I came out to all my facebook friends and the world at large 11 months ago, to the day.
In that time, my life has changed in many different ways. I’ll go more into everything that’s different and my thought on it all once the anniversary of that day comes along. However, I do want to talk about one thing in particular today: How much my body has changed.
When we’re growing up, we don’t notice we’re getting taller, and people who see us every day don’t, either. I didn’t realise I was 6 foot tall until one day I noticed that I was taller than my parents. However, when we go a while without seeing someone, or use objective comparative measurements, the difference can be easy to track through time.
When I was little, I used to mark my height on a door-frame at my grandma’s house every couple of months. I didn’t really feel taller, but I could see the difference in the measurements. Similarly, I haven’t seen my brother much in the last year, having moved out and all, and I was recently shocked at how much taller he is. He looks gangly and odd to me because my mental image was so used to him being shorter. However, I doubt my parents, seeing him every single day, have felt that same surprise.
A similar thing has gone on with me in the last year. I haven’t grown any taller, but I’ve been undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the last 10 months or so, and let me tell you, hormones can really pack a punch.
As with growing taller, I haven’t noticed much since I see myself in the mirror and pictures every single day, but now that some time has passed, I’m able to compare certain things, and I’ve also noticed surprising differences, like I did when I noticed I’d grown taller than my parents.
Let’s start with the first change I noticed: my hips.
HRT isn’t very effective at affecting much in regards to body shape if you start after you’re 22 or 24, and the younger you are, the more it changes about you. Because of this, I wasn’t terribly hopeful about how I’d look. Like my best friend is fond of saying, life is about expectation management.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I was walking to the bathroom at work and stopped because something about my walk looked odd. I walked again and I noticed my hips were moving side-to-side slightly, despite no conscious effort on my part to do so. I’d learned my lesson early and I’d stopped trying to affect a feminine walk months earlier. What was going on?
Well, when I got home I tried it again, and as I touched my legs and hips, I was a little amazed to see and feel my hips sticking way out. Not in the sense that I had big hips, but that the difference, while not very noticeable on the outside, was immense in regards to how my hips felt. I can’t remember what my hips felt like before, but I can still recall some of my initial surprise, and nowadays feel as incapable of my old guy-ish walk as I did about a feminine walk pre-transition.
The next change I found was in my waist. Again, I don’t have an amazing body, but I’ve been shocked at the change. I first noticed while showering. I was running my hands through my body, washing off soap, when something felt off about the skin above my hips. I started running my hands through the area again, and later confirmed in the mirror: my waist had shape!
It wasn’t a terribly significant change, and I doubt anyone looking at me on the street thinks I have a shapely or tiny waist, but to me the difference feels huge.
Going from bottom-to-top of my body then, we come to my boobs next. Those have been weird. At about 2 or 3 months of HRT, I felt my nipples grow sensitive, and the area around them puff up a bit, but they’d stayed just about the same until early March. That’s when my endocrinologist doubled my estrogen prescription, and since then my boobs have grown out incredibly quick. This is the one exception to the ‘subtle and slow changes’ because while they’re still pretty small, I have actual boobs, and they’ve grown almost completely in the last 40-50 days.
While I felt some conflict initially in regards to my boobs, all of the changes to my body have felt positive and have left me really, really satisfied. I’m happy with everything so far, and look forward to how my body continues to shape itself in the next couple of years (HRT works very much like puberty, with the same general timeframe for most changes to take effect.)
Positive, right? How nice. Except in the last week another change has come to my attention, and I’m having more trouble dealing with it than anything else.
I had to leave home in a rush on Wednesday. The alarm on my phone went off about an hour late for some reason, and I didn’t have time to eat any breakfast. I made a quick sandwich and ate that on the bus to work, but it didn’t help much; I felt hungry for the rest of the morning. As soon as my lunch hour came up, I rushed to one of the restaurants close to work. I ordered my food, smiled my usual triumphant expression when the lady at the restaurant called me ‘señorita’ (miss) and sat in the little outside patio to eat.
It was amazing.
I finished lunch in a matter of minutes. I still had a ton of time to get back to the office so, being as narcissistic as I am, I decided to take a few selfies to pass the time. I took a picture I liked, posted it and then… well, I really lived up to the meaning of narcissism. I literally spent half an hour alternating between staring at my picture and looking off into the distance, lost in thought.
It wasn’t so much that I liked the picture (which I did, and do) but more that I felt completely unable to understand the girl in the picture was me. I opened the camera on the phone again and made silly faces, moved my head around, but no matter how much proof the camera gave, the truth just couldn’t register.
I have experience with coming across ideas that seem shocking and are difficult to accept, but in those cases the truth felt like The Truth and I just needed time to feel satisfied with it. Looking at that picture, I felt something different, a literal inability to understand. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to understand the truth, because I love the idea of looking so feminine, but more that it jarred against some deep-down basis of my mind.
For all that I’ve grown to accept my womanhood and embrace my identity, there must have been a fundamental, base part of my mind that hadn’t changed how I looked at my own self, and the picture just provided proof so strong it clashed against its idea of Truth.
I’m still dealing with that.
Look, it’s not that I hadn’t noticed the changes to my face. I have a little gallery of photos of myself throughout the last year and a half, and I love comparing the differences in me a year ago, a few months ago, and today. However, all of the pictures in that gallery, even the most up-to-date ones, have felt like me. Sure, there’s a degree of disconnection with the ones of me as a guy, but they still felt like some version of myself, even if it was a long-abandoned one.
I just can’t do that right now. It’s a really odd and somewhat disconcerting feeling.
I was reading a book about neurological disease and the workings of the human brain a few months ago, and I was fascinated to learn about soldiers who lost most of their facial features to landmines and other explosives, who then purchased masks they wore to keep from shocking people on the street, and their struggle at identifying with their new face.
The truly interesting part of this is that eventually, these soldiers came to see the masks as their own face, and would dream with the mask as their face, not their original face or the disfigured one the war left them with.
I compared that to my experience, but ultimately decided the change in my face was too subtle and slow for that to be relevant.
I was wrong, of course. As slow as the changes have been, they’ve built up to a level that the vast amount of difference is overcoming even the long time I’ve had to get used to it. I’ve had markers, like the little marks I made on a doorframe growing up, but last week I reached the equivalent of noticing I was taller than my parents; I’ve hit some indefinable specific point of femininity and change from my old appearance that means the change in my face has come into perspective.
To give you some context, here is a picture of me in June 2014, and a picture from last night side-by-side:
Look at that.
If I were someone else and had those pictures shown to me, I’d never in a million years guess they were the same person. Brother and sister, maybe. Same person? Ha!
Do you understand how difficult it is for me to accept my new face?
I love it, I am over-the-moon at the fact I finally feel like I look completely female and even a little attractive. That doesn’t make it easier, though. As happy as I am about it, it’s still difficult to let the change sink in.
It’s just… too much. It doesn’t help that none of my friends or the people around me can possibly understand this. It’s too much of a bizarre, unique situation.
I’m used to being tall now. I had some issues about it after transitioning, since it makes me stand out from other women so much, but I’m content being the height I am. Maybe I’ll get used to my new face eventually. I probably will. My satisfaction with it is going to help a lot, and maybe with time I’ll laugh at how difficult and weird this week has been.
Then again, my face is likely to continue changing and becoming more feminine in the next few months, maybe years. Can I get used to whichever face I end up with after that?
I guess I’ll have to wait and see.