There are a lot of feelings that come along with transition, not all of them good. I want to challenge myself to be honest and to just catalog some of them.
Jubilation. There is jubilation, to see a new, squarer wider angle to my jaw, to hear my voice drop and feel the rumble of its slower, deeper vibrations in my chest and throat.
Elation. There is the elation of walking down the street or up the stairs, and feeling, in my body, that I am male. Is it the T literally making me more energetic and stronger, or is it simply the lightness and elation of feeling that something about my body is different; it is male now; people are seeing it as male.
Gratitude. There is a profound, spiritual, tear-inducing gratitude, that such a route should have been possible at all. That it has been possible for me so far, without loss of friendships, relationships, lovers, livelihood, or home. That I should have the privilege of discovering such a better way to be, in my body and in the world.
Comfort. There is a newfound comfort in my body. In being able to look at it naked with pride. In being able to stand naked before the mirror and, in spite of my small breasts and female genitalia, to see a young man. To being able to put on my clothes and not be distressed by the ways in which they cling, fall, and billow. There is a comfort to being able to talk with my voice and not hear it sound so disorientingly female. To being able to communicate with stranger, friend, or foe, without my voice making them see me differently. There is a comfort to being able to sit with a group of people and just be me and know that they are seeing me the way I am. Instead of feeling woefully like an imposter, pretending to be something that no one can see, forcing friends and colleagues to play along.
Melancholy. There is a melancholy in looking at the pictures from before T, before male pronouns, before I cared about passing. To see that undeniably adorable queer kid with the slender, delicate body, and the cute, sweet face. Everything is thickening and coarsening now, and my pre-transition cuteness, sweetness, and delicacy is falling away, replaced by a certain toughness. I am handsome now rather than beautiful or cute. And most of the time I like that. I feel like this mischievous rake of a lad who knows how to be a gentleman too. But at other times, I feel melancholy to see that other me go.
Danger. There is a different kind of danger on the streets now. On the one hand, I am blessedly free of the male gaze, that aggressive gaze that lingers on anything female. On the other hand, if I do anything that displeases a guy, for instance, block his access to a femme, I am quite likely to get punched. I’m a little, young looking, brown guy, an easy target, and there is no “don’t hit a girl” (even a very butch girl) chivalry to hold them back. And what if, during a fight, they were to discover that I was not the type of guy they thought I was?… Pops wants me to learn a martial art.
Fear. There is fear that I’ve already gone too far, or that I’m about to go too far. That I’m going to get to a place in my transition where I no longer feel like myself, in which my maleness feels strange and foreign to me instead of comforting and right. There is fear that I’ll want to backtrack, and that I’ll find myself caught in the woeful in-between lands of gender, not comfortable being read either as male or as female, going on and off T, realizing that there is no gender home for the likes of me.
Guilt. There is guilt in abandoning the butch project, the project of female masculinity. Guilt in relying on hormones to make my body tell people how to treat me rather than forcing them to recognize my masculinity in spite of my female body. Guilt in eagerly taking the male privileges that are given to me while my butch peers struggle on. Guilt in the joy I feel when I am called “Sir,” “buddy,” and “bro,” by another man, a man who would perhaps have stared at me with hostility when I was a gender-variant female. Guilt when I see how the travails of constantly having to fight cis people for any masculine recognition at all has made my Pops a domineering Alpha, ready to out-butch any guy in the room and to charm any lady, while I just glide by on the privileges of my body.
Disorientation. The disorientation of the 14-year old girl of color who smiles at me with flirty eyes and softly breathes “hiiii,” the kind of girl that would never have smiled at me when I was actually 14. The disorientation of the 16-year old Latino boy nodding his head, ” ‘ssup bro?” The disorientation of the older woman on the train angrily staring at me. How dare I take a seat while she stands! Even though there are people younger than me all around who are also seated. So I stand, and she sits.
Gallantry. There are the pleasures of gallantry and of chivalry. Being a charming young man. A proper young gent. Getting up to offer my seat to older women on the train. Their grateful, pleased looks. What a nice young man. Gallantry still exists in the world. Leaping up to help a woman carry a heavy object. By all means, let me help. Standing aside so that a woman can get out of an elevator, or into a bus before me. Ladies first. Pleasure in opening doors for women, in feeling a sense of solicitude toward them. It perpetuates sexism, I know, but having been female, and being now a man, I feel like I owe women something, that all men do. Since I now have male privilege, it is my duty to put women first in all things. And I get such pleasure from it.
Dismay. Because sometimes people, especially gay or lesbian people, still see me as female. When this becomes clear to me, I feel that I haven’t gone far enough. When a man opens a door for me, or a lesbian stranger refers to me as she, I suddenly feel that I need to keep transitioning, so that this doesn’t happen ever again.
Apprehension. I know that, right now, I feel like me. I am an in-between creature, satisfyingly out of the range of female, yet not quite a regular male. But I worry about what will happen when I look totally male. Will my body feel alien to me once again? Will it feel wrong to be seen unambiguously and incontrovertibly as male, even by gay and lesbian people? Will it feel like a loss when butches no longer look at me with recognition; when no one even thinks to question my maleness?
Trauma. Because male sexuality is traumatic. It is traumatic how little it cares for the feelings and the pleasures of another. It is traumatic how violent and aggressive it feels. It is traumatic how indiscriminate it is with its objects of arousal. It is traumatic, the kind of porn that has made me get off, hard, and the kinds of desires that wake me up in the middle of the night. Though I would never act on much of what I feel, it is traumatic that my sexuality has become something so beyond me, outside of my control, alien to my ethics, feelings, and tastes.
Doom. Because I have to break it to my family soon. I am afraid to hear tones of shock and disgust in my mother’s voice. I am afraid, if I should be so lucky to see them again, of the looks of disgust on family members’ faces. I am afraid that something that has, all in all, been so positive and so absolutely possible for me should suddenly become something huge, devastating, unimaginable, freakish, disastrous. Each day I move slowly closer to a darkening doom.
Youth. I feel so young sometimes. I feel quite literally like a teenage boy on the brink of manhood. A boy learning what the aggression and violence of other guys feels like, what the attention of girls feels like, what it means to behave like a gentleman. Enjoying the energetic joy and carefree pleasure of just being a boy. Experiencing the thrill of youth, burgeoning manhood, and new possibility. This really is a second adolescence, full of wonder and growing pains. Each week filled with new experiences. So much to learn from. So much to share and so much advice to seek from my wise old Pops.
Panic. Because I have not, straight away, been read as a fag. I have somehow rooted my prior, faggy, feminine behaviors out of me. Now I am just in love with being a boy. With talking straight and to the point. With standing my ground sturdily. With striding forward purposefully. With being gallant and gentlemanly. My body wants to be strong and sturdy and straight. It doesn’t want to flow or drape or traipse anymore. It wants to be everything boy. But now, I am being read as a straight boy.
Angst. Because sometimes I feel like I had things too easy. I didn’t suffer enough. And now I am going to ruin my mother’s life, destroy my relationship with my family, sadden and disappoint my beloved Pops. Is it all worth it? Should I have stuck it out a little longer without transitioning? Why did it matter so much to be called “he,” to be seen as male? Were these just silly vanities? How could I betray the butch project so? Changing one’s sex, hormonally transforming one’s body is a strange and enormous thing. How could I jump into it so easily and so quickly? Should I go back???
Self-love. I saw a poster at school today exhorting me to love my body, and my first thought was, “I do!” It is me and I it. I am thrilled that I don’t see a girl body when I look at it. I am thrilled at its sculpted strength and leanness. I am thrilled that the lines of my face no longer read as female. Even if it is not always clear to people that I’m male. I love my new voice. I love that I don’t have to be afraid of it. I love that it sounds grave when I am talking to women, and that it doesn’t sound so different in a dialogue with other men.
Relief. I am relieved to see my femaleness fall away. To no longer feel like an imposter. To be able to claim maleness as my birthright. To have a gender that others can see and interact with in a way that feels correct. To not be so out-of-joint with the world and with myself.