To say that it has taken me decades to write this blog post would be pretty close to the truth. Having said that, I find myself hesitating, afraid to move forward. I certainly don’t know what the future will hold, but I know that the strategy I’ve been using to play the game of life in the past has not been working for me.
The reason I decided to start this blog was mostly to help clarify the thoughts that are kicking around in the weird grey matter that passes for my brain, and partly to record my journey wherever that may take me.
Maybe I sent you here because I felt a face to face conversation would be too hard. Maybe we have had that face to face conversation and I sent you here to try and explain things in more depth. Or maybe you’ve stumbled across my site after googling this particular subject matter. However you arrived here, welcome and I thank you for investing the time and energy in trying to understand me better.
If you know me personally and haven’t already had a heart to heart with you then this will likely come as a surprise surprise. I can just imagine you now thinking “holy shit?! What the actual fuck?! I had no idea”. That, my friend, is because I’m absolutely fucking exhausted from the energy and effort required to maintain my ‘impression management’ regime.
But I can’t do it any more.
For all of my life up until this point I’ve felt average. At 174cm (5’9″) I’m not overly tall, but neither overly short, and I’ve mostly had a lean body shape. I used to joke that I was ‘rack size’, in that I could buy pretty much anything off the rack in a men’s M size without the need for alterations. Up until now I have identified as male and I’ve been ‘okay’ with that role for the most part, although never entirely comfortable in my own skin.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The truth of the matter is that in order to try and pep up masculinity I needed to keep telling myself that I’m a boy, a man. I’m masculine, right?. I was born a boy and that’s what I am.
Most of this was a set of mental games I’d play with myself to try and stave of the feelings that I was absolutely NOT comfortable in my own skin.
Earlier this year I set a goal to do a 16 week body transformation, inspired by the body transformation a mate had recently achieved. I scoured the internet and picked a male body shape that I’d like to achieve for myself (which, incidently, was a photo of Daniel Craig at the beach – yes, you know the one), and set about doing the gym time to “bulk up and get ripped” . The goal was to follow an eating plan, and work hard to incease my 71kg body to 75-76kg, building lean muscle while dropping body fat percentage. That way I’d definitely feel more like a man! For sure! Right?
But that result never happened.
If I am brutally honest with myself I’d say that I was never emotionally invested in that goal. I made excuses, I cheated on the meal plan, and I found myself short of the required energy to do the time in the gym. Now I know what you must be thinking, “heaps of people fail to achieve body transformation goals!” And I know that because some of those people are my clients.
What happened since then is what triggered a series of events and thoughts leading to me making some decisions and writing this blog post.
A couple of months ago someone I knew came out as transgender and since then that is all I have been able to think about. In fact my mind has been consumed with the thought of possibly being transgender. Or not? Actually at this point I think the conclusion I’ve reached is that I’m not sure where on the gender spectrum I comfortably identify.
To be fair, there is a back story here which involves being anything other than comfortable. And there is a lot of mind chatter that goes on in my head about my gender identity, body image and self confidence.
Full disclosure: despite outward appearances I’ve never been a particularly confident person. What I was particularly skilled at doing is wearing a facade, presenting the impression that I was a confident kid, a self assured young man, a competent and unafraid business man.
You see, I had (have?) an almost pathological need to gain people’s approval – a pathological people pleaser perhaps? – and that is what drove me to work so hard on the facade, presenting myself as I thought others would want to see me.
The reality behind the facade was a different story. The mind traffic and thoughts, driven by insecurity and anxiety, were relentless. The games my mind would often play would mostly revolve around comparison and self doubt related my body confidence:
“If you were really a man you’d be taller, more muscular, and you would be confident in your body”
“Oh, and you wouldn’t be comparing your body with those of women”
“That male plumbing doesn’t suit you, it doesn’t really belong there. You’d be much happier if it wasn’t there …” [ed: woah … that escalated quickly!!]
“why do women get all the lovely clothes to wear and men’s clothes are so bland?”
“those girls on instagram are so pretty. Why can’t I be pretty like them?”
“wouldn’t you be happier if you looked like Georgie/Krystal/Mary/Hayley/name of any gorgeous 20 or 30 something woman in my professional community?”
I know, I know … some of this is about self love and body confidence.
For the most part I’ve been able to dismiss this mind chatter, and focus on trying to live up to the expectations I put on myself, and those I imagined others had of me. You know, head down, bum up, work hard, make money, build an empire! I’d justify ignoring those thoughts by explaining to myself that I’m a man, not a woman, and that I’ve been able to live a reasonably successful life so far and I’m going to succeed by working harder.
Actually that’s not quite true. My mind chatter has been relentless, and started from early childhood. And the working harder thing to prove how much of a successful mane I was only resulted in a complete breakdown in my health, a failed marriage and the loss of my business.
But anyway, back to the mind chatter. Maybe it was triggered that time mum told me that she had been hoping for her first baby to be a girl. Or the time where, for a primary school play, I had to borrow a black leotard from one of the girls in my class only to have her upset with me that I’d left a bulge in the front of it. I remember thinking that if I was a girl then people wouldn’t be upset with me. I used to jealously watch the girls dance during rehearsals school musicals I was involved in, wishing it could be me wearing a leotard and being so pretty. I even ‘borrowed’ a leotard from the costume room one night just so that I could try it on. There have been so many examples during my life where I’ve wished I was a girl instead of a boy, and as an adult I’ve invested a great deal of time reading, researching and questioning whether what I feel is right or not.
I read on a post that by undertaking the research and asking myself whether or not I’m transgender indicates that at the very least I’m probably not CIS gender (feeling that assigned-at-birth-gender matches their actual gender identity). Thanks Captain Obvious.
So where am I now?
As you may gather from what I’ve shared above this is an issue I’ve been wrestling with for the better part of three decades. And to be perfectly honest all I want is to feel ‘normal’. I don’t want to deal with the mental wrestling match that happens in my head consistently. I don’t want to have to deal with other people’s biases, opinions and ignorance. Sometimes I wish the thoughts would all go away and I could concentrate on being a manly man. But the thoughts and feelings don’t go away, and so I know I need to do seomthing about them.
One thing for certain I know is that I feel like certain parts of my body don’t belong and have felt this for a long time. I’ve been through the mental gymnastics of considering SRS but maintaining an outward male appearance in everyday life. I dislike having male plumbing, and love how my body looks down there when I’m tucked. I hate the role testosterone has played in my body from covering my body in course hair to early onset male pattern baldness.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading and research about MTF transitioning. I know what is involved and I know that not everyone is going to accept that this is something I may need to do. So now, rather than continue to try and push these feelings and thoughts aside I need to be be brutally honest with myself.
On my 43rd birthday I made the decision to at least be more open to my feminine side. Whilst this may not involve fully transitioning (I’m undecided at this stage) I know this will see me move more toward the centre of the binary gender spectrum and be more relaxed about not having to compare myself with James Bond. I also decided to try building a more feminine self image to see how that felt. Yesterday I went shopping, and bought some new gender-neutral trainers, as well as some size 14 womens’ underpants and a 14A bra – just to try and see how they felt. I found the women’s underwear so comfortable that I threw out all my old jocks.
In contrast to my lacklustre attempt at pursuing the “Daniel Craig” style male body I’ve approached the task of feminising my body with much greater enthusiasm. Excitement even. For the first time in almost a decade I feel a glimmer of happiness starting to shine in my life. I’ll continue to work out but with the goal of dropping 6-10kg of body fat and get down to a leaner body weight of around 60-65kg. A friend will also help me with a full body wax, and I’m looking forward to experiencing how that feels. In the next week I’ll look in to other items of clothing I can buy.
So, where to next?
I know for certain that I need to get a handle on the role fear has played in my life. Fear has been a force that has seen me undermine personal success time after time, and also keep people I care about at arms length. That is a long and very complicated story which I’ll likely share another time, but for now the fears and anxiety surrounding non-cis-gender/non-binary/possibly-transgender me are all about:
- how will this affect the people I love?
- what will people think?
- will I even look any good as a woman, or will I just look like a guy dressed up as a woman?
- What will people think?
- How will this affect my businesses?
- what will people think?
- I’m pretty sure I want SRS, but am undecided as to whether I want to live full time living and dressing like a woman
- What will people/my psych/doctor think?
- Is it possible to appear non-binary but still lose my ‘male’ bits? What if the medical world decide that doesn’t fit their neatly planned pathways for transgender transition?
- Oh … and I’m so worried about what people think (just in case you didn’t catch that the first four times)
At this early stage I won’t be coming out to my family. I need to be comfortable with this process and decision before I ask th epeople I love to accept such a change. I ask others to be, and so will wait until I’ve decided whether transitioning will be right for me. From my perspective living a non-binary life will not require me to come out. I will be happy to just change what I wear and how I carry myself, and don’t particularly care what pronouns people use. My real name is mostly used as a male name, but people know me as the non-gender-specific ‘Jamie’ so I’ll continue to use that.
If I decide to transition I may confide in a few close and trusted friends for support. But whatever happens I will, under the safety of anonymity, share my thoughts and journey here.
And so here I am, sitting here with painted toenails considering my options. I am excited about catching up with my waxing friend on Sunday and attending a local transgender meetup group in a few weeks.
And then what next? I don’t know, but for now I’ll put one foot in front of the other and see where this new journey takes me, and roll with that.