I was reading an article on the BBC’s website regarding a Catholic group’s anti-trans bus and the kerfuffle that has unfolded from that. Typical culture wars stuff. But then I read a linked story about Gwen, a transgender woman who did a Reddit AMA, offering to answer those invasive questions most people are afraid to ask.
Reading this was a jolt to me. Gwen describes what happened to her throughout her hormone replacement therapy. The very real body changes. Shrinking in height. Shrinking shoe size. Spare fat being stored in the hips and butt rather than gut. Becoming physically weaker.
It’s quite a jolt. Because the violence on the body involved in this is quite appealing to me.
Thinking About Myself
This blog began as an outlet for me to describe my being non-binary. I’m more femme than male on the inside, I feel, but I don’t want to have an operation. For one, I’d like to start a family with K. For another, I’m terrified of the concept of any kind of surgery. The only one I’ve had was having my wisdom teeth out, and it was an awful experience (massively ill on the anesthetic).
But I do gravitate towards more femme things. I like carrying a purse. I love going to Ulta or Sephora. I’m excited to browse through Macy’s or Nordstrom. It’s just always come with the caveat that I’m forcing these sorts of things onto a body that’s accommodating them but is not meant for them.
The post I did a few days ago, the one asking what it means to be transgender, has been circulating through my mind as well. I’ve resisted the trans label because that’s not how I’ve been seeing myself. I plan to keep my boy parts.
What I hadn’t considered is that there are intermediate steps out there.
What I Would Do
I always thought of hormone replacement therapy as something rather violent to the body. From Gwen’s description, it is. But physically, and in ways I could deal with. It would be a very notable, permanent change to my life.
But I also do worry about my mental health. I’ve had problems with severe depression multiple times in my life, so playing with my brain chemistry gives me pause. Maybe it would be a good thing. Or maybe it would be exceptionally bad. It’s tough to use your body as a testing bed for something like that.
This is a step in the direction I would like to be outwardly. I don’t know if I have the courage or not to do it, and I heartily applaud Gwen for doing so, but I do feel like this would make me more me. If that makes any sense.
The Hurdles. All of the Hurdles
There are a number of things that would keep me from doing this.
For one, this is a recent discovery on my part, that HRT is not an automatic step to surgery. The two have always been intertwined to me, and separating them means I could quite possibly have my body be a reflection of the more-femme-than-not that my identity is.
For another, I have a rather public job. I’m a college professor, and my lectures are very dynamic and interactive. I wouldn’t be able to hide that in-between phase that Gwen talks about where I seem neither male nor female. I’m also currently untenured (less than two years to go on that), so it strikes me as a bit loopy to try something like this until I have that security. But by then I’ll also be 41 years old.
I think the biggest hurdle, though, is that I would lose my ability to code-switch. It is such a privilege to be able to express as I need to in life. I can hide and try to act like one of the guys if I need to… assuming I don’t have my purse with me. I do this in public, yes, but I could survive that. It’s with old friends and my family that it feels a lot more stressful. I would have to consider a name change and a long conversation every time I see someone from years gone by. Will I have a hard time becoming Evi M. Buell for them as opposed to the identity I’ve had the prior 38 years?
And what about the other things? When I was a teenager, I had to relearn how to play almost every sport I loved because I grew so quickly. Basketball is still hit and miss as a result. Will I be doing this a third time? Will that soccer shot into the top left corner lose 10mph? I volunteer as an announcer; what will happen to my voice? And will my stupid adam’s apple go away (please say yes)? What will happen to my sex drive? Can I still reproduce? Will those I love still want me?
That leaves me at an impasse. I really like this idea, but it’s also a new idea to me. There’s a lot to churn through. At one point snowboarding seemed like a really good idea, too (bashing my head around a few times cured me of that).
This would eliminate most of my body hair, including my face, something that makes me really, really want this. It would make some other notable changes, too. I mean, look at the featured image on this post: Gwen looks freaking amazing.
I think I still call myself non-binary, at least for now. But I’m probably trans as well, at least for some definitions of trans. Umbrella term? Yes. Gender identity? Maybe. Physical biology? Before I would have said no.
Now it’s a “sort of”.
Thanks, Gwen, for telling your story. Maybe mine will wind up having some similar chapters.