My Gender Identity (Part Four): I Need Options

Hey, y’all! We’re about three months in to my social transition! I haven’t done a gender identity update in about a month and I figured I should probably take a moment now to put my thoughts down in words and reflect. I’ve moved to Columbus (and built up some muscle from loading and unloading a ten-foot U-Haul by myself). Things are actually going well for me here so far. I’m spending a lot of time with friends and there’s always somewhere to go, some shop to explore, or something to do. A big city is definitely the home of this neurodivergent man!

My mind moves a million miles per hour and Columbus, as it always has, meets that challenge and exceeds it. I’m beyond happy to be back in my city. Small town life just wasn’t for me. I left my hometown when I was eighteen out of necessity, but this time I left because it had nothing to offer me. I don’t think it had much to offer me as a child, either. Perhaps the lesson it was meant to teach me was one of contrast. “Here’s one way you could live and here’s another. Now choose.”

I chose the fast, thrilling, bright way of living, surrounded by people from all walks of life. A big city teeming with new ideas and perspectives, a place where the majority vote is, “If they aren’t hurting you, leave them be.” Most people up here are not only tolerant, but accepting. Not everyone, of course, because that would be impossible. The same as it would be wrong and inaccurate to say everyone in a small town is intolerant and unaccepting. It’s not true. There are good people everywhere, no matter the zip code. However, I think it is more than fair to say that there’s a higher concentration of tolerant/accepting people in Columbus than there are in my old childhood stomping grounds.

But enough about that. You came here to check up on my gender identity journey, right? Well, let’s get to it. So far, my roommate is having some difficulty remembering to call me Luke, but he’s making an effort and I’m happy about that. (I gave him my deadname on the off chance he wanted to conduct a background check.) The gas station clerk near my new home called me “ma’am” on two occasions and I (finally) got up the courage to correct him a couple days ago. “Actually, it’s ‘sir’,” I told him. He just smiled and looked a bit uncomfortable…but okay. Like I said before, there are good people in not-so-good places and not-so-good people in good places. It happens. If he calls me “ma’am” again, I’ll simply stop going into that gas station. That’s the beauty of a big city: OPTIONS. Bitch, you ain’t the only gas station where I can spend my money. There’s six others around the corner. Try me~!

My voice is a pretty bad tell for me, it seems. A close friend (who I’m so grateful for, by the way) told me that my laugh and my voice both tend to sound overtly feminine. I’ve been working on lowering my voice, since I’m in a new place. See, the thing about lowering my voice to make myself sound more masculine is I’m afraid it’ll be obvious. This was especially true in my old small town where everybody knew everybody. And where many people knew me, specifically. My family, for certain, would have noticed at once if I was purposefully lowering my voice to sound more masculine. Maybe they’d barb me a bit for it, but that’s not what was holding me back. It’s the fact that if I knew that they knew I was “faking” it, then what was the point? I’d feel so silly doing it, feeling as if everyone around me was secretly giggling about it or something. I don’t know. It’s just easier to “act” when everyone else stands a chance of believing it.

And who better to believe that this lower voice is my natural voice than people who have never met me? Feeling as if I have limitless new chances to present as male, both in dress and in voice, gives me a lot more confidence to try to lower my voice when speaking with others. This city is vast and the chances of me meeting some stranger I spoke with on one occasion again is slim. So even if they call me out (“Are you lowering your voice like that on purpose?”), it’s fine. I’ll rebound the moment they’re out of my sight. But I wouldn’t be able to do that in a small town at all. Because that person would talk to their friends and family, who would talk to theirs, and so on…until half the town had heard about the incident.

Well, possibly. In any case, before I moved, people were already reaching out to my office manager like, “So…what’s going on with that person?” But in Columbus? Dude, I’m weird mixed in with a bunch of other weird. It’s what makes this city beautiful! I’m so excited to have the opportunity to live here and build a life with my friends. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even find love up here… Not that I’m actively looking for it at the moment, but from what better pool of people to choose a romantic interest than the open, tolerant, accepting city of Columbus?

Revisiting my earlier blog posts’ mentions of medical transition, though. I keep flip-flopping between starting testosterone and then changing my mind. Which is perfectly fine. As I’ve said before, I don’t have to medically transition to be a valid man. And it’s important to be absolutely certain before starting to medically transition, because some of the effects are permanent. As someone who is afraid to get so much as a tattoo, this idea is particularly alarming to me. I’m not afraid of being jabbed with a tattoo needle, by the way. The pain of a tattoo isn’t what’s scaring me off. It’s the fact that it’s permanent. I can’t change my mind later. And if I do, it’s much harder to remove the tattoo than it is to get it—much like the effects of HRT.

My only fear of needles are when the needle is meant to inject something into my bloodstream, to give you more of an idea. Why does an injection scare me? Because this substance is now irreversibly intermingling with my blood. It’s all through my veins, in my every cell, pumping through all my organs. And I can never get it out. If something goes wrong, if I have an adverse reaction, that’s it. They can’t un-inject me, after all. Sure, there are ways to bring someone back from anaphylactic shock and such, but the idea of me having a medical emergency at all due to an injection is enough to make me have a panic attack.

And I have, after an injection. I nearly blacked out from panic.

I’m someone who needs all their options open. I’m someone who needs to always have the opportunity to change their mind, at any stage, to be comfortable. I’m not a fan of closing doors, locking them behind me, and throwing away the key. I might want something from that room later, after all. Maybe I’ll enter a new room and decide I liked the old one better. This metaphor works well with most everything in my life, to be honest. Injections, HRT, my home, my family, my friends, old items I refuse to throw away, smoking, romantic relationships… The only thing that’s never been affected by this way of thinking is my writing, which I’ve never abandoned or ever thought to abandon before.

I’m not a fan of change in general, so asking myself to make a permanent change (even one that might be in my best interest) is almost impossible. To give you a clear understanding, I have two coffee cans full of cigarette butts stored away in case I’m too broke to buy cigarettes and I want to start smoking again. I have all the vape equipment I need and I’m content with vaping. But I need to know I still have the option, even if I’m broke. And yes, I could just store away a pack of smokes, but that’s too convenient. I might smoke them just because they’re there. With butts, it’s a gross and messy ordeal to extract tobacco and roll them up. It’s something you only do if you’re desperate. My vape is the more convenient option to the stored cigarette butts.

Back to how this affects my gender identity journey, though. I’m growing less and less happy about the fact I have two lumps of fat sitting on my chest. I wear clothes even when I’m just sitting in my room for the night. I’d usually be writing this blog post while naked, but here I am in a nightshirt and a flannel jacket. I’d be wearing my binder right now if there wasn’t medical ramifications to wearing it longer than eight hours. (Which I’ve exceeded quite a few times this month. Alistair would not be pleased…) I find myself wondering lately (fantasizing, if I’m honest), about how much easier it would be if they just weren’t there. My chest was the first place I noticed dysphoria when I began socially transitioning. I have a bit of lower dysphoria, but it’s mostly concentrated around my chest. Even though I’m not happy with them anymore, though, I can’t fully commit to getting rid of them. Why? Because I remember times I looked smokin’ hot in a little yellow or black dress. I remember my dominatrix costume from last Halloween. I looked good, no fuckin’ lie. I looked fuckin’ amazing and I know it.

And part of me worries I won’t love how I look after I transition. But then I remember that masculinity is a social construct. There’s nothing holding me back from shaving my legs, wearing a short skirt and a mesh crop top to the club as a man, is there? I got style. I got taste. And I got my personality, which stays on twelve and breaks the damn system every time. I can be whoever I want whenever I want.

But am I afraid I’ll want to look feminine sometimes? Am I afraid that after I medically transition and I have a beard and a deep voice and a manlier face, I won’t be able to achieve a similar feminine look? Is that why I’m hesitating? Do I actually want both or do I just want the option of having both, but will be happiest as a male? Am I a trans man or am I non-binary or genderfluid? These aren’t questions I can answer tonight, obviously, and that’s why I’m taking my time. I’m exploring myself and trying to understand what I need in order to be happy in life. I know I’m enjoying my life as Luke at present. It does annoy me that I don’t always pass, which is probably most of the reason I keep panicking about medically transitioning. “If my voice was lower…” “If I had facial hair…” If my body looked more masculine…” then I’d pass with ease and it wouldn’t be so hard to constantly see myself as a man among others in the world. But I can’t make my choice to medically transition based on a need for external validation. So I’ll just put on the best “performance” of my life until I feel as if I’m experiencing my life as Luke. Because I won’t know for sure if a male existence is for me until I’ve lived it and really felt it. That’s why I’m socially transitioning, because I want to experience this before I take any permanent steps.

And one last question I’ve been asking myself, before I let you go: “Do I cringe at my deadname and she/her pronouns because I’m a trans man? Or is it because I’ve failed to pass?” Because those two aren’t always one and the same. They can be mutually exclusive, you know. Nobody wants to fail at anything, so to go out and try to pass and be met with others who clock you almost at once is disappointing. Trying your best to present as a man and having your best efforts thwarted with one cursory look? That sense of failure, that disheartening moment, it makes me simultaneously want to double down on my efforts and give up altogether. So do I hate being called “ma’am” because I failed at something or do I hate it because I’m actually a man?

This is, again, another question to which I’ve no answer. Only time and further self-evaluation will help me uncover the truth of this. I’ve just gotta keep doing what I’m doing, keep reflecting on my journey, and trust that the answers will come when they’re meant to come. Until then, friends, go read my book. It’s on Amazon. Here’s the link: The Link™

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