“Are You a Boy or a Girl?”

I realised today that without noticing I’ve entered a strange stage of my transition.

I’m in a place where I’m read as female, male and sometimes, a big metaphorical question mark. This isn’t much of a new development in itself, but the how, why and when it happens has changed. Most notably, I’m losing the degree of control I have over it, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I’ve been on HRT for 7 months now. The changes to my body have gone from subtle and personal, to obvious and noticeable. I should stress, there hasn’t been any hugely climactic shift nor am I expecting one. I still look like me, as I should but I’ve been nudged in a more feminine direction. On the surface it’s as if I’m becoming my own sister.

Parts of my face are still traditionally masculine and always will be, but other parts have changed. My face is softer now while my silhouette has shifted. My hips and buttocks are fatter, giving me a curvier shape, certain items of clothing now hang differently on me. My transition is no longer something I talk about as having just begun, or going to happen, it’s happened and is continuing to happen now.

Mirror, Mirror

This thought first occurred to me recently, when I wanted to pop out to the shops one morning. I just wanted to pick up some food and break up my sleepy day off work. As the weather was average and I was only going around the corner, I threw on some black skinny jeans and one of my old t-shirts, a black boxy unisex thing, but with a cute and amusing cartoon Ewok on it. Once I was out I ended up wandering into a local clothes shop, just to browse.

While looking through a set of blouses, I spotted my reflection in the mirror. I paused. The surreal nature of how I looked made me laugh. I felt like the t-shirt didn’t suit me, at all. A year ago I’d see my reflection in such clothes and disliked the plain, mundane style, but it was evidently still something that matched how I looked. Even though I hated how I looked at the time, my old clothes let me blend in, look unassuming and disappear in a crowd. At least, as much as I could with strikingly long hair and an attempted androgynous appearance. But now, in the same outfit, my brain tells me I don’t look right in those clothes, on every level they don’t suit me. I now look out of place. Perhaps it’s just in my head, after wearing more traditionally feminine clothes for so long, or perhaps it’s how I’ve physically changed, maybe it’s a bit of both. Seeing my reflection that day, I felt like I was wearing my fictitious brother or boyfriend’s clothes, not my own.

I pinched the back of my baggy t-shirt, pulling it tighter around me. The more fitted look was undeniably more flattering, more aligned with what my mind expects to see in the mirror. Hips suddenly became noticeable while my breasts stood out, rather than my bra softly sitting beneath baggy black fabric. Meanwhile, it complimented my face better too. Which despite not wearing any makeup beyond a light foundation, looks younger and rounder than it’s looked before.

In the past it felt like I was always working against my own appearance. I had to fight to look feminine, relying on makeup as my biggest crutch, while my long hair covers the sides of my face. Now it feels like my body has started to do the heavy lifting itself. Or if not the bulk of the work, it’s certainly taking the edge off.

Who’s That… Girl?

My transition is far from over, but if this is a moment to stop and check on my progress, I’m happy with how things are going. Although my internal sense of my gender remains steady, my new appearance is amusingly confusing the public.

In prior months I always had the mindset that when I wasn’t making a real effort (ie. when I had little makeup on or less overtly feminine clothing) people were reading me as male. Granted, a feminine guy in feminine clothes, but ultimately a guy. I wasn’t able to hope for much else. Now it seems every encounter is a roll of the dice.

I’ve been called “ma’am” when out alone, for instance, and while with a female friend or two I’ve been lumped in as part of a set of “ladies” multiple times. Once I was even confused for another woman altogether, asked point blank if my name was something else, as I apparently looked familiar. Yet I’ve also caught someone using “he” when talking about me to my partner. Meanwhile I’ve had the amusing instance of stumping people altogether, such as the cashier who stumbled on how to address me before abandoning gendered terms altogether. This is all while wearing what I’d call fairly androgynous clothing. Which I consider quite a nice revelation, that even then I can elicit some correct gendering or at least unknowns.

This topic was brought to the forefront of my mind recently when I had an intimidating encounter on a quiet train platform.

The short account of what happened is that a man asked me if I had a cigarette, to which I said no. Seemingly satisfied, he left. Then returned. He asked me if I was sure, which I thought was a bizarre question. I think it’s relevant to add he was the type of man who looked less than friendly, someone carrying themselves with a comfortable confidence that looked to stem from a sense of bravado and entitlement. Slightly frustrated, but wary, I again said no, I added that I had never smoked in my life. He suspiciously repeated my statement back to me, as if the idea of never having smoked was deeply suspect. His eyes narrowed as we stood there, staring at each other in silence for a few seconds. “Are you a boy or a girl?” The question took me completely off-guard, I laughed nervously at his puzzled and expectant expression.

A few thoughts shot through my mind all at once. I’m a trans woman. Does he know what trans means? How will he react? Will he be angry if I tell the truth? I’m not ashamed of what I am, but what will he think of me? Should I lie? I don’t want to lie. Which answer would most likely deescalate this?

Thankfully, a friend, who was stood nearby, casually stepped in and deflected the question. After a brief exchange, he wandered off back towards the platform. Presumably on his ongoing quest for a cigarette.

It sucked. I tweeted about it briefly, I don’t have much to add I didn’t say there. Except, looking back I feel a profound sense of uneasy satisfaction that I was able to elicit such confusion when talking to someone face-to-face, without much effort on my presentation. I was only wearing a dark hoody over a baggy shirt dress, again with nothing other than foundation and dark skinny jeans. I figured, as usual, that I’d unfortunately be seen as male by all nearby, even though I’d really prefer not to be. On weekdays I wear dresses, floral, scarves, mascara, lipstick etc. I put an effort in and let myself enjoy the excuse to dress up. But on weekends I allow myself to dress lazily, going for comfort over style, so that often ends in skinny jeans and very light makeup. Thus my expectations.

In truth, I keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment. I want to be seen as female regardless of how much effort I’m putting in, obviously. So despite the situation being outright scary, there was a warped sense of satisfaction from it. It was strangely validating to realise I’m losing control of how I’m viewed by strangers. It’s not just the makeup and the obvious clothes that are drawing people to see me as a woman, I don’t have to take the reigns so hard to lead them away from viewing me otherwise.

What happened was borderline harassment, I certainly wouldn’t like it to happen again and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. So I feel guilty to pull something positive from the experience, but I can’t deny that this twisted sense of satisfaction exists.

There will always be people who see me as male. That’s a sad fact of being a trans woman and something I know is well outside of my control. Ultimately I know that only my view of my gender matters. Yet the easier it comes being seen as female by the general population, admittedly the happier I am.

So 7 months into transition, I’m feeling optimistic. Being in this middle zone is strange, I hope the next 7 months keep me heading in this direction. I’m happy with my progress, but I can’t lie, I’d like even more.

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10 comments

  1. Antonia Michele · September 5

    Loved the update and to learn of your progress. You show great wisdom in your penultimate paragraph; wisdom this elderly (well much older than you) transwoman needs to remember! I am also about 7 months in and share your hopes expressed in your last paragraph Enjoy the journey xx

    Like

  2. michellen1960 · September 5

    I would suggest that this numbskull’s apprach to you was not borderline harassment but actual herrassment. Look at the chain of events. Unless he was a down and out why ask a total stranger for a cigarette? Then to return and ask you were you sure? Then to ask you your gender??. Alarm bells ringing all round. Thankfully the situation was resolved by your friend stepping in. I know we can think we know what someome one might think about us but usually, in fact almost always we would be wrong. It is simply our minds working overtime. What you say about clothing is intersting and I suppose it is why I avoid androgynous attire. I am either Michelle or Bob.

    Take care and be safe.

    Like

    • Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) · September 6

      It certainly was an uncomfortable and awkward encounter. I suppose my hesitation over calling it harassment is more from wondering if how much it bothered me was me being overly sensitive, so I suppose I victim-blamed myself!

      I find what you say about clothes equally interesting and I know a few others on WordPress share your perspective. I certainly don’t think either of our perspectives are “wrong” obviously, just different ways of experiencing being trans. In my mind, I’m always Mia and always have been. Even before I started HRT I didn’t differentiate my sense of presentation between two points, I’d simply sometimes dress “more feminine” or “androgynous” (as I would essentially never dress masculine, avoiding shirts like the plague). So for instance on a weekend when I occasionally toss on an old t-shirt I still see the t-shirt as being an item of women’s clothing by definition of the fact that I, a woman, am wearing it. Technically it’s classed as a unisex cut sure, and yes I bought it before I started my transition, but I still see it as valid to match with more feminine items of clothing. Plus I’ll still wear foundation, have painted nails and wear some jewelry, regardless. For instance a common weekend outfit for me is skirt, leggings and an old t-shirt. Or an old t-shirt with a pinafore dress. It’s not like I’m presenting half/half or anything, I’m always presenting as myself. Clothes are just tools to customise how I look. I could be in a tuxedo and I’d still be Mia, still a woman. Who I am is inside, beneath the surface. -But that’s just my perspective and what works for me!

      I have a question, and please feel free to ignore it if it’s rude, but I’m just curious about your perspective. When you are getting dressed, at what point do you consider yourself Michelle? Are you Michelle from the moment you decide you’re getting changed into feminine clothing and putting on makeup? Or is it the moment you finish getting ready? Or is there a point in between where you gradually shift? Again I’m sorry if that’s strange or rude to ask, I’m just very curious about how we all experience being trans, wether we transition or not, identify as non-binary, genderfluid etc. I think it’s fantastic we all have these different, varied and valid experiences and I’d like to do my best to understand them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • michellen1960 · September 6

        Whoa!! That’s a long and detailed reply. Yes there is no right or wrong way to dress, that is for the individual to decide for themselves. What I was saying was what I consider right for me.

        Your question is not rude and you have really got me thinking. In brief I am always Michelle to a greater or lesser extent. As Bob I suppress to conform so to speak. Hence my statement re clothing for me being defined clearly. I suppose there is a point when I look in the mirror and say ‘hello again Michelle’ but that is the visual not the inner me. The inner me is always there.

        I really am going to have to ponder this excellent question.

        Like

      • Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) · September 6

        Ha sorry! You can always depend on me for long rambling thoughts that use too many words to get to the point.

        Your response is really interesting! So I suppose in a way you are always Michelle, that’s who you really are. Is it right then to say that Bob is basically just a character you reluctantly play to appease others? I’d love to read a blog post on your thoughts on this sometime. Consider this a request I suppose! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ruthmartina2014 · September 5

    Exactly what Michelle says – that was no innocent encounter, and I’m so glad you had a friend there in support. Sadly, despite the trans* overtones, I fear it’s a horribly familiar situation for many women every day – as a friend of mine said when I told her I thought I’d been vaguely harrassed once, “welcome to our world.” Glad the encounter ended safely, anyway.
    I reckon that option of not having to think too much about clothes and make-up before going out is something to aspire to… well, it is for me still, anyway! … and is hugely symbolic of how well your transition is progressing. I guess it’s all about having choices, not feeling obliged to get the makeup out every time for a trip to the corner shop – while retaining the right to get glammed up when you feel like it.

    Like

    • Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) · September 6

      Yeah, it’s a sad reality that I do feel less safe now than before transition. As you say, that’s not isolated to being trans, that’s just being a woman!

      It is nice, being so blasé about my appearance. Honestly that’s much less from how I look and more from my perspective changing. I remember the first time I went to the shop with makeup on and a feminine coat and I was horrendously nervous. Which just seems bizarre now, I remember thinking the fact that I was going to look “strange” or not blend in, which really worried me. Another time I remember visiting a library and feeling very conspicuous in a dress. Yet now I feel much more secure in how I look and a lot of it comes from just plain not caring what other people think, instead just dressing for me. I love getting all dressed up for work, but sometimes at home I just want to be comfortable and lazy!

      I guess a lot of the freedom comes from removing the distinction between masculine/feminine presentation. I remember early on I wouldn’t ever mix makeup with a bland presentation as I’d worry about the confusing effect I’d give. But for instance, last night I got in from work, changed into lounge clothes (jeans and t-shirt) then realised I wanted pizza… so I just put on a fitted hoody and went back out, but I still had on mascara and lipstick, as well as pink nail varnish. In the past I’d have either removed the makeup, or gotten changed again back into more obviously feminine clothes. But now that just sounds exhausting! I just wear whatever is suitable for the situation based on what I want to wear, which is of course what cis women do too.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ren'Ai · September 12

    I’m very pleased to see how you’ve come along, Mia~ You’re experiencing your own trials just as I did when I began living full-time and it’s those trials that will shape your foundation (pun kinda intended 😛 ) and strength to know exactly who you are in the face of public doubt.

    Continue to take comfort in that you have come a ways already. You’re wearing what makes you feel comfortable and putting less emphasis on the physical. You may not realize it, but this is a major step in the right direction. Uncovering all that is hidden inside and revealing a confidence that exudes the woman that is “you” will allow your inner transition to direct the outer to the point where you being female will be undeniable. True freedom is smiling from your heart at at anyone who question your gender identity like they’re the crazy ones. I’m sure that 7 months from now, you’ll be that much stronger, self-confident, and, most of all, accepting of the beautiful girl looking back at you in the mirror.

    Much love, dear~ And please don’t hesitate to tweet me if you ever need someone who gets your struggles ❤

    Like

    • Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) · September 20

      Thank you for the response! That was lovely and really well put.

      Sorry for the late reply! I’ve not been around the last week, it was nice to come back to this reply though 🙂

      Like

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