Expect Problems

A transition blog.

There's a joke going around at the moment on twitter, similar to other observational jokes I've seen for a while, but done particularly well:

Male Writers Writing Female Characters:

“Cassandra woke up to the rays of the sun streaming through the slats on her blinds, cascading over her naked chest. She stretched, her breasts lifting with her arms as she greeted the sun. She rolled out of bed and put on a shirt, her nipples prominently showing through the thin fabric. She breasted boobily to the stairs, and titted downwards.” [original post]

Every time I see that joke I cringe, but it also makes me think of the experience of going through hormone therapy.

Feminising hormone therapy can produce some pretty major body change, and in some cases very fast. Just how and to what degree is obviously going to vary dependant on your roll in the genetic lottery, the type and strength of your therapy, and various other environmental factors.

Facial shape changes make for an odd experiencing getting used to the new person you see in the mirror. Fat redistribution and dramatically reduced upper body muscle mass can alter the entire shape of your body, and your gait.

Even in cases of pretty huge body change (like, flat-chested to B cup in 6 weeks, or getting used to your legs being much heavier over a similar amount of time) I found I got used to them incredibly fast. In fact that was the problem - my subconscious sort of ignored the changes, even in situations where it matters - like manoeuvring through cramped spaces.

The number of times I banged my chest painfully into things or even misjudged something as simple as power-walking was enough to leave me bruised and annoyed, and it took a good few months to adapt to that and stop hurting myself.

Which brings me to what I wanted to discuss: conscious awareness of my body.

I don't have much of it now. I'm aware of what I look like in situations where it's relevant - such as if I'm out on my own late at night - but here's the thing: it's not that I've become more aware of my body, but less aware of it.

Before, my body felt wrong. Like I was trapped in something embarrassing and misshapen. So when I went out I was aware of it. I tried to cover it up at all times, even going so far as to swim in t-shirts for absolutely no reason, despite the weather rather than because of it.

Now that it's changed to something much closer to what my brain seems to expect, the amazing thing is that lack of awareness outside of intimate or sensual moments where I'm made aware of my body.

That kind of self-awareness goes beyond the physical for me, though.

Even being 'aware' of my gender is now something that's subsiding.

Before, I 'knew' I was male and felt a constant pressure to perform / behave as one. I watched other men, noting how they did various things and trying to mimic their behaviour, like an actor trying to put on an accent.

Now... I just do what I do. My mannerisms or physical behaviour are very rarely consciously chosen. My vocal patterns have shifted, and while I've no idea where a lot of them came from, I know they weren't conscious.

Whatever stresses now exist from systemic sexism, the fundamental stress of constantly trying to be someone I'm not is gone, and that's a huge thing.

I get to be me now, and with limited exception and in a twist of irony given how media often portrays us... now is the first time in my life when I DON'T feel monstrous.


Every trans person had their own ways of coping before they transition. Some have "always" shown behaviour somewhat reflective of their true gender identity. I, on the other hand, got so mercilessly mocked as a child for any perceived non-masculine behaviour that in most situations lived by a rote-learned set of "masculine" behaviours - in retrospect rather superficial, almost toxic ones.

What this has meant is that the process of transitioning has meant jettisoning a lot of that behaviour. Which began to happen fairly quickly. It was wonderfully liberating to just... drop it. To act in a way that comes naturally, and to have people read it as "feminine" is more interesting than anything else. As much as anything else, I suspect a good chunk of that is that they're just auto-coding my behaviour as feminine because it's neither distinctly masculine nor feminine - but they see me as a woman.

Unsure about someone's behaviour? We tend to think of it as related to their gender, even if it absolutely isn't (and even if it "is", our concepts of gender are mostly social constructs, anyway - even though constructs can be as real as tangible things).

However, there's a flip-side to this for me: being fearful of ANY of my behaviour being or seeming "masculine".

I spent so long afraid of "seeming non-masculine", only to volte-face and be terrified of seeming masculine. Part of this was definitely a defence mechanism: I was scared of what'd happen if people gendered me wrong or clocked me as trans. All it takes is one or two horrible experience to make that a built in fear, even for those of us lucky enough to largely avoid those transphobic experiences.

But another part is just having so much baggage from when I was trying desperately to "be a man".

It's been a huge part of my life in the 20+ months I've been transitioning. And lately, I've begun to notice it shifting.

As I become comfortable just being me in a very true sense, I become less scared that certain mannerisms or interests or behaviours will be taken as 'masculine'. Because none of us are 'perfectly masculine' or 'perfectly feminine', no matter how strongly you identify as one of the binary gender descriptors.

It's nice to feel I'm hitting this point, because it affects everything. So many things, be they sexual, social, vocal or anything else, we fear are coded in a gendered way that doesn't "fit us", and in a perfect world that'd bother nobody.

This isn't a statement on gender identity, either - while I do identify strongly as female rather than a non-binary identifier, I am also sure that having serious conversations about not judging people for "gendered" behaviour that doesn't fit our assumptions of them is one that must be had.

For many of us, a binary gender is empowering and comfortable.

That doesn't mean we have to bow down to dangerously loaded concepts of how we "should" act as women, or men.

I guess I've known this for years, but it's nice to slowly build up the comfort to genuinely not care, as much of our coded gender behaviour is toxic.

Every time I found myself keeping quiet in groups, I realised on some subconscious level I had been internalising sexist ideas of 'women should be seen and not heard'. If men spoke over me, they had a reason.

And when men keep quiet, don't cry, don't admit they're hurting... same thing.

Gender assumptions can be toxic, and a dangerous thing for me transitioning has been how easy it has been for me accidentally take onboard anything I perceived as "feminine", even if it's something coded as such just to subdue and diminish us.

It's going to take me longer to fully excise this subconscious thinking, and it may never fully happen, but it's nice to see progress.


A year ago, I wrote this facebook post (slightly modified for re-posting here)...

16 September, 2016

A year ago today, I broke down crying.

It was in the morning. I had gotten up at the usual time. My partner left for work. I methodically showered while being careful not to stare at myself in the mirror, made my breakfast and then walked across our apartment - the best of a series of nicer and nicer places I'd lived in an attempt to feel "complete" - to work at my desk.

I put off working for a few minutes to drink my coffee, and found myself staring intently at a picture a friend had posted of her trying on dresses after going clothes shopping with her mother. Five minutes passed, and I was still staring. I wasn't fantasising about her sexually, even though she's an absolutely beautiful person. I realised, after a while, that I had spent the whole time wishing I could ~be~ her. To have just gone dress shopping. This wasn't some glorified idea of it being perfect, either. I wanted the experience of going shopping, finding things that didn't quite fit right or being annoyed that they didn't have a size that fit because some part of my body not fitting a dressmaker's idea of what a woman should be shaped like. I just wanted an experience that felt more right than the one I'd had every day of my life so far.

For years I had alternated between knowing as a young person I "should have been a girl", to denying it completely, to suspecting it again as I thought back on my life, to what had become my "current" state at this point - actively reading about trans people, and finding any reason I could for it not to be me out of fear of what accepting it and transitioning would entail.

But I caught myself staring at my friend's dresses, and I realised I did this sort of thing all the time - still somehow telling myself I wasn't doing it. I caught myself wishing, and all my carefully-constructed denial and specifically-tailored behaviours to work around crippling dysphoria & self-loathing just came crashing down around me.

I'd tried everything to make myself happy, always sure that finishing this novel or making this movie or finally making a game or having a bigger tv or a nicer phone or a better apartment or whatever else would be The Thing Which Finally Made Me Content, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that none of these things did. I didn't even want to be ~happy~ - I was sure that wasn't possible. I just wanted to be able to enjoy small moments, and not live in constant stress and discomfort, unable to function. A year ago today, I broke down crying because I knew that either I was going to have to do something about this, or I couldn't keep going.

I curled up in a ball on the floor for half an hour, until my face hurt, I was sneezing between tears from the dust on the carpet, and standing up made me feel dizzy.

I messaged one of my best friends.

"I’m actually really nervous discussing this, even with you," I began.

I came out to her. Then to my partner. Then to my brother. And my sister. The order was as much pragmatic as anything else. Whoever I saw in the small group I knew I wanted to tell right away, I told. I wanted to make sure that I would be held accountable. I didn't want everyone to know; I just wanted close friends knowing - ones who wouldn't let that conversation pass. I knew I couldn't slip back into hiding, but that fear might make me try to do that.

A few people told me that they thought I was "very brave", and that threw me completely. Because to me, nothing about this was brave. It was the end of what I saw as decades of cowardice, refusing to accept myself and instead becoming a bitter construction. I only made the choice I did because I knew it was that or... I don't want to think about that.

I knew a lot of things were likely. I knew I'd lose friends, possibly even some of my best friends if they had more difficulty with it than I imagined it. I knew it'd be expensive and tougher than anything I'd ever done. I knew I'd lose my royal flush of social privilege and go rocketing somewhere down the rungs of "people old white guys treat as sub-human".

Some parts were easier than I feared, and others were even harder than I'd imagined.

Within months I was single for the first time in a decade, and while my friends stood up around me and supported me to an extent that still blows my mind, regardless I found myself in a terrible, lonely place. I was so emotional I didn't go a day without crying. My body ached and yet I wasn't even close to being in a position to really feel I looked "like a woman". I just felt uncomfortable.

I came out when I did because it was getting harder and harder to hide physical changes, and when I did I had a friend by my side with tequila at the ready for when I pushed the 'post' buttons and activated [my] new Facebook account.

However, despite everyone's support, some part of me was sure I'd be this lonely, single, strange-looking girl forever. And I was prepared to be that. I would take any form of loneliness and pain, if I didn't have to keep pretending to be a man.

It still hurts sometimes to think of some of the things I lost, and even more to think back on the people I hurt while lashing out in confusion over why the world - and my place in it - never made sense.

Despite this, though... I was wrong. Completely wrong.

I just wanted to end the pain, and I would have been happy with just that.

Instead I've found incredible relationships springing up, some who never knew me before and others who've known me for most of my life. I spend more days than not enjoying small moments, no longer feeling the need to desperately obsess over whatever the next superficial goal is.

It hasn't all been roses. I was right that it was the toughest thing I'd ever do. Some of it I've blogged about, and some is still too personal. But on balance...

I really am happy.

Little moments with friends matter. Whether it's cooking absurd "desert" pizzas with housemates on pizza night, watching your family almost lose a soccer ball over a fence, makeup-and-wine parties, or a gentle kiss & feeling your limbs intertwined with a partner as you watch a movie or a TV show.

I don't hate myself any more. I've got a long way to go, and I still find so many social interactions scary as I re-learn so many things that I felt comfortable doing before... but I'll manage it.

Even on days where I poke myself in the eye with mascara and my bank balance laughs at me and some shithead misgenders me and my breasts ache so much I can't focus on work... it doesn't matter. It's all transient background noise that'll pass, and I know - really know - that things are only getting better.

Relationships - of all sorts - feel honest now, and sex no longer feels like something confusing that I keep being told I need to do a certain way.

I'm not scared of growing old now, and when someone says my name I smile.

I own my emotions and my sexuality, and I'm slowly becoming the kind of person fifteen-year-old-me daydreamed about being. (And not just because I'm a blonde game developer who doesn't look terrible in lipstick and a black dress.)

I'm not ashamed or upset about being trans any more, either.

Not even close.

There are some experiences I'll never have that many of my cis friends have had or will have, but I increasingly see the value in my own experiences - in learning from them, expressing them, and enjoying what unique moments I get in my life.

The next year is going to be better than ever before, and it's all because of my friends and family being amazing people.

-

I was right. I went through more things - both trials and pleasures - and lots has changed. (I'm a redhead now! And to my delight it suits me.)

I've become more conscious of my sexuality, grown comfortable being poly, and have enjoyed months of often just enjoying the relaxed feeling of lying in bed, looking forward to the next day.

I don't recognise the girl in the mirror even a little bit as the person I used to pretend to be, and that fills me with so much delight, because while I don't think I was an awful person before, I was never happy, and I hurt more people than I'll ever be comfortable with.

A new friend who hadn't met me before told me after we went out for drinks last week said that she thought I looked young, but couldn't be much younger than her if at all, as I seemed to confident in my body. That blew my mind.

She was right.

I tried to imagine past-me being 'confident' or comfortable in my body, and it just wasn't possible. I could feign it, not always effectively, but just walking into a bar to order drinks before my friends showed up used to fill me with dread.

But last week it barely factored into my thinking. I found the bar we'd agreed to meet at - a bar I'd never been to before - ordered a drink and sat at the bar waiting for my date. My only real concern was that a cool & stunning woman asked me to meet her for drinks - the small social interactions and even the 'being out in public' part didn't bother me one bit.

That may not seem like much, but it's an enormous step forward for me in terms of my ability to not feel like just being in public was too difficult a task to be worth it.

Two years and my whole life has changed. It took more or less entirely changing my body to do it, but it was worth it, even during absolutely horrid times like those our government is currently putting us queer people.

Anyway, short version: gonna raise a glass tonight to past-me, for finally making the toughest decision ever, and turning out to be absolutely 100% right to do so.

Progress Image


One of the interesting discussions I've had over drinks with lots of other trans people is the one that begins this way: "I have no idea how I didn't figure it out earlier." (Being trans, that is.)

I mean, in practice it's not surprising many of us took a while to figure it out. Media and lack of education about trans issues didn't help there. But despite that, it's, to me, morbidly funny how many things from my past seem like enormous glaring sirens screaming, "YO, YOU'RE NOT A GUY!"

It's usually a fascinating discussion - we run over the usual list of "signs". A lot of them I definitely had - I mention quite a few here.

It was the ones I didn't have that I began to focus on. I was desperate to "not be trans" that I latched onto everything that "wasn't me."

Now, in retrospect, when I talk to other trans femme people, so many of these things seem like something I could relate to, even if I didn't specifically have the experiences they're talking about.

So, here're two lists: the first is a slightly less verbose list of things, some from the above link, that I did experience... and a few that I didn't.

These aren't intended to be some definitive list of... anything. Instead my point is just that many of these, whether subconscious coping mechanisms, explicit results of dysphoria or whatever else did not and do not definitively "prove" gender dysphoria, being trans, etc. It's enough that in retrospect I realise I was in a desperate state of denial, but we all experience these differently, if at all.

So, firstly, A List Of Things I Felt or Did:

  • I felt deeply uncomfortable in my own body, to a very small extent before puberty, and a very large extent once puberty began its damage to me. The discomfort followed me everywhere. Almost nobody ever saw me naked.
  • I felt a sense of discomfort when I was in a gendered environment. Any time we were segregated by gender in school, I couldn't shake this feeling that I was in the wrong place. Every time I went into a gendered bathroom, the sense that I was going to be 'caught out' and made fun of for being there was constant. Every time I walked into a men's room and a guy at the urinal glanced up at me, I had to fight blushing and discomfort.
  • I couldn't dance. I mean, my brain refused to let me do it. I got uncomfortable dancing in front of anyone. It took me until I was 27 and very, very drunk to dance with friends. And even then I did it maybe 3 more times in the following five years. I think the reason is the sense of much of dancing was gendered, even if it wasn't. That my body wasn't the shape that I associated with 'dancing'. I even used to vocalise it in that way, "If I was a woman, I'd dance. But it feels wrong with a male body." I said those precise words.
  • A whole different level of discomfort happened when I had to use my body in an explicitly "male" way. Sex was incredibly tough as it felt fundamentally wrong, no matter how attracted I was to my partner. I was so uncomfortable peeing standing up that I didn't do it often for many years, and didn't do it at all in public bathrooms until I was about 30 - and even then only if I was drunk and nobody else was in the bathroom with me when I began.
  • When my male friends asked me for relationship advice, advice relating to women, or something of that sort, I would get deeply uncomfortable. Like something about the question was wrong, or the context was wrong. I found relating to men in relationships with women was very, very tough.
  • This extended so far as to be the same in romance / romcom movies. (I wrote about that in a bit of detail here.) In short: I couldn't relate to the women, because either I wasn't trying to (or trying not to) or I was therefore trying to imagine myself with a guy, and for most of my adult life I didn't accept any attraction I did have to men. I couldn't relate to the men, despite trying, because... I just couldn't. It felt weird, but I kept trying.
  • I had enormous difficulty relating to male protagonists in media I enjoyed, unless they were incredibly a-sexual and androgynous; by contrast I found that I felt empathy much faster for intelligent, nerdy female protagonists. At the time, I wrote this off as me crushing on them.
  • I wore mostly androgynous clothing, of the sort my slightly-tomboyish friends would wear. Any time things got too masculine - suits, jackets, ties, etc - I found myself deeply uncomfortable. I avoided all situations involving such attire - black tie events, weddings, job interviews, etc.
  • I got along better with women than men. Very few of my close friends were male. Since transitioning, I've become closer to several men - so I think it was less "not liking men", and that I was trying to relate to them in a way that I found very tough.
  • I almost exclusively played as women in video games.
  • My interest in masculine stories tended to be ones where men related to men. It was something I had to do with some frequency, and I was training myself how to do it, almost by rote, watching other men - real or on screens. In retrospect, I was a terrible "man" - because all my behaviours were mimicked rather than natural. Some of my behaviour now could, of course, be read as masculine-coded. Nothing's as simple as "man vs woman". But that behaviour is now just things that are "me", which people can read however they like.
  • I could never imagine myself having kids. As I got older I began to realise that this wasn't true - I just couldn't imagine myself as a father. Once I transitioned and began to realise that I'd be a mother, suddenly the proposition of being a parent became a lot less impossible - I had gendered parenting (or, society had) to the extent that it felt like something that was never for me. Now, it's not something I'd entirely rule out.
  • Related to the above, I had a strange affinity for pregnancy. I wrote it off as a fetish, but it was always the idea of being pregnant; not being with a pregnant woman per se. It's... it's gotten worse since HRT. Which is frustrating.
  • I fixated on ideas of what things might feel like "as a woman". Not always sexual - some were sensual or every-day things. I wondered what hugging another woman would feel like, for instance. (In response to past-me's curiosity, squishy boob hugs are the best. Sorry you won't get to experience that for a long while yet...)
  • I (almost) exclusively enjoyed erotica that was written from a female point of view, and almost entirely lesbian. I never got into visual porn, as most of the 'lesbian' porn that I thought I'd like felt very false - and in retrospect, it was; it was staged for men.
  • The only exception to the above point was when erotica was about a guy going through forced feminisation. Now THIS one comes up a lot as a common theme amongst trans femme folk. It wasn't that the act of being forcibly turned into a woman was itself appealing, so much as that I couldn't accept that I was trans, so the only way I could imagine fixing my body problems was if somebody forced it on me. My interest in this has lessened enormously now I've transitioned.

And now, the next list - a list of things other trans femme people did or experienced that I never did:

  • [What I would have thought was] cross-dressing. Now, I did try this several times. The idea of wearing "women's clothing" appealed to me, but it felt wrong. I put on a dress with my narrow, boyish body and all I saw was a man in drag. There's nothing wrong with that, but... it wasn't me. It did nothing to assuage my body issues. In fact, it accentuated them. It took until nearly a year into HRT, with my body having become quite curvy, before I began to wear dresses with any frequency.
  • Disassociation. For many trans people, disassociation, whether mild or severe, is a coping mechanism adopted. It lets us have sex - I've heard several trans people describe simply 'detaching themselves from their bodies' by intent, or even imagining themselves as their partner, not them. But not for me. My lack of disassociation is neither a good thing nor a bad thing - it's just something my brain never did, for better and for worse.
  • Showed feminine mannerisms. I wasn't "camp", "girly" or however else people might describe it. As a child I was deeply emotional, but many people are regardless of gender. As I got older, I mimicked masculine stoicism, hoping it'd make me feel more comfortable. It never did. So the me of 5+ years ago would have read as a very emotionally detached, grumpy, bitter young man, rarely showing his feelings or admitting to any aspects of his sexuality.
  • A sense of detachment from my emotions. Many other trans people I've spoken to mentioned this to me. But as I've said, I was always deeply emotional, and when I was really close friends with someone (usually another woman) I was comfortable showing it. I rarely was, but I was still that highly emotional person, and those emotions always felt very much a part of me. Nonetheless, those emotions were there. The cold behaviour I showed wasn't me detaching from my sense of self; it was an act. When I cry, hug, get excited, squeal, coo over cute things now? That's just me. It's always been me. It may SLIGHTLY have changed a bit through hormone therapy, but mostly? It's just me feeling comfortable expressing myself. (Side-note: the only emotion I hated was anger. When I got irrationally angry, which I think I saw as a masculine-coded emotion... I felt deeply ashamed and hateful of my own brain.)

I'm sure I've forgotten some (maybe I'll update this later?) but these are the big ones. As you can see, there were a LOT of common "trans things" on my "yes" list and far fewer on my "no" list.

But the variation on these when I talk to other trans people is huge. Many people I know are, to use a phrase one of them used, "trans as fuck", and yet still barely had more than a few of the "signs" on my big-arse "yes" list.

When I was trying to make excuses for myself and I began to suspect I MIGHT be trans, it was this last set that I fixated on. "I can't be trans because I don't like wearing women's clothing", etc, etc.

Oh, poor past-me. You were so desperate to avoid making a hard choice.

Just do it. It'll be the best thing you'll ever do.


CW: Public attention from creepy dudes.

Most of my transition blog posts have been either general observations about an aspect of transitioning, or specific discussions of experiences I've had. This is... half way between the two. I'm going to describe it as if it was a specific, distinct event, but what I'll be doing is fictionalising something which has happened to me in some variation a small handful of times in the past year.

But first, for context I need to mention three things: I have a very mid-range voice. It's not very deep - so much so that during my pre-transition years I trained myself to lower my voice, out of fear I wouldn't seem "manly" enough (the irony of which once I accepted being trans hit me like a freight train). However, my voice isn't very high-pitched, either. So for a woman, my voice is... a little deep. Not enough that I wanted to do vocal 'training' to sound more like some person's idea of what a cis woman sounds like (in reality, cis women have hugely varied voices - many deeper and more resonant than mine - who knew?), but enough that I occasionally get self-conscious about my own voice.

Then there's my body.

I look feminine. A little tall, and "more tits than arse", but I have a fair degree of cis-passing privilege. This is, to be clear, a very good thing - at least from a personal safety standpoint. I get gendered correctly and rarely suffer much transphobia from strangers.

One final note before I begin the story: this is not something 100% unique to trans women. It's a little different, but very similar to stories I've heard my cis friends tell. Thing is (and this may surprise you if you're a cis dude) the core of this story is something that happens with enough uncomfortable frequency, in some form, that it's unlikely to be a thing your female friends will have told you about unless the subject came up. It can become not so much 'normal' as an occurrence that gets at least partly forgotten fairly quickly after it's over. It doesn't happen to everyone, either, but sometimes you're just unlucky and incidents like it happens a few times in a week.

You're walking down the street, minding your own business. You're not late for something, but still trying to walk with purpose. You look forwards and, if you ran into a friend, you'd probably get told you had a solid "don't fuck with me" or "resting bitch face" going on. One you've practiced, consciously or not, for a long time.

Then you hear his voice. "Hey, baby."

At first, you keep walking and hope he's talking to someone else. But no. He calls out again, "Hey, you with the [insert identifying characteristic here]!"

You keep walking, but out of the corner of your eye you can see him approach, and even if you're kinda used to it, your heart probably picks up a bit.

He walks up beside you. "Hey stop, I just want to talk."

You ignore him. You say nothing.

He is in your peripheral vision, walking along side you while trying to make eye contact. You refuse to do so.

Then his line of questioning gets more intense.

"Hey, stop walking, I just wanted to say you look cute," he might say. Or perhaps he thinks he's Not Being Creepy, and his line might be, "You look really interesting". Or even neg you. "You're kinda hot for a chubby chick." A back-handed compliment intended to make you even more off-balance.

You begin to walk a little faster.

"Hey, what's the matter? Slow down, babe."

Or, if you have headphones in (yes, this even happens with headphones in), "Hey, stop your music for just a sec - I wanna say something."

You think about where you're going. Without visibly reacting too much, you try to take stock of where you are. How close are you to your destination? Is the destination somewhere you'll instantly be safe? A friend's place? Is it one you MAY be safe, if he decides not to pursue you into earshot of others? A bar? A supermarket? Or is it somewhere he might just stay and talk to you, like a nearly-empty train platform you'll be waiting on for five minutes or so?

He repeats himself, this time sounding a bit more intense.

Then, finally, he escalates. He reaches out to put a hand on your shoulder.

This is where the story diverges a bit, if you're trans. Or, more specifically, if you're me. I know trans people who, when they hear this story, fully agree. Others less so. But either way, here's the thing:

The "you" in this story didn't respond. Didn't tell him to go away. To leave you alone. To fuck off. (Though, for the reference, saying this is like responding politely to a spam email - it rarely does more than qualify as engagement, and a reason to continue talking at you.)

"You" didn't respond... because once it's clear he isn't going to leave you alone, you worry what his response will be if he begins to suspect you're trans. He won't be hitting on you then. Will he scream the T word in your face and leave? Worse? What if, in this variation of the story, his friends are across the street, watching with amusement as this unfolds?

Or what if he's already clocked you're trans, and he's just fucking with you, waiting for a chance to say something abusive?

These things are all going through your head, and the whole time your heart is racing faster and you're asking yourself: will things be better or worse if I talk? What if I'm polite? What if I'm terse? What if I'm rude?

If you're very lucky, you never get to find out. After what seems like an eternity he'll say, "Fuck you bitch, I just wanted to talk!" or maybe "Fuckin' bitch! I just gave you a fuckin' compliment!"

Or maybe not. Maybe you'll be walking down the stairs onto a station platform with this guy following you.

But that stress - "Do I talk or not?" is made so much more intense when you fear, however irrationally, that somehow just talking, even a few words, will give you away.

For many of us, even if we haven't been misgendered or clocked as trans based on our voice for years, this kind of thing sticks with us. We are literally silenced by our own fears.

This event I'm describing? It doesn't "need" to happen often. Once or twice to this extent is enough. Enough that when you hear that initial, "Hey, baby" or similar being called from behind you, across the street, or from some dude standing half in your way with a sleazy grin on his face, your heart picks up and you pre-emptively begin to go over all the things I mentioned - where you are, where you're going, if he's alone...

These incidents make even otherwise-comfortable situations suddenly nerves-inducing at best, scary at worst. Once I heard someone calling out at me and approaching from behind, and I all but panicked before realising it was a friend who was running up in excitement to say hi.

When you ask for advice from other women, the most common response is... "you get used to it."

They're talking about the first part of the experience, of course, not the trans-specific fears that go with it, but that doesn't make it any better. I doubt it's much less scary and gross and uncomfortable for cis women than it is for me. This is something which we tell ourselves to just suck up and take. To get used to.

There's no training to deal with this, cis or not. Nor should there have to be. The practical part of my brain thinks that some useful tips of the psychology of dealing with Creepy Dudes Who Think You're Fuckable would be a useful thing for someone to write. But the idealistic part of me would rather, instead, that men are taught to respect personal space.

It'd be a huge shift, though. Trust me, I know - I spent my teen years feeling deeply uncomfortable as I was pressured to be assertive. Be strong. Be sexually forward. Mocked for the slightest "non-masculine" behaviour at a shitty public school. I've seen the social environment put that means certain boys grow up to be That Guy Who Won't Take No. I was there, and now I'm seeing the effects. I reckon I could even tell you, retrospectively and with reasonable accuracy, which of the dudes I grew up around have done this to other women - and genuinely thought they weren't doing anything creepy or wrong.

Because before anyone calls out, "Not All Men", no SHIT not all men. But it doesn't take ALL men. Just that one dude, out of literally thousands you pass every day in a major city like mine, is enough. That one incident happens, and it may not happen again for months, years - or even never - but you begin to look for it. It affects how you walk. How you behave in public. Where you choose to walk.

It feeds into other parts of your life, too.

You may wake up, like me this morning, having just had this precise incident play out in a dream, leaving you unsettled right from the beginning of your day.

When I go out for coffee today, I'm going to be thinking about that. Paying just a little more attention than usual to who I can see on the street and what his body language says, despite the fact that in all probability I will be ignored entirely by everyone but those I directly address.

Those small handful of creeps? Their behaviour has fucked up my Monday, a full few months after the last of them tried to "hit on me" in public.