I really never expected this.
When I first started out in this journey I told myself that I didn't care what I looked like in the end. I didn't care if people always saw me as a man who wants to be a woman. At least I would be honest. At least I was being me. I could finally let go of the pain of lying and projecting myself as male that I held onto for so long like some kind of comfort blanket... made of rabid raccoons - That kept me safe... in an emotionally scarring sort of way.
"I keep telling you, nothing's wrong - I always look this intense."
For a long time that was the truth. Some days were better than others in the beginning. Some days I felt I passed and other days I felt like people could see right through my wig and my makeup for the drag queen that I was. As time went on and the hormones took their toll on my face and body I actually started to feel less passable. It felt awkward but at least it still felt right. Looking back on it, the looks everybody gave me probably weren't them saying to themselves, "what a freak," like I thought they were - it was probably them being genuinely curious about my gender.
"Why yes! This is my natural colour!"
Looking back on a journal entry from early in my transition I remember myself stating that I wasn't sure about going all the way - that being androgynous would be enough. Funny that when I finally made it there it felt so wrong. Fear is a strong thing and I think that was my way of coping with the fact that I might not have been able to look like a woman - coupled with the fact that for a while I wasn't able to unsee my male self when I looked in the mirror. When people looked at me funny, curious about my existence, I just wanted them to see me as another girl in the street. My hair had gotten long enough (and thick enough) and I was so sick of the uncomfortable wigs that I stopped wearing them. I started to look not really one gender, not yet the other.
"Just guess what you're looking at. No pressure!"
Recently I was beginning to notice that the attention was waning. Something in me started to panic. Maybe it's because I had gotten used to people's stares, I'd gotten used to room full of people who would take turns staring at me until it seemed like everyone had done it at least once. I didn't even realize that people stopped looking because they no longer register me as anything other than... female.
Wrapping my head around this is a little weird! Maybe it's because I thought it would never happen and for a while my inferiority complex (still lingering from trying to live as a man) wouldn't let me believe that I was being seen as a woman. The only time looks linger now is because they think I'm cute! The smiles people give me aren't sinister - they're genuine. New people don't do the double-take that they once did when I walked up to them. Chatting in a cafe just today when I brought up anything trans related my friend would lean in and whisper as though no one else in the coffee shop needed to know. It was our little secret and she looked so excited for me!
"Why yes, I would like to show more leg!"
Now I need to decide what to do with this. Two years ago I told myself that I would move out of town, change my name and start a new life if I was ever able to go stealth. But with all the support and new friends I've made I can see that was a decision made purely out of fear. I've already decided that being passable is going to work a lot to my advantage but in my career and in my life I really want to get into trans support and trans rights. Why vanish when I could do much more by being visible? Apparently being passable is helpful in that regard and while I don't think that's right on society's part I want to do what I can to change the general public's viewpoint. Somehow. Slowly, surely.
Let's see what happens now.
As my SRS date draws ever closer I can't help but be nervous about the last of the hoops that I have to jump through. My biggest fear is that I'll miss some small detail and end up sitting in a Montreal doctor's office with them telling me, "sorry miss but you forgot to fill out form 6.x14 and that means you'll have to come back in two years after another two assessments." That's not going to happen. I won't let that happen. One of the added bonuses to this whole experience is that I've started to become responsible in taking control of my own life.
Started - that's the key word, still a beginner.
Yesterday was frustrating but rewarding. I had an appointment set for blood work, I recently read through some emails from the office in Montreal and they had said to get my tests done in June. Good thing I caught that! I brought my papers in yesterday to the lab but without a requisition I was unable to have the tests done. Luckily this was something that I could go to a walk in clinic to have done for me. There was even one down the road from the lab! I stumbled there through my fasting haze (no food for 10 hours) only to find that they weren't accepting any more patients that day.
Curses. I gave up and grabbed food, but that wasn't going to stop me from getting the requisition that day, even if I had the tests done tomorrow!
That was the first part of the day that was rewarding, actually. I went to a little donut shop nearby that I knew from long ago but frequented when I lived in the neighborhood. I must have gone often because the cashiers recognized me and asked me cheerily where I had been. After telling them I moved they proceeded to remind me that the bus stopped right outside their door and I should come more often. I don't take the bus, but that was adorable.
So I grabbed my first coffee of the day at 2:30 in the afternoon (sweet nectar of life!) and headed to the next walk-in I knew of. This one was all the way across town but I figured it was the place to go. That was the walk-in that I first went to in bad female drag and demanded of the doctor who saw me to, "just give me the hormones!" Of course, he had no idea what to do but was so kind that he researched it there on the spot and gave me the number that eventually did lead to my diagnosis and prescription.
Of course what I didn't realize was that as of the beginning of this month they are no longer a walk-in clinic except for Saturdays. Frakk! At this point it was about 3 pm and I was running out of time before I needed to meet my friends for dinner - friends who had just arrived in the country from Finland for their annual visit of Canada.
Last resort, I went to a walk-in clinic at a mall under heavy renovations that I knew would be very busy. The receptionist told me it would be a 45 minute wait but she could call me when the doctor would see me. Bonus! I went shopping. At first I was just going to look without buying as my bank account has been a little dry as of late and my hormones are almost in need of refill but I remembered as I found a really cute dress that was just my size that I had a prepaid Visa that had been given to me as a gift. After spending some time in the change room debating between the cute dress and another dress that was very pretty but just didn't sit the same way on me but was much cheaper I finally just bit the bullet and bought the cute dress.
I'm going to wear it dancing, it is the cutest! Now that I am a lot more used to showing off the miles of leg that I have my wardrobe options have increased exponentially and summer doesn't seem so intimidating anymore.
The doctor's hadn't called yet but I went back there anyways. I sat in the waiting room and doodled in my notebook until they called for "Michael Sharkey". Embarrassed I got up hoping that no one was looking at me but deciding that I was proud of being trans I just strutted into the doctor's office. Once there the receptionist asked, "do you still go by Michael?" I found this even more surprising than them calling me that in the first place. I told her, "no, it's been legally changed to Mikah". She replied, "oh, okay - I'll change that in our system, we just want you to be comfortable." I was not expecting that to be so easy!
The doctor was also pretty quick to clue in to what was going on. After seeing the list of tests he asked, "is this for SRS?" and has offered to have the tests sent to Montreal for me, apparently he used to work over there and is somewhat familiar with the whole transition process. Our meeting was brief, he had a lot else to do but after the incredibly long journey to get those papers I welcomed the change of pace. As I left I could hear him talking to his receptionist, "please set an appointment with her for 10 days from now". Female pronouns, I don't know if I will ever really get used to not having to correct people with that.
I blasted back home and almost got changed into my new dress - I wish I had, but the trip home later in the evening was so cold that I'm a little glad I didn't. Rushed out the door to the restaurant and met my friends just 10 minutes late. It was so nice to see them and get caught up after a year! They have been some of my best friends since long before my transition and have been wonderful allies during the process. Drinks and dinner was a wonderful way to end an interesting day.
All the girls in my family have one.
It seems to be a bit of a tradition with them at this point. They like to make a point to go shopping for Pandora charms for life events or when they're in a new place. They buy them for each other as gifts and share the meaning of each charm with one another, each one has it's own story. My sister's has gotten so crowded that sometimes I wonder if it's uncomfortable to wear! But still she does.
It wasn't until recently that I became a little jealous of that. It seems like such a vain thing to worry about, yet somewhere in me there was still the nagging feeling that my family didn't see me as female, even if they accept me and have learned to address me as such. It was probably all in my head, and I couldn't help the feeling that if I was feeling it, they could see it, and if they could see it then maybe that's why they weren't accepting me as a "real" woman.
My mother and I have birthdays that are 4 days apart, every year my family chooses a spot to meet close to that date to celebrate our birthdays together and can bring family from all around to celebrate with us. The last few years it has been at a restaurant in a small town that the ferry from the island that my parents live docks at. Our mainland family (myself included) and island family were brought together once more, about 16 of us in total! Not everyone was able to make it either, with my sister in the middle of Canada on a road trip and one of my close cousins unable to get away from his obligations in the south island but I was able to see my brother, another one of my close cousins, my aunt and uncle (and their adorable 7 year old daughter and 3 month old son) who have let me stay at their house for countless days while work has brought me out that way (and from the beginning to end of my transition, no less), my Canon Anglican Deacon Grandmother (don't be afraid! She's an ally!), once removed aunts and uncles and of course and my parents. There was even a couple who (I can't fully remember the relation) when they asked if I remembered them I was able to answer with, "yes, I remember you from when I was a little boy".
I still get nervous at these big family events. My family is surprisingly liberal for a group of church going cis-hetero-normative well respected members of society, but I do still feel the need to confine to their view of femininity. Which, really isn't all that bad. In the past all that's meant is that I help out with food prep, get the boys a beer every once in a while and help with the dishes after the meal. I found it intimidating at first but I think that my persistence in fitting that mold is part of what helped my family to realize I was serious about being seen as a woman. I also discovered that these were sacred places for the women of my family. A time and a place away from the noise that we could talk, laugh and ask each other the serious questions that we didn't want to bring up at the dinner table. I feel I've grown a lot closer to the women in my family because of it.
But yesterday was my day. It was my Mom's day too. With no prep or clean up at a restaurant we were free to just chat and drink margaritas in the unseasonably warm sun. I was still my reserved self but I did lose my composure a bit when it came time to exchange gifts. My gift for my Mom was rather lame, but it came from the heart. I have been living on a very strict budget that I am going to have to maintain until I am back on my feet and able to work again following my surgery later this year, but I was able to afford a card and a pound of my favorite coffee. I know my Mom loves her coffee but she usually drinks the kind of stuff that comes in a tin and weighs a kilogram. My little hipster heart can't take that. I did a flourish of calligraphy in her card that she loved. I don't think value mattered so much to her.
Her gift to me though almost made me emotional right there. She passed me over a "Pandora" bag and I immediately thought that couldn't actually be what it was. Sure enough, I opened the exquisite jewelery box that it came in and found a Pandora bracelet with two charms. After showing me how to put it one and take it off (it does require instruction!) she explained the charms to me. One was thick bead with butterflies cut into it. She told me that this was for my transformation and everything that I've gone through, that is seemed appropriate to give it to me on my birthday, the year I would be completing my physical journey in becoming a woman. The other is a silver stiletto, and that one is apparently just for being fabulous.
I was also very touched by the card given to me by my Aunt and Uncle who have treated me as their own (and I have taken to calling my "surrogate family". It was a beautiful fuchsia card with "Niece" written on it. I was also surprised to be the first one greeted by my gregarious and energetic 7-year old cousin who then quickly went on to say hi to everyone else (and then change wardrobe at least 3 times and perform a dance recital on the deck of the restaurant, so much wonderful energy in that kid). Maybe I was the first one in her eyesight but it was still nice to feel special for that moment.
After dinner and a lot more catching up it was time for the obligatory onslaught of cameras from each and every family for a variety of family photos. In recent years I had felt that my family had been avoiding these moments because... well, like they taught us in school - bring enough for everybody or don't bring any at all. I couldn't help but feel like in mid transition I was a bit of a strange sight for the ol' family album.
Yesterday was different. It was the same as I remembered from before I started my transition. Whether my presentation is now better or they've just gotten used to it I don't know - or care, really. They arranged us in all different manners. "Now you two, now just this family". Of course it was after "just the cousins" that came "just the women" and I started to drift off, not knowing what the reaction would be until my cousin called after me, "that's you, Mikah!"
At this point I don't even care that when my Dad tells old stories of me he still refers to past me as "he". At least he sees me as the person I now see myself as in the present. He'll get it. Eventually.
Even if I had to pay my own bill (this place is much, much above my normal budget for restaurants) I look at it as my Dad seeing me as financially responsible. Not bad considering that when I came out to him the first thing he told me was that I would never be able to find a job. If he's not worried about me then that's all I can ask for. I think over the past couple of years I have earned at least that much, even if I have lost the father/son relationship we once had. He still treats me with respect and still talks with me when he has the chance in his busy schedule, still gives me advice, but something feels much different in the way he talks to me - a certain caution that I hope goes away with time. If nothing else, I hope living with them again following surgery will at least give him enough time around me to feel comfortable again.
I had to leave at one point to go put money in my parking meter and my brother came along for the walk. I don't always get the time to see him and when I do it's so rare that we actually get any time to chat. So we had a great walk and got caught up, had a good casual chat - something I haven't always gotten with my family through all of this.
Still, even with all the good memories in tow if any one gesture will not be forgotten it is the bracelet. Something about that gift just sealed the deal for me. I know I shouldn't place such sentimental value on physical belongings or trinkets, but this one really meant something to me. It's not even the bracelet, it's something more. It's being accepted, it's being welcomed, it's being seen as a member of the family the way I want to be seen. I feel that part is truly invaluable. So I'm wearing it to my trans support group today. I'll probably wear it tomorrow. Hell, I'll probably wear it on any day that I don't see an immediate risk of it being damaged. I've even started to look online at the other charms available. Not for me, but to give as a gift. I feel like I'm a part of it, and I want to give back.
There's another lesson that comes along with all of this. My family has good taste. Bloody expensive taste, but still good. It's just another reason to work harder and get back on track so that I can show them that their kindness has helped me in ways they may never be fully able to comprehend. But I think they can see it in my smile.
Attached: Me and my brother. I think I'm less passable in this picture than the last x) but who cares, it was a great evening.
Sometimes I wonder.
I wonder what life would be like if I never got into drugs. If I had been content enough with my life that I didn't feel the need to party away everything that I had. Of course, I needed to learn the lesson that what little I have is precious and I need to take care of myself. I fell down that path of destruction because I didn't know that I was unhappy. I didn't even know what happiness was at the time. It always slipped by me, I didn't even know when I was happy.
I wonder life would be like if I had learned to find happiness in my assigned gender. If I could have come to terms with being gay while working in a boy's club where the word "fag" is tossed around as something that is useless. If I still would have learned how to dance or if I would still be out at raves flailing about and pretending that I knew what I was doing. At least back then people looked at me with desire - now they only look at me with curiosity.
There's a lot that I am finding that I have to come to terms with right now. After 2 years of HRT... well, I don't really know what I was expecting. That I would eat some pills and like magic, poof - I'm 5'9", 130 lbs and beautiful! Nope... no. After losing 40 lbs I have discovered that I have too much muscle on me to be a skinny girl. Frak. I guess all that working out to try and be more masculine has finally paid off! (Gorram it). No, I'm still 6'1", 150 lbs of former man.
My trans friends are so excited because they can't wait to be able to meet women as their real selves and I am so happy for them... and so jealous. While I have dabbled with the idea of being bisexual it is abundantly clear that I prefer men. I can not explain to them how hard it is to meet a man when I... well... will probably never be passable. The world of strait men is very, very different from that of bisexual and lesbian women.
So I've started telling my friends that I am ready to die alone. Bleak, but - perhaps realistic.
I wonder sometimes that if I had actually considered what I was up against at the time if I'd had changed my mind. My transition was the reason I sobered up but I can't help but think about if I had actually considered what I would end up looking like maybe I would have just been content with being a gay man. I would be miserable, but at least I would have a better chance at a partner that could comfort me in my dark days.
It's really not all that bad. That's just my dark side talking, really - (s)he comes out every time I have my "hormone spike" (I name I have given my special time of the month. Is that a thing? It is totally a thing with me) and I have to just fight off all my insecurities. There's a lot that I have to be happy about.
For starters I had a wonderful night of dancing tonight. I have been doing blues/fusion dancing for about a year now and it is really starting to click. I'm still quite shy at class but my following is really getting better. There's nothing quite like being held close by a lead and listening to his motions as he guides us through the music, letting me go to flow on my own every once in a while. I usually don't get to stay for the entire social dance because of work obligations but tonight I stayed until the house lights came on. I needed that tonight.
Career wise - I had the opportunity to work on the world's first Transgender sitcom! Cast largely with transfolk as well. I was able to be more creative then ever as well as a camera operator and have assistants of my own instead of being an assistant. Words can not describe how amazing it was to not be the only trans person on set. Not to mention having scenes and characters that I could actually relate to! People even laughed at my trans-related jokes on set instead of just feeling uncomfortable ("is it okay if I laugh at that?")!
So whatever. Frak it.
When I made the decision to do this I was desperate.
I was out of options, and after 10 years of living in the closet I was ready to give up. That night I had the option of either ending it all or trying to transition and seeing if that killed me. I decided that if I was going to die... it was at least worth trying to do this. I told myself that I didn't care what I looked like at the end and I told myself that I was ready to die alone if nobody wanted to be around me afterwards. At least I would be happy.
I may not always be happy but at least I now know how to grab happiness when I see it.
And you know what? I AM BEAUTIFUL! Fuck you insecurities, I'll just keep on keepin' on.
Silly it seems. Especially since visiting this site and reading everyone's wonderful stories, that I would ever feel lonely or alone. I have such a huge support network around me of friends, girlfriends, family and co-workers and yet lately I have begun to feel that isolation again.
It's pretty easy to stave off these days. Between lunches and shopping and coffee with girlfriends or dancing whenever I get the chance or just being randomly oggled or hit on in the streets - gender dysphoria no longer has its claws in me.
Still, 23 months in and I didn't have another transgender person to call a friend outside the world wide web. I was starting to beat myself up pretty bad about that. I had heard mixed things about support groups and I was even beginning to think that, if I had made it this far without one support groups were probably not for me. But I was wrong, so very, very wrong x)
My psychologist recently started doing her own support groups with her own clients. I told her I would attend the first meeting and then... well... at the last moment I got socially anxious and I... didn't. But when the chance rolled around again this time (the first Sunday of every month) I was determined to go. Like jumping into the deep end I just held my breath from my fears and I did it. I went.
Oh my God. I'm not alone.
Not only did everyone share similar stories of their journeys but for the first time I felt like my input was valuable! I had no problem speaking up and adding my two cents. Something that usually doesn't happen unless I have incredibly deep knowledge in a subject (like at work). Although, I guess - this being my life - I do have a pretty deep knowledge with it. I was still terrified at first, something I tried over the course of the few hours to overcome, and I think I did so successfully. By the end of the session I had been invited for drinks and had been chatted up by many of the others. But something was different throughout the experience... unlike any other social interaction I usually have in groups or with new people this never once felt threatening. Even getting over my fears felt worthwhile instead of potentially dangerous.
That is a feeling that I want to carry on with me from now on
The most incredible part of the whole experience was probably the thing that I feared the most actually coming true. I was always afraid that I would run into someone from my past who knew me before... and I did. Yet, it was nothing as I had expected. At 23 months of HRT I was the most "experienced" (using that loosely) of the folk there. Most everyone else was just starting hormones or were just starting to experience changes. I was the only one (so far!) to be fully out and living life this way without compromise. I can't wait to watch all of them change :3
With the person that I ran into... she was just starting... and going through what I remember to be the hardest phases of coming to grips with the whole experience.
As she went to leave I had to pause a good conversation I was having with one of the women to go and say hello, thinking maybe she hadn't recognized me. She simply grabbed me in one of the most loving hugs I have had in my life and told me, "oh my God... This all makes so much sense, I had no idea...". We held in that embrace for what felt like forever and it felt so, so right.
We went out for dinner following the meeting (I later brought her to my dance class. I'm so proud of her!) and she gave me her whole story. I felt so strongly connected to her that at points I cried during her story. Somehow... I think I always knew that we were connected on a deep level... even before either of us could have ever seen this day coming.
That was last weekend. Since then I have had a few of the folks over to my place to play games and watch movies and today I met up with another wonderful person to take a spontaneous dance class in a discipline that neither of us had even heard of before x) Tomorrow we are going for a run around the seawall (although... I'll have my roller blades on) and then later I will meet up with my old friend to go and have a new experience yet again.
It's been like a whirlwind, and all because I finally conquered my fear of others like me. I'm sure this won't be the end of all my troubles but right at this second I feel like I am floating in the clouds. I have never felt so accepted, conversation has never come so easy and no challenge seems to big. I am sure that my cisgender girlfriends accept me just as much (in fact, I know they do) but y'know... they've had a different experience out of life and this is just a whole new kind of friendship.
Now is just the trouble to make sure I don't throw my whole life away in exchange for these new experiences xD Focus Mikah. Priorities! Balance!
I feel so blessed to be living here in Vancouver where this is... well, a lot easier than it could be in a lot of places. I also feel incredibly strong for making it this far on my own and so relieved that now I don't have to carry the weight on my own. Finally!
I'll conclude with just a picture of me after getting made over by some of my wonderful cisgender girlfriends while shooting a promo video for them. A snapshot - me at 23 months :)
I have always been skinny. Rail thin.
When I was growing up in a small hockey town in Canada I felt incomperably small next to the other guys. I used to wear baggy clothes and hoodies just to make myself look bigger in the hopes that anyone who thought I'd be an easy target for bullying would think twice about it - and that usually worked.
I've also always been tall. When I was 12 years old I had my growth spurt which left me 6 feet tall and head and shoulders above all my friends and classmates. I didn't gain any weight at the time and after a number of fainting spells my doctors told me to stay off my feet for a while - my heart simply couldn't take what was going on.
When I was in highschool I can still remember how much I weighed because any time I weighed myself I would come up with the same number. 156 lbs. After I first moved out I was in a content relationship and wasn't taking care of myself very well through film school. Over a few years eventually my girlfriend started teasing me about my "belly" which I was surprisingly self concious about! Even though secretly I did like the fact that it was fairly well distributed and even gave me a bit of curve, when I finally weighed myself I was up at 190 lbs.
After we seperated my weight was a big point of self-consciousness for me - which, in hindsight, was really the least of my problems. So I started biking daily, I gave up soda and tried to start eating better.
At the point where I was feeling the most confident of course was when the rest of my problems took hold and before long I was living the drugs and party lifestyle. When I finally had to look in the mirror I was not much more than skin and bones. This was also around the time I decided to transition. Conveniently I was so skinny that any clothes that I wore did most of the work in making me passable as a woman - my face has always been on the feminine side anyways. (one of my girlfriends jokes that in past pictures of me it looks like I'm a lesbian wearing a fake beard, LOL)
Needless to say that I was enjoying the attention I was getting from men around that time. A friend of mine put on a Mental Asylum themed burlesque show and asked me to perform for it. I through a number of costume changes I was asked to come home with one guy before he realized I was a drag queen (- on three seperate occasions!).
I continued to rollerblade almost 10 km daily to keep myself so skinny. I was down to 140 pounds.
However - these days, 2 years into horomone therapy I'm getting frustrated by the polarized opinions. In particular one ex-partner who insisted I put on some weight so that my body would be more feminine. Xe insisted that if I put on 10 lbs it would go to all the right places and I would feel more confident. At that time however, I had found that being so so skinny was becoming difficult working on a movie set. I simply didn't have the strength to do the long hours and heavy lifting. I added a bit more meat to my diet and now I am at... 156 lbs.
I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with this decision.
Back when I first started my transition I even said to myself, "If I want to be a passable woman I am going to have to be a bigger woman." - I am incredibly lean for the amount of muscle on me, but still much too broad for a woman so skinny.
But at the same time allowing myself to be feminine has been the first time I've ever felt comfortable, even good, being so thin! Especially knowing inside that I am able to "keep up with the boys" on set.
My work mates tease me about how skinny I am but these days it doesn't bother me. If I squeeze through a tight space they'll tell me to have another donut or they'll say I "need the extra piece of dessert"when we are going through the lunch line. Other people joke that, "that's going to go strait to your hips!" with a friendly laugh - I usually reply, "I could use some more weight there!" My endocrynologist mentioned at my last appointment that he was "expecting more development at this stage" and added that, "there might be more if I was someone with more body fat," adding as well, "but you do have that 'athletic woman' look that we talked about".
I want to be more comfortable in my own skin. But knowing that every woman on the planet picks and pines over their bodies makes me feel a little more at ease. When I was dating women I prefered bigger girls. Is that why I don't feel comfortable as an althetic woman? Then why won't I let myself be a bigger one?
My ex-partner tells me I shoulg give it a go to see what happens and that the results are reversable. He's right. My endo also tells me my metabolism is "through the roof". I imagine it will be for at least a few more years still, being in my mid-late 20s.
TL;DR - Does anyone have experience with adding weight this late into a transition? I think my main fear is that it's going to go to all the wrong places - which is silly considering that even before hormones it made me more curvy. Maybe it just feels weird that I'm self concious about how skinny I am and I feel like I should just relax?
Maybe - just like before - there's more to it than that and I'm fixated on the wrong things. Maybe that scares me the most x)
This felt good to get off my chest though. I'll leave you now with pictures for comparison. Here's me as I am now - and me at my heaviest.