When I began this blog, I also began to conscientiously try to present as seamlessly masculine an appearance as possible. On the one hand, I have been pleased by the results. Socially, I am gendered masculine or male much of the time, transguys have begun to treat me as one of their kind, and queers have been questioning my gender pronoun or expressing the urge to call me “he”. Sometimes, when I look into the mirror and see the handsome fella I have become, when I observe how dim the traces of femaleness are that remain, I feel really great. Yet this process of masculinization has not lessened my dysphoria.
There are times when it really grips me, this desire to be more male, to have a more male body shape and face. There are times when the melancholy of not feeling masculine enough hangs over me all day. These days, whenever I feel down for whatever reason, it tends to translate immediately into negative thoughts about my body and gender: that I don’t really look like a guy, that I don’t fuck like a guy, that I look silly, positively juvenile, that I’ll never escape being a girl and I should just reconcile myself to it, and so on… I scrutinize myself daily for signs of femaleness and am always disappointed to find them. I live under the signs of failure, of gender yearning, and of gender melancholy.
I have realized my desire of having male lovers who see me and treat me like a guy and a fag, but somehow, this doesn’t feel like enough. Whether I am fucking them in private or out with them in public, a lingering sense of discomfort with my femaleness hovers like a shadow over us. My femaleness is not an obstacle to them seeing me as a guy; it bothers me, not them. But I suppose I don’t just want them to see me as a guy, I want to be a guy with them. And though fucking them is affirming of my identification as a fag, not a lesbian, it can also make it hard to forget the ways in which our bodies are different.
At this point, I can’t masculinize much more without taking T. More and more, this is what I feel that I want to do. …But this is still far in the future. First is the move to the new city, then my health insurance kicks in, then the requisite time with a therapist who can diagnose me with gender dysphoria, then I can think about starting T, potentially in very low doses… But I can literally feel an almost physical pull toward taking T, even without knowing how far I want to go, where it might lead me, and who I might become.
Externalizing my gender as an effeminate man is an exhausting process, full of failures and disappointments. It is hard to get it right for myself. It is harder to make others get it. When acquaintances refer to me as a “girl” or make the presumption that I like “ladies”, it increasingly feels like a punch in the gut. Such trivial mistakes, so understandable and easy to correct, yet they still feel like physical blows.
I feel uncomfortable in gay and lesbian spaces, because I would like to be gay but fear I am being read as lesbian. When dykes make friendly moves of inclusion toward me, I draw away, worried that their camaraderie is erroneously basing on their presumption of our similarities as women-loving-women. Butches make me particularly uncomfortable. I want them, but there is always something off about how they treat me – like a bro, not a fag, or like an andro dyke, not a masculine being, or simply like someone female and masculine, not male-identified.
And still, the figure of me as a gay man literally glows like a beacon in my imagination. Whenever I call it up, I literally ache with yearning …as I contemplate the gulf that separates me from it. It is profoundly decentering: my current self feels vaporous and empty; the gay male image glows but feels supernatural, far away, and all but impossible to reach…
I guess this is what gender dysphoria feels like.
I don’t necessarily feel the need for my gender and sexuality to be understood at work, but still it bemuses me, being in a Women’s Studies program, that everybody is getting my subject position so utterly wrong. In gender and women’s studies, there is a established, valued, and visible place for the butch dyke professor. That is who I am presumed to speak and teach as, that is who I was hired to be. Ironically, hired to teach courses on sexuality, I can’t talk about my own sexuality or so much as mention my lovers without having to answer questions that feel very private, difficult, and potentially dangerous to my job standing. Of course, I don’t need to talk to my colleagues or students about my sexuality or gender identification. But I’m sure to become close to some of them. And when I do, I’m not sure how I will be able to deal with their offhand statements that gender me and my sexual objects feminine.
(sigh) The long and short of it is that I have to admit to myself that I’m trans. I wasn’t always trans, but I am now. And, for my own comfort, I need to come out publicly as such. I have whole new zones of sensitivity around being called female-coded names, being associated with lesbians, or being thought to date women. I have whole new zones of pleasure around faggotry and male-coded names. I don’t know if becoming “fully” male and being seen as such is necessarily what I want, but I do know that being seen as a lesbian woman has become really uncomfortable to me. Before, I worried about the inevitable difficulties of coming out as trans pre-transition – getting misgendered, getting weird looks when called “he”, having to correct people on my pronoun, having to live up to my pronoun. But it’s difficult now: I’m already being constantly misgendered, I’m already trying so hard to get people to read me as who I am.
It is as if an imaginary gender that was fictional for so long is gradually becoming more and more real, demanding to be made more and more real. It’s funny, I can feel maleness in my body, my erotic body, and my very sense of self now in a way that I never did before. It feels really pleasurable when this maleness is recognized and affirmed by others. But it feels painful when it is crossed by people using feminine terms with me.
What I clearly need to do is switch to male pronouns. I’ve thought about this before, but was afraid that people, even queers, would think “Who is this crazy girl who wants to be called “he”?” I wanted to wait until at least the trans-positive queers could see it in me on their own, feel the urge to call me “he”, sense that “she” was not really right. This has happened, and I think that, for the trans-positive queers I know, using male pronouns with me will not feel foreign or inappropriate. I also wanted to wait until I knew in my soul that I really was a “he”. I can’t really say that I’m there yet. “He” feels big and scary. It feels like a lot to live up to, a lot to ask of people, and I feel a bit unworthy of it. But it is a concise way to telegraph to people that I am not a lesbian and not a woman, to tell them that they must think about and treat me as a guy. As a “he”, all I have to say is “I like guys”, and people will understand that I’m gay. As a “he”, gay guys can at least begin to imagine that we could be attracted to one another.
There’s a certain urgency to this. I’m about to move to a new city in the fall. This is my chance to present myself as the self that I want to be seen as to people who have no preconceived ideas about me. I might want to hem and haw and contemplate my dysphoria in private a little longer before I expose it to the world; but strategically, this is my last chance to try “he” out with my supportive friends and community so that, by the time I move, I can know if it’s right for me. It’s scary and embarrassing, because I don’t know if it’s right yet. It could be a mistake. But I have to do this now. I have to know, by the time I move, what my pronoun is.
Truth be told, I think “he” will feel fine, if not awesome. I think it’ll be great to introduce myself as “he” in the new city. This is what I’m dreading. Because if this is the case, being “she” at my new job will feel weird and intolerable. But I don’t even know how to begin to deal with what it would mean to be out as trans at work.