortable with.