Expect Problems

A transition blog.

Some more random observations culled from my private diary over the last few months.

  • My experience coming out to friends and family has been predominantly positive. More than positive, actually - hugely encouraging. For quite a while I started feeling very weird. Like at some point the other penny would drop. And then, after that, feeling self-conscious. I knew how tough and painful coming out to friends and family could be for other trans people I knew, and began to feel kinda guilty that my own experience was so good. I still kinda feel that way at times. I wish more people in my situation could have an experience closer to my own so far.
  • When I was little, playing video games with female protagonists was a great escape for me. Being able to 'be a girl' was absolutely amazing, and for a few hours I could ignore my own body and not just be a girl - but be a heroic one. I can assure you, my female Avatar in Ultima VII was the most amazing hero any fantasy world had ever seen, at least in my own mind.
  • Despite identifying better with women, years of presenting as male and being used to the world reacting to me as one has meant that I still find I can identify with male characters in things just fine in movies. Though I swear, by now we've surely seen just about all straight white male stories people can dream up... But in games? I prefer to play women. Always.
  • Also interesting: I still found/find myself engaging in some degree of wish-fulfillment with male film and TV characters, and it's never been too difficult for me. I think part of the reason is that if I'm imagining myself as James Bond (for some reason), Indiana Jones or whoever, a component of that fantasy IS feeling comfortable in my body. In fact, that was often a huge component. To be that confident and comfortable with yourself and not to have to fake it...
  • While I would love to see more specifically-written female protagonists in games (as opposed to player-made ones like in most RPGs) a larger factor in my liking and identifying with a character is more about their behaviour and intellect that their gender identity or expression. More smart, witty, laterally-thinking people would be awesome.
  • I suspect that the fact that I have always been attracted to girls probably made it tougher for me to accept that I had gender dysphoria. When I was younger, it was very easy to just dismiss it as the same fixation that all boys my age were getting with girls. I spent a lot of time trying to tell myself that wishing I was a girl was something all young boys wanted.

There's tons more to go through, obviously, but I am trying to best to at least broadly fit these into vaguely common categories.

From the moment I accepted how I feel, I began diarying. Privately, of course, as I only went public with my transition yesterday. So today I thought I'd trawl through my diary and put a list of observations about myself or transitioning that seem even slightly interesting, but too short to flesh out into a full post at this time. (If you want to read more detail about a certain observation, feel free to pester me on twitter or something.)

These are in no particular order, and are, as I will keep repeating, my own experiences and thoughts.

  • When I still presented as male and overtly masculine (a defence mechanism), bearded & leather jacketed, there was a certain kind of reaction / relationship I could expect from most male bartenders. All it took was me shaving that off, ditching the more macho attire, painting my nails and just ditching the machismo and everything changed. I began to notice a more cautious behaviour from many bartenders. It felt strange. Some were fine, of course, but within months it became obvious I wasn't imagining this: some (maybe most) men are simply more comfortable when you conform to very set rules of masculine behaviour.
  • I very quickly found myself noting which bars and restaurants had unisex bathrooms. Public bathrooms have always been stressful as hell for me, even when I was in denial. I very, very rarely worked my way up to using urinals. I can't describe how 'wrong' and uncomfortable it felt easily. But now, it's these places with gender-neutral bathrooms that I will be frequenting most, for my own sanity.
  • I think I began to suspect things about my gender identity about two year before I came out. But I told nobody - not even my closest friends and family. It wasn't out of shame by this point - I was just over 30 years old - but out of a desperate need for it not to be true. I recognised how tough transitioning would be, and so when I read articles or blog posts or listened to trans people talking about their experiences, I mentally latched onto the differences rather than the commonalities. In short: I looked for confirmation bias that no, I was, in fact, cis, and something else was wrong instead. Anything but confronting the truth.
  • I used to be insecure and uncomfortable around trans people. Seriously. It was deeply shameful to me. As someone who considered themselves progressive and tried to avoid any kind of bias or prejudice, I hated the idea that somebody already dealing with so much would even get a level of discomfort from me, a person who considered themselves progressive and supportive. In retrospect, it makes sense - it's harder to ignore your own suppressed feelings when you're confronted full-on with reality. But I'm still ashamed of how I felt, even though I don't think I ever made anyone other than my self uncomfortable as a result.
  • I used to think I 'got' trigger warnings. I really did. I'd read about a specific instance of discrimination or worse, and I'd be angry. Really angry. I thought I got why people wanted to be informed if media or an article covered topics which might trigger them. It wasn't until I first saw a trans woman live-tweeting her awful experiences being harassed and detained by TSA and felt absolute fear, knowing this could happen to me, that I think I suddenly even began to get it - and this isn't even something which caused me to flash back to an event I lived through. I think for me it was a bit like the Dunning–Kruger effect. I now know juuust enough to realise how little I really understood about some of this stuff, and what a truly personal reaction of fear can be to hearing something.
  • I don't "wish I could have accepted this earlier". I'm so fucking happy that people can accept this more easily these days, and transition at a younger age. So wishing I had that same option, or just that I had figured it out at their age is not productive. Anyway, it took until now partly because I needed to develop the emotional maturity to be honest with myself. Even if the world was a different place, I just wasn't ready to accept this when I was 20, 25 or even 30. It took until now, and I am just glad I did figure it out.

That's it for now. I'm sure I'll find more, but I don't want this to go on too long.

Hi there! Welcome to my brain-space. To your left, you will see some neurons. To your right, a few deep-seated issues I've been ignoring for too long.

Anyway, please keep your arms and legs fully inside the train at all times, as sudden emotion is possible (at least for me) and we don't want any damage to parts of you that won't naturally heal. Today's tour will take us through the GENDER IDENTITY thought-path.

I have gender dysphoria.

I was aware of this probably first at age ten, but partly due to the lack of societal exposure to this and other concepts, I simply found myself embarrassed at my feelings of, in ten-year-old-me's brain, "wishing I was a girl". Instead, I buried them deep down - first consciously, and then subconsciously, until for a while I hit peak MRA-dickhead in my attempt to act macho/masculine in the way society at large seemed to be telling me I should.

To those of you who knew me during that time, I can only apologise deeply and profusely and hope I didn't hurt or offend you too much.

Over the past few years I have come to accept this - slowly - and realise that any option other than transitioning is more depressing, scary and horrifying than the attendant complexities and social difficulties related to going through hormone replacement therapy.

I began HRT at the very beginning of this year, because the idea of starting on a date like that mattered to me - and because it's time I admit I'm a romantic, gods-dammit.

I do not identify as male. I still present as such much of the time because I can, and because it's often easier socially. (Of course, 'presenting as male' is a nebulous idea anyway - I wear the same clothes much of the time as many of my girlfriends who would at best be referred to as 'tomboyish'.)

I would prefer to, and am working towards presenting as female full-time, largely through a slow transition to a more androgynous style.

I would prefer that people use female gender pronouns for me.

I am changing my name. For some people with a gender-neutral given name, this not really a problem unless they truly want to jettison their old identity. For me, with a masculine name, this presents a problem.

I intend to go by Elissa from now on. Yes, I had thought about using a feminised version of Rohan, but frankly, I don't like this option much, as to me 'Rohan' still represents, in large part, an identity I tried to build up as a way of avoiding dealing with my gender identity issues. So as much as I love the name 'Rohan' (I was named after Lord of the damn Rings! How cool is that?) I don't like what it still psychologically represents for me.

That said, a name is something you tend to unpack subconsciously, which is why it wasn't until recently that I even began to notice who called me 'Ro' and who called me 'Rohan'.

I intend to (and have been, albeit privately until now) documenting this process - physically, photographically and emotionally.

I will answer any questions you have for me, most likely. I've spent enough time in denial or hiding things; it's pointless for me to continue down that path.

My feelings on this matter are mine. My decisions as to how to handle this are mine. I do not pretend to speak for all people who don't identify as their birth-assigned gender, whether or not they've chosen to transition. If you ask me something that begins with, "As a trans person..." I'll probably stop you right there. My experiences, while they may have lots of common elements to those a massive number of people around the world experience, are still unique to me, and I cannot and will not pretend to talk "for" a large and diverse group of people, however similar they may or may not to be me in terms of gender identity and personal experience.

So... that's the guts of it, I guess.

If you know me in real life, you will likely notice (if you haven't already) the long, relatively slow process of my physical transition through hormone replacement.

If you don't know me in real life, it probably won't make a massive difference to you. Online I will still rant and joke about coding, games and the odd bit of politics. I might occasionally discuss transitioning, and I will link to my blog posts on the subject if that interests you.

Oh, and if you're reading this with anger or disgust - if you have some mental, religious or ethical issue with me being a trans woman? My only comment to you: I am sorry you feel that way, and I hope that your biases and personal issues won't hurt any more people than they absolutely must before you get over them. Because I guarantee you: you know more trans, intersex, gay, bi, asexual, gender non-binary and queer people than you ever realised.