(CW: Suicide, objectification)
I remember the months before I began hormone therapy as being a bit surreal.
I had come to the realisation that I had to transition. That if I didn't, things would probably be over. I'd begun to daydream about just ending it all. Not even because I was depressed per se, but because even good days seemed relentless.
I knew I was going to do it, and I knew when, so I began to research things, talk to people and begin thinking intently about something specific.
I asked a handful of my female friends a question.
"What do you think I should do in these last few months before I lose most of my male privilege?"
I varied the wording a bit I suppose, but this was the jist of the question.
I wasn't sure what kind of answers I'd get. Most were banal-seeming at the time.
"Go swimming wherever you want without a top on."
"Just go to a bar on your own and have a beer."
"Go jogging without a bra on."
I'm sure I got more answers, but these were the three that stuck in my head, as they were all things I did.
I didn't go into this naive. At least, I didn't think I was. I was completely aware that I was going to be jettisoning a lot of my privilege, and I even had a good idea of just what that'd really mean... but what I didn't understand was how that'd feel.
To be honest, none of those three things have enormously changed much in my life. I don't often sit in bars alone drinking, and if I do it's rarely at night. I haven't had the opportunity to go swimming at all since I began HRT.
Jogging, I certainly began to notice a difference. It doesn't take being particularly busty before that stops being comfortable.
I was still presenting male about two odd months into HRT, but wearing a crop-top under my t-shirt to flatten my growing chest to still pass as such.
I was possibly going to miss my train.
Without thinking much of it, I ran.
If your breasts are incredibly sensitive for any reason, well... honestly, just sprinting for that train was a huge shock, even with a fairly constricting crop-top on.
Thing is, there were certainly things I didn't really consider - or didn't think would be have as much
Now I actually look and present female, and have done for a while, I figured I'd go back over that list and see what else I could add.
I'd add just two things for now, although I'm sure over time I'd add more.
Go walking at night.
Seriously. I never thought much about it, but on a hot summer night when it finally got cool around 11pm, I'd often go for meandering walks. Didn't much matter where. Around the block. Down to the water, if I was living near water. I'd listen to music on my headphones and just walk, ignoring everything around me but the comforting darkness.
In retrospect, it was amazing, and something I took for granted.
Of course, I'm not claiming that every time I leave my house after night-fall now I am instantly set upon by monsters, but the thing is it doesn't have to happen every time. All it took was one or two instances of some creepy fucker cat-calling me as I walked by, or some creepy guy trying to just talk to me when I was minding my own business and walking alone on a sidewalk.
It has a whole new level of fear attached to it when it happens at night, and now it's happened a few times I have begun to lose my confidence.
I don't go walking at night any more. Not on my own. I'll travel to and from a station, but even then sometimes if it's too late I'll get a taxi or an Uber.
Which brings me to the second thing I'd add to this list.
Go out in public without thinking about my personal safety.
I suppose in a sense this is related to a few of the points, but really, that's what it comes down to.
A lot of things have just become part of what I do now, almost on a subconscious level.
Where I am going and how I will get there, if I have been drinking, what I am wearing - all these things factor into my personal, travel and social plans now.
It's almost embarrassing to think back about how good I had it before. Seriously. It's not even that I was unaware of this before, but what is really shocking to me is how different it actually feels.
In a lot of ways, I feel my life is more constricted now. The world is just that bit smaller. It's no longer meant for me.
And it makes me angry. Very, very angry.
Those one or two times a week (I don't go out that much, remember - I work from home and it still happens one or two times a damn week) I get cat-called or suffer some creepy interaction with a random guy? It fucking blows.
It's depressing, can ruin my day or even my week, and this is without anything physically happening. Being made to feel like a piece of meat being appraised, or a thing whose personal space means very, very little is just about the worst, most disempowering thing I've experienced.
I'd dwell on this more, or discuss how much worse the experience must be for others, but I just can't. I'm not going to even try to talk about or think too heavily about worse experiences I haven't had.
I couldn't have even really begun to imagine the effects these near-constant psychological micro-aggressions from random people in public would have on me.
I thought I had some idea, and I really didn't.
If you're reading this and have the privilege to not be constantly considering you personal safety, and aren't beset by these kind of things when you go out in pubic (for whatever reason)... I'm a little envious now.
Just to be clear, though: none of this makes me regret my decision to transition. I can't stress that enough. It was the only way to make my life bearable - to cope with my gender dissonance, and despite all the problems, I'm still happier now. I've a lot more to deal with personally, but it doesn't matter.
On the bright side, I think I've figured out the subject of my next blog post: a converse list... all the things I appreciate most about the rapidly closing gap between my gender identity and my body / presentation.