February 28, 2011

Goodbye, Part 1.

I had an incredibly long conversation with a good friend on Saturday night. I won’t get into what we discussed, because well, that's her business. But there was one particular part of the conversation that stuck out from the rest of our discussion:

“Oh [Insert My Legal Name], I’m glad you called me, I just don’t think I could talk to any of my guy friends about this. I just don’t trust them.”

To preface this, I am not out to this person. Thus, in that moment, I wasn’t disappointed at the fact that my friend had completely disregarded my identity. But the more I thought about what had happened, the more upset I became.

Though I talked about all the wonderful reasons why I am transitioning here, I never really mentioned the more agonizing decisions that had to be made. One of the biggest ones is going through this process while knowing that with each step, I am losing the sisterhood that (most) women share amongst each other, and furthermore, the trust that most women have for other women.

Even though I've always realized that I could never truly identify with being female-gendered, some of the greatest and most life changing moments I've had has occurred in spaces designated just for women. Just to preserve the intimacy of these moments, I won't go into every single time I've felt this way. But the point is, the thought of not being able to exist in these spaces any longer is something that didn't hit me until a few weeks ago. And quite frankly, I'm going to miss it.

It wasn’t something that I realized I had been taking for granted until I began to slowly change my appearance. The more masculine my look became, the more my relationships with other women began to change. Once, I had enjoyed the freedom of entering a restroom without receiving suspicious gazes. There was also a time when I would walk to blue zone, and a woman wouldn't cross the street because she suspected I might harm her. There was also a time where I wouldn't be pinned as a misogynist because of my continual discussion of my attraction to Rihanna (which, I have been talking about since the beginning of my time at Duke….but now, I’m objectifying her?). The more and more that I come out, the more that I notice the relationships with some of my female-identified friends, whom I formerly found to be fairly close to, are slowly becoming distant over the “issue” of my transition.

Then on top of that I’ve personally added the guilt of leaving the tight knit queer women’s community and crossing to “the other side”. Though I realize that this pattern of thinking is completely irrational, it's a bit difficult to get over when leaving such a community changes everything about your life: who you date, what spaces you are accepted and welcomed to, and even what you can say.

I know, I know, it comes with the territory, and I should “man up”. But as someone who identifies as male, but yet still physically possesses all of the traits that come with being born with two X chromosomes, getting used to living in this in-between has been brutal for the past few weeks. It’s as if I’m expected to know everything there is to know about being male within the span of 2.5 months, and then act appropriately. All the while, completely disengaging who and how I was raised to be socially over the past two decades.

Though my guy friends have been more than welcoming and accepting of my transition (I even received a lesson entitled “How to date as a man, 101” last night- which may turn into an entire blog post in and of itself), I’m not going to front and pretend that I am 100% secure in my male identification. Granted, I know this is why it's a transition and not an event. It’s a process, and during that process, you become more accustomed to the gender you identify with, and more comfortable leaving the gender role you were told to accept since birth.

Honestly, I know that to assume that I can’t have the same loving, trust filled relationships with women because of transitioning is not the best way to think about this transition. I also know that the relationships that really matter will always be there no matter how I identify. However, knowing that the dynamics of my existence as a social human being are about to change is frightening. Hopefully with time, I’ll get over this fear.


  1. Wow! First off, I am so glad you decided to write about this. It's so interesting to read and is such a great topic to bring up on the blog.

    This is an issue so close to my heart. I absolutely agree with you that there are some fabulous spaces that are designed (formally or informally) as "women's spaces", and that those experiences have been really affirming and safe. I mean, even on the most basic level, some of the best memories I have of female friends in my dorm are our self-proclaimed "bathroom conversations" between brushing teeth and the Orgo textbooks.

    On the other hand, I wanted to bring up something that maybe you've already though about. I can't say anything that will magically bring back the "sisterhood" bond you mentioned, but I wonder if there's a different way to think of it? In the sense that, it was the safe space and not the gender that distinguishes this fondness. For example, I'm not sure if the bond I felt with these people was strictly related to the fact that we shared the same gender, but rather perhaps, because we shared the same safe space and felt comfortable being a little more vulnerable. I'm thinking to WLW for example, which is great in my mind for two reasons: 1) we share the experiences of being LGBTQ-identified women, but also, 2) we're in a safe space and given the chance to be really vulnerable in front of each other and "open up".

    I guess what I'm saying is that maybe beyond gender, we feel really close in bathroom discussions and WLW because we're letting our guard down for a bit and getting more conversational intimacy. Although I completely see that it wouldn't make it any easier for you to have to leave the female-designated spaces, but I just thought maybe it'd be another way of looking at this.

    Also, I asked this question to Lawrence, but I wanted to repeat it here to see if you had another opinion...what do you think about single-gender spaces? Like Women Loving Women, for example? Would you prefer a group description that said "those who have included womanhood (read: outwardly had to identify as a woman for part of their life) as a part of their experience", thereby including those who may identify as transgender? I think, if I'm not mistaken, Lawrence's answer was to create something to that effect perhaps, but I'm curious on your take!

    Thanks again for an awesome blog post. =)


  2. I love your posts because you always seem to talk about things that resonate with me, but you come at them from a different perspective. I definitely went through a similar process. I'd use the word grieving, actually, to describe the giving-up of that sense of sisterhood.

    Just the other day, I had a conversation with some friends about how when you go to student health and they think you're a woman, they always ask when your last period was and if you're pregnant-- we joked around about ridiculous symptoms that, in the mind of student health, could be connected to menstruation or pregnancy, and I laughed so hard but I also felt a little sad. I mean, I still get asked if I'm pregnant (and they usually ask if I'm sure), but the experience is very different for me.

    I'm not sure what I'm trying to get at here. I've felt this loss but I haven't figured out what I'm going to replace it with yet-- I still feel really uncomfortable in majority-male spaces, because I so hilariously do not pass at all. I guess I just wanted to say that I feel ya.