I haven’t had as many encounters to write about lately as I haven’t been out and about alone nearly as much. I do get stared down pretty hard, especially at the gas station or the diner, but the comments are quite rare these days.

It surprises me a little bit as I have been expressing more femme as time has gone on. I’ve been painting my fingernails again, and I wear significantly more eye makeup than I used to. I even occasionally have lipstick on. My outer clothing is almost entirely femme, though it’s also passable as androgynous as I don’t wear skirts or dresses publicly. Simply put, I’m expressing closer to my identity now, and I though that would cause more problems than it has.

The biggest thing is getting stared at. It seems to be mostly men, mostly 30+, who give me rather ominous looks. Probably the group I expected, honestly, though I’m surprised that younger guys seem to give me a pass. They were the problem the last place I lived, like self-appointed defenders of the dominant culture.

The other part of this could also be my group of friends here. I’m in with a pretty liberal bunch, both here at the school and in the roller derby crowd, where I’m generally considered to be pretty normal. I was given some reassurance by the dean here that I’m welcome here and they want me to stay, but also given the cautionary warning to not give anyone a reason to get rid of me. Sound advice, I think. It was definitely friendly advice from an ally, not a warning from on high.

Where to go from here? Family is probably the last piece of the puzzle. And it does make me nervous. I feel somewhat bad that I keep them at arm’s length with just about everything in my life. This gets reflected around the holidays when we do gift-giving: they really have no idea what to get me. And I think that’s my fault.

But I also really don’t know how to explain this to them. That goes double with extended family and some of my older friends. The friends I’ve made here accept that this is just me. This is the version they know. My older friends, the ones I rarely see anymore? Not so much.

So it’s a year of progress, 2016: I’m a bit more comfortable getting stared at and I haven’t gotten into any altercations. But there are still people who don’t know. And I’m still not entirely certain what to do about that.