I recently came out to a friend and since then we have been having a series of conversations about what it is to be trans. I wrote this as a response to her questions. Hopefully, it isn't too rambling and makes sense in some way. I thought I'd share it with y'all.
We try to figure ourselves out. Not just transfolk, but all people. Well, okay. Some people never give their identity a second thought. They are who they are and being that person is easy. But...I have never really felt that being me was easy. I want to just be me, whoever that may be. It's sometimes hard for me to articulate the nature of this problem...the problem of being me. I'm not trying to be a woman because, as I perceive things, I am a woman of a kind. This is not to deny that I have a strong male aspect. So am I attempting to erase the person I have been to become someone else? No. Emphatically No. I am myself. But (and this is an important "but") I want to bring the stronger female aspect of myself to the foreground and allow the male aspect to become less...pronounced.
Will this change me? The me that I am? Well, yes. For one, I'll be more relaxed around people. In my perception, the male aspect of my personality is tense and ill at ease, insecure in all things. In my perception, it is the female aspect of me that is more confident and comfortable.
Again, this is not a personality issue, for I am always myself, no matter what aspect I exhibit. I do not see myself as "her" or "him" but as "me." I don't blame "him" for the problems in my life and I don't become "her" and, like magic, am suddenly Miss Congeniality. The difference to people around me is almost imperceptible. You're not talking to "her" one day and "him" the next. But me in different states of being me.
This is confusing, right? Well, yes. It is. When I go to work in the morning, I feel as if I have to present the male aspect more clearly. It's not that I'm being Macho or manly, but for me, it's just a feeling of being a man. When I leave, I can let that tension go, relax and the female aspect moves forward. Does this mean I attempt to act like a woman? Hopefully not. I'm not pretending to be a woman. nor am I pretending to be a man as it were. I am just being myself as I need to be under a given set of circumstances.
The problem in explaining all of this is that if you have never gone through it, you cannot really understand it completely. After all, even you you have examined yourself and understand yourself, you are probably confident that who you are is who you are and it never varies. You may not understand the act of emphasis.
But the fact is you do it, too. When you go to work, if you are an employee, you put yourself under the control of other people. You must change aspects in some small way to cope with the lack of control you now have. When you leave and regain control of your self, you can let the worker you go and allow yourself to be more of the self that you feel you are. Some people suddenly grow brave on the drive home and yell at their boss or coworker from afar... they allow a different aspect of themselves to come out when no one else is there to see them. They do not become a different person, a different personality. They just present a different aspect of their natural selves.
That is how it is for me, but I am very conscious of the aspects of myself right now. I can control how I present to a greater degree because I have learned to recognize who I am both inside and out and I understand the feeling of difference.
So why transition at all? Why take hormones? Why give name to the female aspect of myself?
Well, I take hormones because I want to emphasize the female aspect of me to the greatest degree possible. I am most comfortable as "her" and the hormones have done nothing but make that crystal clear to me. I am more in control of me now, crying jags or no, then I have ever been in my life. There is a "rightness" to the way I process the world that I did not have before. Again, it is hard to explain, but it is there.
The physical changes? Well, it is gender dysphoria. The discomfort with being in a male body is real. As my body has changed, that has lessened to a degree, but not totally, nor will it ever completely. Even if I were to go the entire route, I do not believe that the dysphoria would be gone completely. You cannot erase the effects of the Y chromosome so completely that you feel totally right with the universe. But I accept the things I can change as being good and allowing me a better sense of what it is to be a woman.
I think that is all we can really ask of this process. To have the best possible sense of what it is to be female in the world.
What about the name? Why Virginia? When you refer to your male aspect by one name and your female by another, it sounds a little like a split personality. Ok, sure. I can see where you would think that. I wrote an email to Jenny Boylan and, in it, I referred to myself in the third person and she rightfully chided me for it. But I have to do it for a second to discuss this, so please forgive me. When I am Jonathan to the world, I do not think of Virginia as a separate person. When I am Virginia to the world, I do not think of Jonathan as a separate person. I would just have you note that I refer to being in the world and what I mean by this is which aspect of myself I perceive as being the dominant one. Right now, as I write this, I perceive myself to be Virginia writing this. This is not Jonathan's blog because I do not write here with that aspect at the foreground. So I sign the blog as Gin or Virginia because that is the correct appellation. In this wonderful computer world, all you know me as is who I claim to be and how I present to you. If I claim to be female or transfemale, you either take me at my word or you don't, but at least when it comes to names, you use the one I have provided for you.
Sounds crazy, right? So when you're talking to me, how do you know what to call me?
Don't worry too much about it. I've been Jonathan all my life. However, if I am actively presenting as female not only in aspect, but in dress, it won't be too hard for you to figure out that it may not be socially appropriate to call me Jonathan and that Virginia may just be a more appropriate name for me at that given moment (and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I hear it in reference to me because it's an acknowledgment of the fact that I am a woman). I have really thick skin when it comes to this, so I am not going to run crying if you use Jonathan because that is how you have always known me. After all, I am just me, whatever the name may be. If there ever comes a point when I present the female aspect all the time, and there is no certainty in this because there is no certainty in anything...at this time, I am not close to that place in any real state of things, so it is not really an issue right now, at that time I would probably retire the name Jonathan from use, but not from memory.
So I hope this all makes some kind of sense. I'm sure you're still confused. But trust me when I say that I'm not. I know myself, probably now more than ever. And I'm still me, just in a better place.
Love to you all...