to the journey
i thought i was done with big trans related changes…
Big shouts out to Mattie, Angela, and Ethan for becoming new patrons this week, thank you friends, love you lots.
Heads up this week’s episode is a deep dive into gender dysphoria feels. Please take care of yourself friends
My name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining.
Hey Dysphoria, you fucking dick. I thought I was done with you, but here we are….
I’ve had this nagging feeling the last few weeks. Was a familiar one, and one that I desperately did NOT want to feel. I knew what was happening. And that’s why I knew I didn’t want it.
I remember my earliest moments of gender dysphoria as this weird nebulous sort of “this isn’t quite right” feeling. I wasn’t able to nail it down specifically because I didn’t know what it was. I started feeling it before I knew what transness was.
But figuring out what it was, putting a name to it, that allowed those feelings to come into sharp focus. This was when I learned one of the more counterintuitive things about transness. Sometimes coming out and beginning transition can make dysphoria worse before it makes it better.
I went from this nebulous feeling of wrongness to having a VERY clear idea of what was wrong, what I needed to fix it, and most importantly, just exactly how far away from my ideal I was. Learning the answers to all those questions was an essential piece of my journey. But it also meant those feelings got more intense, and more uncomfortable, before things got better.
Someone in a support group suggested I sit down and write out what my transition priorities and goals were. They failed to mention those things could change of course, I learned that later.
the top two things on the first list I ever made were breast augmentation and voice training.
I didn’t have insurance at this point, and I was still pretty poor. So the idea of any kind of surgery seemed SO far off and unattainable. But I knew breast augmentation was generally less expensive than bottom surgery, and my physical dysphoria was most intense around my breasts at that time. So that’s the surgery I put at the top of the list.
I knew DIY voice training was possible. I found some apps and some YouTube videos and tried to train my voice to sound more femme.
Bottom surgery was definitely on the list. But that seemed so unattainable. I had crushing bottom dysphoria, but I knew I was going to be forced to lose weight to get it, I knew I’d need a lot of money, and neither of those things felt within reach. So that went lower on the list too.
Getting rid of my facial hair was lower on the list too. It was always there, but I thought shaving and makeup tricks would be enough until I could afford laser. So it didn’t feel like an immediate need.
that didn’t end up being true. I could never shave close enough, I could never do makeup well enough. My facial hair was so thick and so dark, at best I could make it sort of hard to see for like half a day. It was exhausting. I looked in the mirror at my face and hated it. I glanced downward at my chest and I hated it. And this was the space I lived in for awhile. So facial hair moved near the top of the list.
Eventually I did find a stable job and insurance. I was able to afford laser and electrolysis. I was using youtube videos and phone apps for voice training. I was working at a call center so I had the chance to practice. But over time I just sort of stopped caring about my voice? It became more about appeasing the people around me than what I felt comfortable with. I didn’t actually hate my voice. This was right at the beginning of the podcast too, so I was used to hearing myself. So voice stuff just stopped being a priority.
Then I found out my insurance covered bottom surgery
Had no idea how long that would last, so bottom surgery went to the top of my priority list. Not because it was actually the most important. I just knew without insurance, that’d be the hardest thing to attain. I wanted to get it while I knew I had access. Who knows what could happen in the future, right? Turns out that was a good call seeing as I got laid off like a year later.
And I’ve talked about this before, but i was shocked to find that all my other dysphoria went away after bottom surgery.
I suddenly was cool with how my breasts looked, I’d long since stopped caring about my voice, and even grew to like it. Laser didn’t kill ALL my facial hair, but so long as I shaved once every few days, it was almost invisible.
I knew there would probably be mental things to work out still. There are always mental things to work out of course. And of course there were. Figuring out I was non binary was one of those things. That didn’t really have much to do with my body. It was all internal.
After working that out I felt pretty good. I’ve learned enough to know the journey is never really over, but I felt comfortable that most of the major life changes were behind me. I’d uprooted my life, changed so many things, figured so many things out, and I’d arrived.
My transness will always be a part of me. I’m not ashamed of it, and I’ve even grown to like it. Yes, I like that I’m transgender. But it was also nice to be in a place where I could live my life based on other things about me too. I also like Star Trek and playing roller derby. I like providing support and community for people. All that stuff is cool too. And since I had my transness mostly figured out, it didn’t have to quite rule my life like it did for those years.
And like, as positive and affirming as that journey was, it was hard. I’m still working out trauma from that period of my life. The problems with my job, the constant fear of being in public. That stuff still sticks with me. I’m very glad that period of my life is over. I’m very glad to have left that awkward, unsure, transitory period of my life behind.
And like, since I’m doing a whole episode here, you can probably guess what’s coming, haha…
This dysphoria asshole is BACK with a VENGEANCE and I’m NOT stoked.
Its been simmering for a few weeks now. It started to creep back in on me. And at first I thought “huh that’s weird. Hopefully that’ll pass.” I’ve had some other acute moments of this. Mostly when I’m acutely stressed, anxious, or exhausted. I’ve been working out a lot of things in therapy lately, and I thought to myself like “you’re on the right path, you’re just not quite stable yet mental health wise, so your brain is kinda going all over the place. Be patient with yourself and these feelings will probably pass.” And they did not. It was the same familiar gender dysphoria tugging at my psyche, and I responded with naive denial just like I did the first time I felt these feelings years and years ago. Remind me again how far I’ve come?
Of course the denial now is different. The denial now is a denial that knows where I’ve been. Its the denial that remembers how awkward and self conscious I felt. The first time I met my friend Eric at the movie theater wearing a dress that didn’t look good on me and wearing very badly done makeup. Every time I walked into a room and saw the subtle double takes. I remember how that felt, and I didn’t like it. And I desperately don’t want to go back to that place.
And then I reach the point where part of me feels silly for being so worked up about it. Like, practically speaking, there are three things I need to fix at the moment.
1. I want to get electrolysis to kill the remaining facial hair I have. Laser is great! And its made it so as long as I shave regularly, its basically impossible to tell I have facial hair. Not a big deal. This involves nothing major in my life except redoing some budgeting and spending some time getting it done. This is not really a big deal at all, and probably won’t even be noticeable to the people in my life.
2. I’m really going to pursue getting breast augmentation. But also, this is a thing tons of people do, cis and trans both. A noticeable thing, but not something I really feel self conscious or nervous about. So yeah, surgery isn’t fun, I’m going to have to save up money and maybe crowdfund to get there, but in the end, not a big deal for the outside world, very big deal for me. In the grand scheme of things, not a huge huge deal.
But number 3 is where my brain starts to turn into mush. I’ve grown really unhappy with my voice. I’m not sure why or where this feeling has come from. Because it was literally just a few months ago I did a whole thing where I’d come to actually LIKE my voice. Not just be okay with it, but actually LIKE it. And I’m not really sure why that’s changed.
But I’m so very nervous and self conscious about changing my voice. This feeling isn’t just about trans stuff either. I remember when I played in bands, I would almost NEVER show my bandmates half formed ideas. I would sit at home, alone, in front of my desk, and play around with something until it was formed enough to show to someone else. It was sooo hard for me to show anyone half formed ideas or works in progress. But that’s kind of how it has to work with voice stuff.
If I do this, my voice is going to be a work in progress for awhile. And that’s going to have to play out in view of my friends and family.
Most of the people in my life now are people who never knew me before I came out. There’s comfort in that. It puts me in control of how much of my transness I bring to my relationships. That’s a dial I get to turn. And going back to “work in progress” mode when it comes to trans stuff means giving over that safety and comfort and control to the other people in my life.
And I love and trust my friends and family. The relationships that were going to end or change over me being trans, that’s already been done. I know my friends and family have my back. But like, Its one thing to know that safety net exists. Its another thing entirely to make yourself dependent on that safety net.
And I think there’s just part of me that was emotionally invested in having gender stuff mostly settled. And I know, I’m the one who’s always preaching about how this can be and often is a lifelong journey. But I’m also the champion of giving other people grace I won’t give to myself, so here we are.
I was comfortable because I was convinced that any further gender exploration for me would probably be about like, haircuts or clothing style, or just figuring out new and different aspects of my personality. But it turns out lots of things are up for grabs.
When I came out initially, it upended my life. I lost a job, two family relationships, and came out of it with trauma I’ll probably carry with me for the rest of my life. But I made it. And I was lucky enough to come out on the other side with an amazing community of friends and family who love me for the core of who I am as a person regardless of queerness, transness, or whatever.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure its possible for me to upend my life any further than that. So on one level I feel a little silly about how much I’m freaking out about this. When I came out, I wasn’t totally sure I had a safe place to land. At this point in my life I’m 100% sure I have that. And I feel like in terms of how people relate to me, asking them to use they/them pronouns was probably a heavier lift than just hearing me sound different. But its still a really big deal to me. My voice is an important piece of how I communicate, its a thing people associate with me and who I am. Its part of how I pay my bills and engage in activism and community building.
I think I’m just realizing that my voice is more a part of my core identity than I thought it was. And that’s probably why I’m freaking out so much about it, among the aforementioned reasons.
So I guess the moral of the story is the journey really can be about everything forever. And that’s okay.
I try my hardest to see these moments as a gift. Its complicated of course. Because I’m privileged enough to get to see it that way. And I’m privileged enough to know that I can work through this stuff safely.
I’m definitely not into toxic positivity. And I don’t think its cool to tell anyone else how they should or shouldn’t feel. But for me, I’m trying really hard to see this as a chance to grow more fully into the most comfortable version of myself. Its also going to be hard, and awkward, and maybe painful. And I’m still angry at the world that’s taught me these things have to be that way. And I’m angry that I live in a world where my comfort level is congruent to how lucky I am to have the right group of friends and family. But I am where I am, and I’m trying really hard to see this as a chance to grow more than anything else. A chance to be happier and more comfortable. A chance to get more gender bullshit out of the way so I can present the core of myself more fully and truly to the rest of the world.
So I did the thing. I sent the contact form into a voice therapy place here and asked them to call to schedule an appointment for me. Not sure a self directed program via Youtube will work for me, so that’s where I’m going. I literally took a break from writing this just now and sent the email.
So here’s to the journey, my friends. Thanks for coming along with me, gassing me up, and helping me get there. I hope I’m doing the same for you.