Identity is a really strange thing to get your head around. I'm not talking about gender identity, but personal identity.
Back when I was in denial about my gender dissonance I was performing a constructed personality which, I think, I built largely based on the things I enjoyed.
Some of those things have changed a little, but there's very little I liked before that I don't like now - it's simply been augmented with new interests. But those old interests I've had since I was a kid helped define not who I was, but the kind person I felt I should be, given I was supposed to be a 'man'.
I was into cerebral things. At first, technical stuff as it was nice and zero-sum, easy for a young mind to feel comfortable with. Electronics. Programming. The extent of my creative additions to this were things that still had rules - lego, video games, etc.
As I got into video games more and more as a means of escape, I had this interesting disparity building. I enjoyed some competitive games, and loved the tactical and strategic nature of military-esque video games, from strategy to shooters. However, I also preferred games where I could play as a woman. It felt better.
It's not like I could say I 'related' to them better, per se. This was partly because video game protagonists are often so under-written, but also because my experience was as the world seeing me as a boy or a young man. No matter how awkward and out of place, the fact was my experiences were tempered by that, even if I always felt pangs of depression that this was somehow 'wrong'.
So I'd play - sometimes secretly - very girl-focused games. Most were almost offensively crap. They had bad game design (apart from a few virtual doll-house things like The Sims) and were a huge contrast to the games whose mechanics I genuinely enjoyed.
So when I began to get more and more mockery, gentle or not, I began to assemble an identity based on how I perceived I should act, given my interests. In a community of Doom and Quake players, even the girls acted macho. So I joined in, and it began a process of making an identity based on the way media and internet communities told me I should be - the kind of 'guy' I should be.
This sprang to mind largely because of my friend Ash. She said this recently: "Fem Ash existed largely in a void or fantasy and now she's having to find her place in the real world, which is hard."
That hasn't left my head, and I keep thinking more about who I am becoming, how, and why.
As I said, it's not that my interests have changed much (although I am no longer so fascinated with stories / media focusing on male-to-male relationships - they were once models for me of 'how men relate to each other' that I could mimic) so much as no longer feeling bound to perform a part I constructed.
I'm happy as hell to be gushing about makeup, clothes and lesbian rom-coms as much as I am discussing World War II naval strategy or US politics in the 1960s. I'm fascinated by all those things, and together they help make me who I am.
But who I am now is far different than I'd imagined. I'm not performing any more, so I am now on a path of discovery as I figure out just how I feel natural behaving.
I'm not sure I ever had a strong idea of who Elissa was or would be. I didn't know if I'd ever find makeup interesting (I do), if I'd find fashion & style interesting (I do) or if I'd find myself relentlessly having suppressed a desire to be a mother (I don't).
For this reason, I think the change has, for me, seemed gradual. I have slowly changed how I present myself as that feels comfortable to me. I usually only notice personality shifts when friends comment on it. Vocal pattern shifts, as I am not intentionally trying to train myself vocally to sound more 'feminine', are also a slow unintentional shift I tend only to notice when someone comments on it, or in the rare cases where I slip outside of myself and pay attention to how I'm behaving.
I'm still uncertain if I'll put a more concerted effort into my voice. I'm not hugely deep-voiced, even if I did once pretend to be. In person, people don't seem to have a problem gendering me correctly based on my voice. On a phone is a different story.
All of these things slowly building up, however, make me more comfortable and have slowly brought me to realising something I didn't anticipate: how jarring it must be for people close to me, but who don't see me often.
Not everyone is comfortable with change, and even if they are, it must be a strange experience to see a loved one change this much this fast. Months may seem slow to me, but for people like some of my family members who've seen me perhaps three or four times this year, it must be a strange experience.
I read that a common experience for people whose immediate family or partner is transitioning is grief. That they have lost someone, even if they have gained someone else.
The thing is, this was tough for me to fully get my head around because I've never experienced this. I know quite a few trans people now, but those few who I've seen transition from the start I haven't really been close to before.
The last thing I've noticed as my personality slowly changes to reflect how I really feel about myself and the world is something more curious - that my friendships change.
Through no fault of anyone's, there have been some cases where people I was close to before no longer feel that same connection to me, or I no longer feel that same connection to them. This has nothing to do with transphobia, either - this is simply slowly becoming a person who longer quite gels the same way we once did.
Of course, this isn't a trans-specific thing. People change all the time. They grow closer and move apart at different times in their lives. It's just natural. The only unhealthy part of this is (usually when in committed relationships) when these changes go unacknowledged, leaving one or both parties unhappy and yet unwilling to accept that it's time for the relationship or friendship to end.
It's just that in my case, the change can seem hugely extreme - I can't imagine how weird it must be to see someone who used to brag about drinking 3 litres of beer (god I could be a dick) at a bar the previous night sipping sparkling wine and bitching about bras while lounging in a sun-dress.
I don't know who Elissa is.
I still find my behaviour shifting. I'm being changed by the way I am treated in public, by the way my friends relate to me, by hormonal changes, and a thousand other things.
This past year has been hugely intense, with several relationships coming and going, friendships shifting and a ton of deeply awesome experiences coupled with some unpleasant ones.
I know things will settle down in the coming years, but for now, I feel like I'm in a constant state of flux.
I've heard a few trans people talk about becoming someone specific. I admire that so much. Seeing people decide they would be comfortable being a certain way and moving heaven and earth to achieve that is amazing.
In my case, though... I'm just going to have to keep seeing where this takes me, and what kind of woman emerges at the other end once things begin to slow down.