Three years ago today, I began hormone therapy.
With physical changes came social ones, which means it's been a bizarre and eye-opening journey into personal comfort, but also into learning a lot about gendered treatment and sexism.
It also involved a lot of self-reflection on the nature of gender identity - and of my identity. When I began I had little concept of gender as more than just binary, but over the years I had to do a lot of reflection on just how I felt. I ended up landing on the same thing I had assumed - that I am most comfortable when being gendered female and when people use she/her pronouns. But I at least feel like that's an active decision I made, knowing so many folk who use different pronouns and identify as genderqueer or non-binary.
I've also needed to re-evaluate my sexuality, and even found it shifted as I transitioned. Realising I had been crushing on men for years (albeit irregularly) and had been repressing it due to some shitty internalised homophobia, was a strange thing to realise. Then finding my attraction to men entirely vanish and my attraction to other particularly femme folk really did define was another weird experience.
I remember the first time I was cat-called, and once I realised it was directed at me, I felt an uncomfortable combination of validation and gross discomfort and being objectified. Over time the former went away, and now when it happens I simply feel gross.
Beginning to encounter homophobia was also a gross and rude experience, but as with cat-calling I couldn't help but get angry with myself at how it also felt validating in an uncomfortable way. I'd love to say I had the confidence to say "I am a lesbian" early on, but I didn't. I felt like I was using an identity I hadn't "earned" in some way. After years of being called a dyke and being hyper-aware of people staring when I kiss girlfriends in public, it's hard not to feel that's now part of my identity whether I would want it to be or not. That's just how I am seen, for better or for worse.
Internalised transphobia has also been a complex thing to work through. I remember when I came out to people as trans three years ago, even though I would have said it fairly matter-of-factly, I felt like I was telling people I had an illness or the like. I felt a bit of shame and discomfort. It took a few years before I began to say "I'm trans" and feel a sense of pride. Not because a medical fact about myself is worth being proud of - but because that one word makes me think of all the things I've gone through to get here, and that I made it to a place where I am more or less comfortable in my own body.
Interacting with people used to terrify me. I would hate talking to retail workers to ask for help or just to make smalltalk. Now I have warm, smiling casual friendships with most of the local retail workers near my house. This in itself was not something I ever thought to be part of gender dysphoria, but it turned out my own discomfort in my own skin affected almost everything, even my confidence to just, y'know... ask someone in a store where I could find a certain item.
It's not all roses, of course. There are a lot of complexities with my own sexuality left to work out, decisions to make about surgery, etc. For now it's all academic, as my financial situation is particularly poor.
I also have to admit that, as I wrote a while back, I also hit a wall about six months ago that I'm still dealing with. "What now?"
For years I could focus my pesonal development energies on very practical things - there was always more to do, from hormones and hair removal, to name or gender change forms with different government departments. There was discovering how I felt about personal clothing style. Discovering what it was like to want to put energy into my appearance, and see how my personal style developed over that time.
So to suddenly have most of that pretty much as 'done' as it can be left me in the same place I am now - with a sense of mild confusion as to what to do now. There was a roadmap I could follow and/or make for myself to transition. There's no roadmap for dealing with other personal issues and insecurities.
Becoming more comfortable with yourself, finding a community of people who you fit in with, and even learning more about who you are doesn't solve practical problems such as writer's block, what you really want to do with your life, or where you want to be when you do it.
Every time my HRT'iversary comes around, I find myself swamped with emotion, thinking about all of this and more. Of friendships I no longer have, and of new ones that are now more important to me than anything else in the world.
This one perhaps feels a bit more confusing than usual, due to a lot of unrelated life issues going on, but it also has more high points than previous years. There are things I am excited for in 2019, as much as things I am terrified to have to do.
I joked in 2015 that I was "giving up testosterone for New Year's".
This year, I think it's about time I made a more serious set of resolutions to do more with my life, so this time next year I can look back on 12 months of firsts, and not just stagnation.