My gender transition has been filled with a lot of undesirable things.
Most of them are things anyone could have predicted:
There are the people I care for who have stopped associating with me, or who seem a lot more distant; the constant stares from strangers on the street; the hopelessness of ever finding a man who’d want to date or marry me, etcetera etcetera.
However, there are other things that have taken me by surprise, such as how awful real-life “mean girls” actually are.
Out of all those things, I think the most heartbreaking has been getting messages from women thanking me for my transition.
They go on to explain how all their life they’ve been raised to see themselves as somehow inferior, that everything they’ve ever been taught has reinforced the idea being a woman is humiliating and demeaning, and that anyone in their right mind would rather be a man.
I’ve actually met some women who get angry about my transition, but not because of their religious beliefs or any of the other usual suspects. They seem to think being a man is this great gift and resent me giving up that privilege
Some of that feels alien to me, having put so much effort in for the privilege to live as a woman. However, I do understand longing for the grass on the other side. So, in an effort to show how the grass on this side is plenty green enough, and also because today is Women’s Day, here is just a tiny handful of things about being a woman that I love.
As always, my disclaimer for this post is that I can only comment on what I’ve experienced, and explain I understand other people with different personalities, temperaments, and lives experience womanhood in their own way. Please don’t get angry at me if I say I like makeup while you aren’t a fan of it.
Skirts and Dresses
I’ll start with the obvious. I’m a huge fan of skirts and dresses, which is easy to figure out if you take a look through my wardrobe.
I’m a huge fan of things that can be worn several ways, and dresses and skirts are as versatile as it gets. Wear a dress with a certain jacket and it goes from formal to casual, pair a skirt with a certain top and shoes to get something you’d wear on a date, or a different combination to get an outfit appropriate for work.
Not only that, they also feel amazing. They’re so comfortable! I don’t really know how I went through most of my life wearing pants all the time. Specially on hot days.
Last of all, dresses take just about no effort, but make you look like you actually put any effort into what you’re wearing. Pick out a dress, throw on a jacket, bit of jewellery and there we go, you look all nice having taken just a few seconds to pick it all out.
(I do realise some men wear skirts and dresses. when they’re not part of a larger culture, which is nearly always, they end up facing a lot of hostility and judgement from strangers. As much as that’s unfair and ridiculous, it’s the reality right now.)
I went out to lunch at Subway yesterday. On my way back to the office, I walked past a woman who dropped her keys.
As I picked up the keys and handed them back to her, she said “Gracias, hermosa!” (or “Thank you, gorgeous.”)
She hadn’t even seen my face as I bent down to pick up the keys, but I still walked away with a smile on my face. This is not uncommon. Even when you’re just greeting another woman, things like that happen all the time. Sure, sometimes they sound phony, but in my experience, it’s genuine most of the time. It’s simply not a big deal.
Sometimes when I need cheering up, I imagine what it’d be like if guys were the same way. Try it right now. Imagine a 24-year old man greeting a new coworker with “Hey, sweetie! How was your weekend?” or thanking another guy for picking up his keys with a “thanks, stud!”
Aside from that, there’s also the casual compliments we give each other all the time. I feel comfortable telling other women their makeup or outfit looks great, and I get stuff like that back all the time. It does wonders for your self-confidence.
It’s not much and feels very much like a social construct at times, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It’s certainly nicer than how it was when I lived as a guy. Which brings us to…
People are Friendly to You
This was one of the most remarkable things for me about being seen as a woman. People don’t glare at you on the street, and most people greet you with a smile, or at least a friendly smile.
You might not realise this, but men are met with hostile or suspicious looks nearly everywhere.
Not only do most women not get the constant glaring, we also get to experience a friendlier side to people. You can chat to someone on the bus, or just enjoy going about your life without people giving you suspicious looks.
I know. I’m going for the Heteronormativity Prize of 2016.
I don’t wear earrings all the time, but there’s something really fun about walking and feeling them moving back and forth, or feeling them rest against the side of your head if they’re particularly long.
It’s just… nice.
Makeup and Hair
Makeup is a lot of fun. You can change how you look anywhere from tiny changes to making yourself look completely different.
You can express your personality through how you dress, how you talk, and myriad other ways. Makeup is just one of those ways. You can go for super subtle makeup, rock bright purple lips, or make your eyes look huge. It’s all up to you.
Makeup opens another door for you to choose what you want to say about yourself to others, and it can make you feel all pretty and confident as a wonderful bonus. There are days when I’ve felt all sad and lonely and generally ‘bleh,’ and something as silly as doing my makeup can cheer me up.
Hair is a bit similar. You can do so much with your hair as a woman. You can grow it in a hundred different ways, dye it this colour then that one and no one bats an eye. Plus having long hair allows you to do many things with it.
Sure, it can be a huge pain when you’re going outside on a windy day and don’t feel particularly inclined to eating a bunch of hair, but on balance it’s a lot more fun than it is annoying.
This one is fairly subjective (haha) but I prefer the way my emotions feel now. Back when my body was pumping male hormones, it was fairly simple to comparmentalise emotions and keep myself from feeling something unless it was terribly strong. Now… not so much.
It’s nice, though. The way I experienced emotions before made it easier for me to ignore them over and over until they exploded in my face, while I now feel more or less forced to deal with them right away.
This one is tough because it depends on generalisation so much, but I think it’s fair to say women as a general population have an endocrine system that leads to them experiencing emotion in a more immediate and intense way than men as a general population.
Not only that, but there’s also the socialisaiton involved. I was raised in an environment in which I was taught that feeling things was okay, and that yes, it was okay to cry. However, I still felt general pressure to put on a brave face, and pretend a lot of things didn’t bother me.
It was awful, Saying I enjoy feeling more emotional might seem as playing to stereotypes, but the truth is I’d have loved for my feelings to be as socially acceptable back when I lived as a guy, and I imagine plenty of actual men feel the same way.
As paradoxical as it is, I would argue being more emotional leads to being more rational. Having to deal with your emotions can help you develop emotional intelligence in a way men aren’t always taught to develop.
So, as irritating as stereotypes about women being irrational and ‘too emotional’ are, I’d say we got the lucky end of the stick there.
For a gender that’s been opressed in most societies over the last few thousand years, this is a bit of an ironic thing to highlight.
However, as much as many of us still have doors closed to us because we’re women, and despite having been barred from so many rights because of who we are, I’d argue in modern society we get a bit more leeway than men in choosing who we want to be.
We can be as feminine as we like, or be total tomboys, and we’ll get a lot less judgement than men trying to be feminine. Most of the stuff I listed above, things like skirts, makeup, and hair… it’s all up to us.
I have short hair and I don’t get any grief for it. Certainly less than I did when I was trying to grow it out while living as a guy. I can wear makeup or no makeup, go for jeans or skirts, and people won’t bat an eye.
For all the crap we get, the stupid stereotypes, harrassment, et cetera, et cetera, I’m very happy to be a woman.
Above everything else, I think the greatest part about being a woman is simply the fact I am one.
I feel fairly confident anyone who says they would rather live as the opposite gender would change their mind if they had been raised as that gender. Unless, of course, they were trans.
The fact is, being yourself is the best thing there is. I’m proud to be a woman, and I hope you’re happy to be yourself, whoever that is.
Happy Women’s Day!