9 Months Out or “A Thing That Happened”

I posted my transition announcement on Twitter on July 24th, 2020, which means I’ve been out for 9 months. A lot of things have happened since my coming out post in October, and my feelings about transition and life before have changed a bit, so now seems like a good time to post an update and share how I’m doing.

There are two audiences for this post. First, the folks who know me, care about me, and want to know how my first 9 months have gone. Second, other trans women who may be thinking about transitioning or are earlier in it than I am. My answers are a little different for both, so I’m breaking this into two parts. Feel free to read one, the other, or both.

For the world: I’m Fine

Wanda in Wandavision saying 'I'm fine, I'm fine.'

I’m fine, I’m fine! Transitioning is a thing that, most days, feels like something in the past. I can’t remember the last time I had to present as a boy and can’t imagine a scenario where I would ever need to again. I haven’t been misgendered on the phone or on a drive-thru speaker in months. All the people in my life seem to be trying to get my name and pronouns right, and the moments of being accidentally mis-gendered seem to be dropping.

All of my daily identity documents have been corrected except my Passport, which I have all the stuff to update but just haven’t made time. Yesterday a very nice lady in the neighborhood came over and helped us file paperwork to get the deed for our house changed over, and our mortgage company finally updated their files. The health insurance portal helpfully reminds me about maternity options. Unless they’ve gone looking, the folks at my new job (more on that in a moment) have never even seen my deadname.

Jennifer, sitting on a restaurant.
On the patio at Torchy’s for lunch with Irma

Most days I just… exist as myself. I get up, throw something on (a dress or skirt and top if I don’t have workout, workout clothes if I do), get the kids ready for school, and drop them off. Maybe I workout with Haley, in which case then I put on real clothes after. Hopefully I moisturize, do as good a job of a lip as I can, try to find some bangles to match my outfit, and then sit down for work. Maybe Irma and I get lunch, then more work. Irma or I pick up the kids, and I figure out dinner. We do whatever it is that families do in a pandemic until bedtime. I read the kids a story and let them nod off a bit. Then it’s time with Irma and hopefully sleep. Oh, and some days I do laundry. Rinse, repeat. I’m a suburban housewife and mom, and thousands of moms in my neighborhood have the same day I do.

Sometimes I put on music, which I can dance to now. It was weird and awkward before, and I’m still terrible, but at least I think I get it now. I wish my voice was better and I could sing more songs, but I feel more free. I know I don’t move quite right. Like this comic says, I’m too big and too broad. Too many years with the wrong endocrine system. I’m grateful for what I have, though, which is a body that’s finally mine, and a life full of people who love me.

Change has happened really slowly and most days feels imperceptible until I look at old pictures. Then all of a sudden 3 months ago seems like forever and I have a hard time recognizing myself.

Here’s an example, the first picture was taken last September when my friend Maddy inspired me to wear a different dress every day for a month. The girl on the left has been out for 2 months and is still very much getting her feet under her. She hasn’t figured out makeup or that an Apple Watch isn’t really her style. Me lately, on the right, is more comfortable in her skin, has gotten over her giant fear of makeup, and has 7 months more estrogen in her.

You might think that trans women wouldn’t be transphobic, but we’re all a bit transphobic, and those of us who were in the closet for decades can have heaps of it, deeply internalized.

I’ve hated makeup for as long as I can remember. I had the excuse of having ADHD and being sensitive to textures and smells, but what it may have been, really is something else. The garishly painted face of a macho guy in drag in a college party movie, perhaps, or a painful memory I’ve buried so deep I don’t even know it’s shape.

I knew it was something I would have to get over. Something that would make me happier and my life easier once I could do it. So many of my trans friends had mastered it, or so I felt, and here I was, paralyzed. Internalized transphobia made me incredibly fearful of judgement. I couldn’t actually try makeup until the house was empty, which during a pandemic isn’t very often.

This was my first attempt, back on January 12th. I took 57 selfies. The color is Pioneer in Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink, which is the only product I’ve tried, though now my everyday color is Savant.

Annette told me I looked like a mysterious librarian with a door to another universe, which is honestly, the best compliment ever

Last fall, after many months of lusting after them, I started picking up bangles from Splendette. Most bangles and bracelets won’t fit over my hands, but Splendette has a Duchess size that fits perfectly. I’m a vintagey girl, bangles are a vintagey look, and having something I could collect was wonderful. I’ve spent more on them than I care to admit, but being able to accessorize has been really fun, and helps me feel more put together. They have matching necklaces, which I wear regularly, and earrings, which I haven’t quite gotten to.

Splendette has a Facebook group, which is a really welcoming, inclusive place. I’ve been able to post my selfies and get wonderful, affirming feedback on them. I’ve made friends I wouldn’t have otherwise, and have been able to be an out and visible vintage-enjoying trans woman, of which there aren’t many.

I’m also in the Pinup Couture Facebook group, which is similarly inclusive. I posted my pink, blue, and white Transgender Day of Visibility outfit there and ended up with over 800 reactions and 65 comments. That was pretty lovely, but made me realize that the volume of feedback isn’t nearly as important to me as the nature of it. A single comment from another trans or queer woman is worth more than all the other likes put together.

This was the first Transgender Day of Visibility where I was out, and it was great posting on social media and liking other trans people’s posts. I probably should have taken the day off of work. It was hard to switch back and forth and try to get things done.

Trans day of visibility was the day I came out at my job, or rather, my new job. Vox was wonderful and supportive and I’m not sure if I would have transitioned if I hadn’t been there, but I’d been there for nearly 6 years, and it was starting to feel like I needed something new. I’d gotten both of my corporate jobs by nepotism, or as we say in the tech industry, through my network. I’d never applied at a place I didn’t know anyone. I hadn’t gone through an interview loop to show that I was a person worth bringing in. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, to be honest, or as a trans woman, if anyone would even want to talk to me. If you have someone on your team who doesn’t want a trans woman managing them, it’s easy to come up with reasons why I wouldn’t be a good hire. Heck, most of the time I don’t think I would be a good hire.

I decided to only apply at places where I could learn about something interesting and/or do something good. My short list of areas was fashion, transit/transport, women’s health, or public service. The second job I applied for was at Swiftly, a company that generates fixed route arrival and departure predictions (buses, trains, ferries) and insights for transit agencies. Their core mission is to help cities move better, and their work improves people’s lives on a daily basis. I wrote a cover letter in a flash, sent in my resume and crossed my fingers. They called me back, I had some good interviews, felt I really connected with their Head of Engineering, made and presented a slide deck, and even though I was sure up to the very end they wouldn’t, they gave me an offer. It’s a company of 80 people, and it’s been great being in a place where I can make things better and have a bigger, hopefully positive, influence.

Getting out of the Vox bubble I’m also realizing I’m sometimes the first trans person that people have ever knowingly interacted with, which brings me to the downer part of this update.

Wanda in Wandavision unconvincingly saying 'I'm fine'.

I’m an out trans woman in the world, and my style is middle-aged-soccer-mom femme, which is possibly the least uncomfortable trans woman presentation for cis folks to deal with. If I pass (which is a whole other topic) people I interact with may have no idea I’m trans. I generally blend and am non-threatening. If I were Black or Hispanic or Asian, or my style more androgynous, aggressive or otherwise not societally conforming, I’m sure the reaction would be different, and that things would be much, much harder. So since I have the privilege, I feel like I have to be visible.

Being visible is important, because it isn’t a great time to be trans. Not that it has ever been a good time to be trans, but last year’s massive anti-trans pushes in the UK have moved to the US and a deluge of anti-trans bills have been filed in legislatures across the country. Trans people are the GOP’s newest minority target of choice. There are bills here in Texas that would ban trans girls from playing on girls teams in school and bills that would make it legal for doctors to deny trans people any care (even critical, life-saving care) if they felt it was against their beliefs to be trans. There’s a bill proposing changing the definition of child abuse to include providing or enabling a minor to get the gender affirming care that is broadly accepted in the medical community. Imagine having a 12 year old trans child, not being able to get them care, not having the means to move out of state, and having your child take their own life. More than half of trans kids consider suicide, a number that drops by half if even just their pronouns are respected by the people around them. They are literally going to kill trans kids with these bills.

There have been regular hearings at the state house on them, with trans Texans and their allies across the state traveling to Austin in the midst of a pandemic and waiting for hours to testify. It feels like my responsibility to not look away, but it’s heartbreaking to read the testimony by those of us who are opposed, and incredibly emotionally painful to read people’s arguments in favor. People who would rather that trans people just not exist, and are happy to inflict great injury on us because they are afraid and have power.

This is a new thing for me, and I honestly am having a hard time handling it. Before last year I moved through society as a cis, white male, and in the last decade, one with a job that made things very comfortable. I experienced a level of undeserved societal privilege and comfort that is the exact thing Republicans are fighting to maintain. Now I’m part of a small minority that they’re trying to extinguish by brute legislative force. I don’t feel like I can ignore what’s going on, but it hurts so much to watch.

Someone I know was recently lamenting that trans Twitter, a normally joyful, geekish, occasionally catty place had turned mournful and distressed. What alternative is there when you see your siblings suffer at the hands of the government? What hope can we have, when we think about the fact that there will likely be a Republican-dominated US House in two years, and two years after that, who maybe the presidency? State bills could become national bills. They could outlaw trans healthcare completely. Trans people might have to flee the country for their own safety. Anything could happen.

So what can we do, but keep fighting, and be as visible as we can? The Governor of Arkansas vetoed their bill (which the legislature overrode, but it’s a start) after he met with some trans women, including the state’s only openly trans elected official. They don’t know us, so it’s easy to hate us. The most hopeful I’ve been, reading the testimony against these bills, is when I read about the lifelong Republicans and grandparents who are out there, taking their legislators to task for putting their trans children and grandchildren at risk.

It is, in the end, a race. Just like with the fight for gay rights before it the more trans people someone personally knows, the harder it is to support a bigoted position against us. When they know us it’s harder to see us as an abstract concept, and easier to see us as caring, feeling human beings who deserve the same protections and respect as they do. We are fortunate a majority of Americans don’t support anti-trans legislation, but we aren’t yet to the point where enough see it as the bigoted attack on a vulnerable, tiny minority that it is and are willing to speak out against it. To that end, I try to be visible, I try to not offend, and I try to exist.

I’m fortunate, because I’m not popular on Twitter or Instagram, I don’t get a torrent of hateful and bigoted reactions when I post a picture or story, but a lot of my friends are not as lucky. I don’t know how they keep going when so much hatred is spewed at them all the time. Like most trans women, all I get are the chasers.

So I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine…

For the Trans Girls: The 28 Day Monster

Hey girl, I hope you’re doing ok. I’m going to presume that you’re somewhere behind me on the timeline. To do a time check, I’m about 14 months into HRT. I was at 200mg/day of Spiro and 8mg a day of oral Estradiol for most of that time. I started 100mg Progesterone around last November, so I guess I’m about 6 months into that. I’ve tried both methods with P, and I felt the more effective one gave me worse cramps, so I’ve stopped. You should probably experiment and track.

A month ago I switched to injections, so now I stab myself every Sunday and push .25ml of Estradiol Valerate into one of my thighs. I think that injections have smoothed out my swings a lot. I no longer feel out of sorts at the end of the day, and doing every 1 week instead of every 2 has meant that I haven’t generally felt like I’m having awful days before an injection, though Saturdays and Sunday mornings can sometimes be rough.

I do have awful days, though. 2 days out of every 28 to be exact (the ones 2 months ago was so bad that Irma told me to start logging them), and on those days I’m a freaking monster. Like, life would be better if I was isolated from all interactions with other people. I haven’t managed to track down other changes, but there are definitely periods of the month where my voice is just garbage for days on end, and I can’t get it together. I’m still figuring out my cycle, but one of my friends Jocelyn has a great post about hers on her blog. If you’re on HRT you might want to start tracking mood and period symptoms. I ran the numbers and the next time I’m going to be a disaster is Mother’s day and after that my mom’s birthday. At least now I can prepare. Maybe buy some chocolate.

A vial of lidocaine with a drawing needle stuck in it on a medical tray.
My vial of lidocaine from my last trip to Electrology 3000

We’ve been driving to Dallas every 6 weeks recently for full face electrolysis. 16-ish sessions of laser got most of the blonde hairs on my face, but not the dark ones, so it’s zapping and plucking if I want to get rid of them. At Electrology 3000 they inject Lidocane all over to numb your face (which is super, super-awful especially around the mouth and upper lip), but it still swells up a ton afterwards. You can’t shave for a few days before, which sucks for dysphoria, and then you look like you gained 20 lbs of water weight all in your face afterwards. I seem to bruise, as well, and those take a week and a half to two weeks to go away. It isn’t fun, and it’s expensive, but hopefully I’ll only have to do it a few more times and then I can start going to someone local. Hair grows in cycles, and you can only kill the hair that’s currently in a growth cycle. In summary, testosterone puberty is dumb and I hate it, but you knew that already.

When I’m not dealing with hair, one of the weirdest things I’ve run into is that a year in, I can’t really remember what the dysphoria was like. It was obviously awful, if I was willing to upend my entire life, and I’m still super happy to be living as myself, but the little nagging thought of ‘you know, it wasn’t that bad’ pops up more now. It’s a freaking liar, though, and I’m not going back to staring at the wall trying to shove my emotions down while I plod through life like a zombie.

Community is critical. I don’t know what I would do without my trans friends slack. I wish everyone could have it, and there was a way I could make that happen, but I don’t know how. I don’t think I have the emotional space to try and start or manage a community, but it is so, so helpful to find a non-toxic group of other trans women who can listen to your gripes and sadness and give you support when you’re down, and it’s just as important to be able to do the same in return.

I’ve tried to take more part in outreach things like Transformation Tuesday, to try being visible for other people who may be considering transitioning. I can kinda handle seeing my old self when my cuter, new self is next to it. I think. Maybe? The side effect of seeing so many transition timelines is that if I ever see a guy and girl picture side by side I just automatically assume they’re trans and it’s a glow-up.

My deadname’s become something that my brain mostly skims off of and doesn’t touch. A friend of mine told me that’s a trauma response, that you don’t allow yourself to think about it. I haven’t been able to eradicate it from my day to day entirely. It is, tragically enough, wedged somewhere inside my therapists patient billing system. I see it after every time I see her. So it still surprises me, and that hits me, but it doesn’t usually take me down entirely. That person is a stranger, now. Or maybe that person is a trauma.

We’ve started taking professional family pictures. Having something I can look at and not mentally avoid is really nice, and so worth the money. I know it’s hard in a pandemic, but if you can, find someone who knows how to make you look good and take some pictures that aren’t selfies.

The Kramer family, posing together on a park path. Jennifer is looking down at the kids and smiling.

It isn’t everyones goal, but if I can get a family photo where I just look like a girl and I’m not towering over everyone else or being obviously trans, that would be great. I’m hopefully getting closer. The first session ones, over there on the left, were from before I’d figured out makeup. Hopefully I’ll get better with makeup and style, estrogen will do more of its work, and we’ll figure out a way to pose so I don’t look like a giant.

But I mean, look at these bluebonnet pictures we took a month or so ago. It just kinda looks like a two moms who love each other and their kids, right? That’s amazing! It definitely doesn’t work out this way for everyone, and so many trans women have to rebuild their lives completely after transition, but you can do it, and life can be good.

Figuring out if I’m passing hasn’t gotten easier. It isn’t everyone’s goal, and shouldn’t be society’s expectation, but it’s really important to me. There’s some evidence I’m passing, obviously, because I call people on the phone and they say “yes ma’am” before I have a chance to introduce myself. When they ask me how I’m related to the deadname I’m trying to get them to change there’s a long pause after I say “I used to be that person.” People say “excuse me ma’am” when I’m standing in their way in the grocery store’s floral department, deep in thought about whether I need to bring a little plant friend home. But again, my style is super femme. The only pants I wear are workout leggings. People who know I’m trans can’t tell me if I’m passing, because they already have too much information. It’s like Schrödinger’s Gender Presentation, you never really know if you’re passing unless you know for sure that you aren’t. It’s a huge pain to be so uncertain about something so fundamental.

Oh right, so I have plants now. And a bird feeder outside my window. I’m allowing myself some nice, simple things. They don’t feel like elements of an identity I’m trying to fake anymore, they just feel like nice things that make me happy.

So that’s it. 14 months on hormones, 9 months out, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the best thing I ever did for myself. If this sounds intriguing and you haven’t started, you should try it. You’ll know pretty quick if it isn’t for you. If you’re early in the process, keep your chin up, girl, it gets easier. If you’re ahead of me, thank you. Thank you for blazing the trail and showing the way. I’ll try and do you proud.

Thanks for reading my 9 month update. As a parting gift, here’s a picture of me, my orchid, and my weirdly, hilariously horny cactus.

2 thoughts on “9 Months Out or “A Thing That Happened””

  1. Love you braving every hard step into the life you are meant to lead. May it continue to strengthen & bring you great joy. I see it in all in your smiles!!❤

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