Category Archives: Life

How long does it take to forget your name?

Content Warnings: Adult language, dysphoria, transphobia, transphobic portrayals of trans people in media, 4chan, homophobia, pornography, suicide , talk of sexuality and anatomy

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It’s an honest question. I had never considered it before, that might’ve been the privileged of having been assigned male at birth, but changing my name was not something that was ever seriously on the table for me. Even when I considered going through the legal process of having it recognized – the same process I’ve only just finished, it was only going to be to the nickname that literally everyone already called me.

How long does it take to forget your name? The name you had been using for more than thirty years?

It is hard to say, but a year in, I’ve gone from constantly perking up at it, to “only” having a strange semi-conscious bias toward it. I remember having gone by it at some point in my past, but it’s becoming nebulous, tenuous, even. And then, one morning, after spending an hour explaining how to spell your name to a receptionist at a doctor’s office – it pops up.

I hadn’t even used “Nick” in months. It’s always been “Nicholas” because I’m generally dealing with matters that require one’s legal name. And yet, just before the month of August began, I called myself “Nick” when baby-talking with the cat.

Brigid and I both caught it nearly immediately. It felt, weird, admittedly. Wrong. But it came out naturally, so I can promise you, it takes more than a year to forget your own name. Your old name, as it were, because as of August 17th, neither “Nick” nor “Nicholas” is my legal name. It’s a ghost lingering behind me.

It just isn’t me.

Especially the first name. Especially your pronouns. When you think about the countless people (mostly women) who have changed their last names, consider what it means to change your first name. The trepidation to ask someone to use not just a new name, but a new set of pronouns. And not just a new name like when a friend of mine asked for us to stop using the diminutive of his name, but to completely up-end it. I’m not “Nick”, I’m “Niamh”.

In the six months since my last update, I’ve mostly settled on the pronunciation “NEEV”, one syllable, easier to get across, and I’m more consistent with it. Perhaps it was my Dungeons and Dragons group, a group of folks from the UK who did in the two-syllable pronunciation. “Niamh” (with one syllable) is a recognized name there, and so there was no explanation needed. It just was. It’s comforting to log in and hear the lads all going “Hello, Niamh!”

I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

The last six months have been marked by periods of comfort and periods of excruciating pain, almost in equal measure. So maybe I’ll give a brief overview of those months.

Two Months of Hell

I last updated you all in February. Around then, I had just gotten done with a bloodwork exam and my injection dose had been increased from .5ml every other week to .6ml, despite me asking to go to .75ml. I had been doing laser hair removal since September, and that was going well. I had been presenting as female since November and it was becoming more and more usual. I was putting off starting my name change.

But I was finding the injections too much to handle. After each one I would black out, most likely because I was tensing up so hard to get through and even thinking about the injections now makes me sick. I’ve since called around and there are no pharmacies around here that offer injection services, which is ridiculous. I was legitimately told to hire a nurse to come by once every other week and inject me for god knows how much. It has just crossed my mind, though, I never thought to call the urgent cares in the area. (I just did – the answer remains “no”.)

I cannot imagine how much that hurts other people’s ability to take their drugs as prescribed.

I got both my vaccines and eventually I went and had another round of bloodwork done in early May, arriving with a laundry list of things I wanted changed. First – I wanted off injections. Second – I wanted on progesterone. Third – I wanted off spironolactone and onto bicalutamide. Forth – I wanted an orchiectomy. Let’s break that down.

Item 1 – Off injections. This was easy enough. I explained my predicament, my doctor agreed, we switched to patches – .05mg/d transdermal patches. Marvelous.

Item 2 – My doctor waffled on this, and suggested we wait for the 1 year mark. I laughed and said that I assumed that’d be the answer, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t come out of no where at the 1 year mark and get kicked to “the next bloodwork”. He said that wouldn’t be the case, that he’s a big proponent of progesterone as part of HRT, but obviously doesn’t want to prescribe expensive drugs if they aren’t desired or needed.

Item 3 – My side effects with spironolactone were getting pretty bad. First, I constantly had to pee, and it was starting to effect my sleep quality as I was constantly fighting the feeling of urgency when laying down even though I was taking it in the morning. It got so bad, I was taking a UTI medication every night for relief and that was getting both expensive and also just needlessly taxing my liver. The alternative was bica. I got prescribed 50mg/d of bica and was told to start the bica one month later in June, that way if there was a reaction to the patches, we would know the source – and similarly if there was a reaction to the bica, we would know the source – because I hadn’t started both at once. I asked if we should overlap the spiro and the bica and was told “no”.

Item 4 – I was told that I needed to wait to the 1 year mark as the cis gatekeepers of trans healthcare looked for that when deciding if I was “mentally sound enough” to have the procedure done. For the confused, an orchiectomy is the removal of the testicles. It would allow me to quit anti-androgens like spiro and bica all together. It would also mean that if I suddenly ran out of estrogen, I wouldn’t begin to detransition – an issue I was about to become very acquainted with.

Something felt wrong almost immediately. I had joked with some folks that on injections there was this weird feeling of not doing enough to be trans. Like on the pills each day you took a pill and you felt medicated, but the injections? They were once every now and then. In my head I felt like I could order more. Inject more. The patch, though, was there, all week, and I could touch it, see it, and feel like it was working.

But it didn’t feel like it was working.

All the things I associated with transitioning – the sore breasts, the thinning body hair, the dead libido, the complete inability to get an erection, hell just the way I saw myself, started to slowly slip away. My body hair was getting thicker. I was waking up to painful morning wood. My libido was quickly reëstablishing itself. I emailed my doctor and shared my concerns. They were noted but otherwise we kept moving forward.

In June, I switched from spiro to bica, right on schedule, and everything got worse. So, so much worse.

My mood completely collapsed. If you ever ran into me during June or July, understand that I was completely falling apart behind the scenes. I couldn’t even cry, the estrogen well had so thoroughly dried up. Hair was growing again up my chest, across my breasts, and onto my shoulders again. I was shaving my legs like weekly again, after only needing to do it monthly. I hadn’t felt breast growth pain in months. So I reached out to my doctor again and insisted things were going south quickly and it was agreed that we’d pull up my August bloodwork to later that week.

The one good thing was that I was prescribed progesterone immediately, but we’d wait on the other results before making any other changes.

And those results were stunningly bad. I was basically at cis male levels of E and T. I had been detransitioning for two months and it was torture, literally killing me mind, body, and soul. We upped my patch dose from .05mg/d to .1mg/d, added the 100mg/d of progesterone, and kept the bica the same.

The .05mg/d patch was far too little it seemed and the bica had lagged. By the end of July I had actually noticed that I was way more tired during rec soccer than I had been in May or June, which leads me to believe that the blocker had taken a month and a half to start having a noticeable effect.

Since changing, things have felt better and that gets into a while new discussion: how do you know? Well that’s hard to answer, right? It’s internal. You can never be totally certain of how I feel. You have to trust me. And if you already don’t trust me or already have ideas on what trans people are and why we transition, I can’t convince you otherwise. It’ll always be a lie. An excuse.

What I do know is the two months I was effectively detransitioning were two of the worst months of my life, stressful and constantly filled with dread. I absolutely hated it, and seeing hair growing on my chest again and having to shave my legs every week again was killing me. It was horrific and I felt awful, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror and I can actually see it in my google photos timeline.

For the first time since starting my transition, I took fewer photos in July. A lot fewer. Because I wasn’t taking selfies and I wasn’t taking selfies because I absolutely hated looking at myself again. All that self esteem had been sapped and I felt lost without it. Anyone who says “HRT isn’t life-saving” has never seen a trans person panic when they’ve thought they’ve lost or misplaced it, or gotten the call from the pharmacy that it’s been delayed, again. Never seen me in the midst of despair as I feel it all slip away.

The Changes

That whole episode of detransitioning led to some awkward conversations, both with lay folks around me and my doctor. When you live in your body, you become accustomed to the ins and outs of it, and you can tell you feel off, I think most people understand this, but what one might not understand is what that feels like when you’re undergoing hormone replacement therapy. The number one thing that comes up when discussing it with cis people is “Wait, that changes?”

And yeah, the list of changes is pretty long and sometimes weird to talk about. Some of them are just awkward in the abstract, because it’s weird to be 32 going on 33 and talking about your second puberty with people, but at least this time it’s a puberty I like and I am at least mature enough and aware enough to understand the consequences.

Clockwise starting with the bottom right:
29 July, 2020 (a week after coming out to Brigid, about a month before starting HRT and coming out publicly; no makeup and recently shaved)
31st of July, 2021 (11 months and 1 week after starting HRT; no makeup and recently shaved, also glasses!)
30th of July, 2020 (11 months and 6 days after starting HRT; makeup and glasses!)

I’ll get it out of the way quickly – the biggest change was obviously that I got glasses! This was something I should’ve been up front about earlier, but it’s important to note.

Actually, no joke, I had been wearing protective “anti-bluelight” glasses for a while before this, but Brigid and I finally got to the eye doctor and were diagnosed with various sight issues. Even though mine are rather slight, I’ve actually noticed some pretty big improvements to my quality of life and a reduction in issues such as auras and silent migraines.

All joking aside it’s hard to take stock at the one-year mark when significant portions of that year were spent with bad levels or even effectively detransitioning. However, they are numerous and they have been very fulfilling and affirming. A lot of it is just internal, even, the way I feel about my self and about my body. I’ve talked at length about the mental changes, having self-esteem for a change or better control of my libido. Even with progesterone added to the mix, I still have better control over my libido than I did on testosterone, which is crazy. I’m interested to see how the combination of orchi and progesterone will go, once all the T is flushed out and any off side-effects are gone.

Physically, I’m definitely more curvy. Most of the changes have been slow, subtle, as one would expect for hormonal changes, but my thighs have definitely grown some, waist has pinched in ever-so-slightly. Butt has grown a bit as well, and the fat on my belly is more femme as well, not quite the beer-gut shape any more, but certainly still there.

I have tits too, those have been pretty nice, I’ve even gotten pretty good at how to puff them up a bit for the camera. Are they massive, earth-shattering knockers? No. But they’re mine and they’re doing their best. Actually one of the signs I got that my levels were bad is the pain that had been plaguing my breasts and nipples almost constantly since December/January dried up. That has since returned.

Most of my muscle mass that was lost was lost pretty early. My arms still have a bit of tone to them, but even then it was nothing like before. I’ve also lost a lot of fat and muscle over my shoulders and neck, so I look much thinner now and there’s more of a boney look now.

My face has changed a bit. Seeing fat buildups on my cheeks and away from my chin and jowls. Despite not picking up my father’s genes when it came to hair, my hairline has seen improvement. Not sure if I’d call it a “drastic” improvement, but especially up over the temples it’s been slowly creeping forward again. I wasn’t really expecting any changes with that, but it’s welcomed regardless.

Hair is over-all one of those bigger problems with transitioning, getting it where you want it and removing it from where you don’t. My body hair is obviously recovering from the two months of bad levels, where that was some of the first stuff to reverse. Luckily it’s already thinning out again and growth is slowing down. Hair on my thighs has thinned a bit, as has the hair on my legs and arms. I can go pretty long before the need to be shaved and I’ve even started noticing that when I decide the hair is “long enough” to be cut is changing as well, with my tolerance getting shorter and shorter. But still the time between shaves increases.

I’ve been doing laser hair removal on my face for about eleven months now, and my chest for about two. Seen pretty big improvements there, as you can tell by the pictures, my shadow is mostly gone. Cleaning up the last of my my stubborn chest hair is one of my higher priorities along with the last of the shadow. Laser (and soon electrolysis) remain the only procedures related to transitioning I’ve had done, if you don’t count coloring and cutting my hair (which would be extreme if you did). I’m set on the orchi, but that’s probably a ways off. The consultation is at the end of September and I’ll almost certainly need to jump through some gatekeepy hoops before I can actually get it done. Even that isn’t particularly massive. But other than maybe considering breast augmentation in three years or so, I have no real drive for surgeries.

Yes. Including that one.

I’m sort of in the air about that one. I don’t really care one way or the other. The orchi is a pragmatic decision about getting off anti-androgens, preventing future detransitioning, and improving the quality of my tuck. Plus a lot of folks have said they get a little boost to their estrogen effects since there’s no testosterone getting in the way at all.

Lastly there’s a grab-bag of effects that HRT brings. Progesterone has given me some of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in literal decades. After years of sleep problems, progesterone knocks me out cold and I love it. I specifically take it at night because it was actually putting me to sleep during work! My genitals actually smell different… actually all of me smells different, but this is the most notable and was another one of those changes that losing it tipped me off to there being an issue with my levels.

Another one of those effects folks are surprised to hear about is your libido changes and that can be hard to describe without playing into stereotypes of binary sexuality. I can say that it is different, there’s more desire to be held? Cared for? I don’t want to go as far as say the desire has switched from fucking to being fucked, but I’m not turned on just by like raw pictures of nudity, I want and even need some sort of emotion or rationale behind it. I want to feel invested in it and it’s more mental than physical.

Left: 21 August, 2021 (three days shy of one year of HRT; makeup an dressed up)
Right: 25 August, 2020 (second day of HRT; makeup and dressed down)

Briefly, I’d like to touch on the actual drugs and methods, because I think that sort of transparency is important for trans folks and I’m sure a number of folks reading this are going to want feedback to bring to their own transitions or to add to the growing pile of anecdotal accounts that passes for trans research in the early 2020s.

Estrogen methods: I am current on patches. I’ve done pills, injections, and patches. Pills and my liver didn’t play together nicely, so that’s completely off the table. I did injections for six months. First 10mg as .5ml 20mg/ml EV per injection every two weeks. Then it was 12mg as .6ml 20mg/ml EV per injection every two weeks. If this is confusing to you, welcome to being trans, where you get to be a lawyer, doctor, endocrinologist, pharmacist, and nurse all rolled into one little dysphoric package! But I personally couldn’t handle injecting myself. So I moved to patches. First a single .05mg/d patch per week, then later a single .1mg/d patch per week.

When it comes to preference, the problem is the act of injecting myself. I asked around the local pharmacies to see what the cost was to have them do the injection and they just don’t, suggesting I hire a nurse instead. If I could’ve had that done, I would’ve stayed on injections no problem. When the pros do it, there’s no worries! I prefer the injections, tbh, I just can’t do them. They last for two week, gave good results and good changes, are easier to change dosages, and they can’t fall off under your shorts. That said, patches have been working admirably and am happy to continue with them

Anti-Androgens: Spiro. fucking. sucks. The side effects were horrendous. Between the brain fog, the constantly needing to pee, the fucking with my sleep, the only good that seemed to come out of it was it completely nuked my masculine libido. All that said, I am way happier with bica, even if there’s like a zone of protection around my junk that seems to still be under the immediate influence of testosterone. I’d rather the occasional boner than constantly feeling like I need to pee and being perpetually tired from bad sleep. Preference is 125% bica all the way.

As for the actual methods: I went from 100mg/d of spiro (taken in the morning) to 50mg/d of bica (taken in the morning).

Where does that leave progesterone? Progesterone is useful both as an anti-androgen and a hormone for transitioning. For all I know my E2 levels are still shit, but the progesterone is over-riding it all. The big downside is constantly being horny again, I’m interested to see how that plays out when I’m post orchi and my testosterone is dead forever. But that’s really the only downside! I am currently on 100mg/d (taken orally about two hours before bed) of progesterone and I love it. Helps improve so much about both my transition and my quality of life. Seriously, the sleep is worth it alone.

A Reflection on Adulthood

For the longest time, I’ve dealt with intrusive and often extremely negative thoughts and memories. HRT has not fixed that, unfortunately. That is an important lesson, though, transitioning has done so much to make me feel better, make me be better – but it is not a panacea. It doesn’t make everything work instantly.

I wish it would, honestly.

My general health and well-being is better now because I care. Because I want to be around for years and years and years to enjoy this new lease on life, but depression and anxiety don’t just disappear. And in a way, I have gained new fears and anxieties, mostly related to the way I interface with a cis world. As I write this, I am dealing with a clinic stonewalling me from trans-related care. Something that should’ve taken minutes has taken weeks, and I’ve given up. I’m not dealing with their bullshit.

But there is one intrusive thought that doesn’t cross my mind any more – that I should transition.

In the last update, I talked at length about what it was like discovering trans people, something I had to do myself and a lot of the information I got was, perhaps obviously, from transphobic people. But I mentioned that when I was nineteen, I actually conceptualized myself transitioning in the post-knowing world. So to sort of wrap up this update, I wanted to expand on that a bit.

One summer, when I was nineteen, I was back home between freshmen and sophomore years of uni. I worked at a local store selling shoes, slept in what before my going off to school was my sister’s bedroom, and I flirted with a really cute redhead at a couple of things I went to.

Before my senior year of school, I didn’t really do much that was co-ed. Especially outside of school. I almost entirely hung out with (at the time) other boys my age. We played lots of D&D, lots of Warhammer, lots of video games, and all that. But there weren’t really girls involved, as stereotypical as that sounds now. I had a lot of trouble dealing with women in general. Partially because of this lack of exposure, and it was something that plagued me for decades. Which is weird, considering my first best friend was a girl.

In senior year of highschool, I got a girlfriend and began going to more social ‘parties’ for lack of a better word. It was different, but if you knew me at the time, you could attest that I was extremely awkward. Purdue, in some ways, was a step back, but only because I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone. I got broken up with, and alone, scared, and once again surrounded by men, I had a very toxic idea of relationships and people in general. I went to Purdue thinking I would rebuild myself, and as much as I did that first year, there was a lot of progress still to be had.

When I came back home for summer, there were a lot of reunion get-togethers. And my social circle back home had shifted over the year. The people I was hanging out with were not the same I had hung out with before. But it was an easy-going group, and there were a lot more women involved. I’m sitting here thinking about how I interacted with them, and how I interact with women now, and there’s a weird parallel.

As a trans lesbian, or trans panlesbian, it can be hard to distinguish whether what you feel around women is gender envy, sexual attraction, camaraderie, or all of the above. Part of your social transition is breaking these things down and realizing that they can coexist. And today I can look back and see the first sparks of that camaraderie here in this summer. I wanted to belong, not as part of ‘the group’, but as part of ‘the girls’ in particular. I spoke in a way as to disarm myself. Not talking down, per se, rather, as not a man.

The thought that I wanted to transition literally haunted me for over a decade.

My entire adult life has been defined by these thoughts. I had thoughts of transitioning for this redhead, who (to be clear) was not a lesbian or bi as far as I am aware, because it didn’t work out – it remained a whatif in my life, even after I met and began dating my would-be wife and partner just months later. I had dreams and thoughts that I could’ve started sooner, that it had been there all that time and I just didn’t know it and I hadn’t known I wanted to.

During quiet times, when I was forced to be alone with myself for long stretches of waking time, like long drives, or flights, I thought about transitioning. Over and over and over. For years. I was plagued with doubt. Doubt about the results. Doubt about the effect on my life, my work, my relationships. Doubt about myself.

All my life I had envisioned a life for myself and later a life for me and Brigid, but increasingly it felt like I had missed such a major piece in my own life.

One night in 2017 or 2018, after Brigid and I had spent too much time out and on the town, driving back from Ferndale, she came out to me as bi, and feeling the momentum, I came out to her being extremely gender confused. I had effectively told her, and would repeat, that I was trans but not going to transition because of my apprehensions around transitioning.

It was around this time that I had switched my pronouns to he/they and eventually to they/them to little fanfare on my twitter profile (but never enforced any sort of adherence). I was never non-binary, but the increasing detachment from what it meant to be “a man” made he/him more and more painful.

And though the thoughts of transitioning ebbed and flowed over the next two years, they never stopped. Over those two years I met and formed a number of relationships with trans women and today, with the help of hindsight, it makes it feel inevitable.

But I’m hesitant to say it was. In the end, what really gave me the chance to become myself was the pandemic and the permanent work-from-home. I was offered a chance to get this first, awkward year out of the way in privacy, and I took it. I know I am not alone there. I think we’ve all had a chance over the last year, year and a half, to get reflective and strive to build our lives anew.

And so, the end for now…

So it’s been a year. One whole year of medical transitioning and roughly ten months of “full-timing” it. I will admit, I go into my second year slightly apprehensive. The lockdowns won’t last forever; the masks will eventually get put away, but the head start I have should serve me well. In September I return to the doctor for an early follow up to the changes in my HRT regimen that I spoke of a couple thousand words ago.

My next “official” update for you will be next year for my second anniversary! If you hadn’t noticed, the idea what that they doubled in length each time: 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, 8 years.

Of course, there will be social media and my micro updates there, but these updates have proven a nice way for me to process my transition for myself. I can assure you, if you think it’s drastic from the outside, it’s quite a bit more on the inside.

But here we must end it for now! Remember to continue to support the LGBT+ people of all walks in your life. “Accomplices not allies” and all that! I hope this update was informative for everyone!

Cheers!

Thirty-One and a Half Years and Six Months a Woman

As I’m starting to write this, it’s become known that Rush Limbaugh has passed away, and let me take a moment to say good riddance to bad trash, and if you have a problem with me saying that, you can stop reading and go on and do something else. Save us both a lot of time.

Content Warnings: Adult language, dysphoria, transphobia, transphobic portrayals of trans people in media, 4chan, homophobia, pornography, suicide , talk of sexuality and anatomy

> Beginning <The One-Year Post >
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Back in August I made quite a big announcement about a part of myself that had always been there, at least as far back as I can piece together from the fragmented shards of my memories. On facebook and twitter I came out as a trans woman, beginning a new era in my life that has brought with it drastic changes. Changes I am sure that some, if not most of you are interested in at least hearing a bit more about.

Hi! I’m Niamh. I’m a trans woman who lives outside of Detroit, Michigan.

This is going to be a very frank discussion, so if that bothers you, you might want to move on. I will discuss, among other things, my anatomy, my sexuality and libido, and pornography. There’s a lot of LGBT terminology throughout, including “cis”, which I wanted to define for all you cis folk out there. Subtracted from nuance, if you’re not trans, you’re cis. Cis- and trans- come from Latin and are opposites meaning “this side of [X]” and “that side of [X]” respectively.

I plan to make this a growing series, with updates at six months (this one), one year, two years, four years, and eight years, if I can even remember that long. After that I’ll put it to bed. This post has to set the scene, and thus is very long. There’s more than thirty years to cover to get where I am now.

For those of you who might be catching up, or new, and I have picked up a large number of followers since coming out, becoming, unwittingly, the first generation of people who know me only as a woman, only as Niamh – Hi! I’m Niamh. I’m a trans woman who lives outside of Detroit, Michigan. I work in the automotive industry, and I am a huge soccer person. I watch soccer. Support soccer. I even run a small co-ed team, which shares this website with me.

Come with me, on a journey.

Setting a scene…

On August 28th of 2020, I publicly came out as a trans woman after it being a known secret to those closest to me for about two months before that. Four days before, though, was my rebirth – my first dosage of HRT, where I, personally, mark the beginning of of my transition. It is on that day that my personal calendar first uses “Niamh” and not “Nick”. And thus, the 24th of February marks six months.

But six months of what?

Being a woman? Being trans? Being out?

If nothing, the heart of the trans experience for me is existential, reflective, and deeply, deeply personal. This might not be very profound or new to print, but it is to me. A lot of things taken for granted, institutions and whole constructs once assumed monolithic and immutable, crumble away, revealing the sawdust and glue concoction that it was the whole time.

It is easy, and almost necessary, to then scour your life for the little breadcrumbs of trans-ness. As if that would be enough to make it okay under the immense pressure of cis-heteronormative expectations. We are almost expected by cis folks to say “I always knew,” when, at least in my case, is it’s more “it makes sense in retrospect” and that’s half true.

I think I really came to understand I was trans when I was nineteen. I remember one summer getting involved in what could’ve been a fling, if I wasn’t such a fuck head, and someone remarked that they thought the target of my crush was either bi and only interested in women at the time, or a lesbian. And I distinctly, even twelve years later, remember the pang of thinking “I’d transition for her.” After that it was a rough twelve years, internally. I thought about transitioning a lot.

And when you live in a cis-heteronormative society, getting information, real, honest information can be extremely difficult. Even just learning that trans people were a thing, was a long, arduous journey. Movies like Dressed to Kill or Silence of the Lambs painted a picture of the never-passing psychopathic trans woman, while Ace Ventura: Pet Detective only really gets transphobic in the end, but at least the psychopathic trans woman passed, so progress? A movie that I’ve not seen, only read about and heard jokes and comments about is The Crying Game, which at least from the synopsis seems to be more sympathetic to trans women. I mean she only gets smacked and the protagonist pukes, but they make up and become close? Woo?

The list for trans men is significantly shorter, and if I could venture a guess it’s because trans women are considered significantly more dangerous to society by the cis majority. If you are interested, a more complete list of such films can be found here, but those mentioned above where, for a long time, the “truth” about trans people to me.

You’re not broken. You can’t be trans.

A second wind of “truth” came with my access to the internet and through that, access to pornography. And thus, truly, I start to take an active role in my own journey. Where before I absorbed through osmosis, now I could seek out, explore, and consume on my own.

Pornography is a place fraught with the male gaze. A cis hetero male gaze to be exact, and in 2003 the portrayal of trans women rarely worth exploring. At best she is an oddity, a strange woman-shaped object with a penis who exists to fuck as a man would. At the worst, a projection of a failure of masculinity. A man reduced to a woman. To be fucked, taken, as a woman should.

The exception, of course, is Japanese futanari, which for those of you so uncultured to not consider hentai art, are anime(?) women with penises. And while I shall spare the normies the debate on whether she must have testicles, or must have a vagina, the critical understanding is futanari are almost universally attractive women who have a little bit more. And isn’t that weird? Attractive women with penises? Isn’t it, for lack of a better word, transgressive? Isn’t it disgusting that these women with penises feel attractive? Are taken as attractive? Are sexual and enjoy themselves?

Well, that was the opinion of sites like 4chan, and it was clear that there were two sorts of folks who enjoyed trans pornography – trans people (and eggs) and people who openly hated trans people and mocked the eggs relentlessly.

(Aside: A egg, for the unaware, is someone who is questioning their gender, or is otherwise a trans person who hasn’t come out to themselves.)

Once there was an active thread at the top of which was an image of two trans people: a trans woman and a trans man. Both were shining examples of their chosen expression – the woman curvy and beautiful, with long flowing hair and a large bosom; the man stout and strong, hairy with a thick beard and biker tattoos. The “catch” was that neither had undergone GRS, that is colloquially “bottom” surgery. The image urged users to pick which one you’d have sex with and then defend why it wasn’t gay.

You’re already dealing with internalized misogyny.

Here, I’ll even pause so the trans folks can vent for a second and you cis-hets will probably take a moment to consider the question yourself.

Obviously for OP in a place like 4chan, there was no right answer. You were broken regardless. Whether you were a faggot defending having sex with a dude with tits and a dick, or a faggot defending having sex with a dude with a hairy chest and a beard – you were broken. And you should kill yourself.

The suggestion or the push to kill one’s self is one that pops up a lot, when you are trans. If you have ever seen 41% mentioned around trans folk, especially aggressively, that is the percentage of trans people who attempt suicide when not in the presence of a supporting family. Being tortured literally to death is a statistic that is thrown into our faces as a joke. A snide comment that perhaps we should just end it all. It’d be so much easier. And… it’s not like you’ll ever pass, right?

When I was nineteen, going on twenty, and staring up into the ceiling of my sister’s old room, repurposed to be a guest room while I had been away at Purdue, I really thought about it. The idea of transitioning was tempting, and with it brought great worry and doubt. But also excitement? But no. You’re not broken. You can’t be trans. And yet these thoughts persisted. I mean, something so innocent put it in there. The idea of being a woman and being thought of as attractive by other women was exhilarating. If only I could reach out and pluck it.

“If only” is a phrase trans people say to themselves a lot, I fear. If only I had known sooner. If only I had started sooner. If only I had supportive friends and family. If only I had more money. If only I had better insurance. If only I had known what it was. If only I had known it was even possible.

I was on my journey.

It took a long time to draw the line between knowing what trans people were, and what I was feeling. The first problem, of course, is that being trans is an deeply personal and subjective journey. While some thought patterns are shared or more common than others, there’s really no way to just say “yes, you’re trans” after a brief discussion or a night of reading. It takes a certain level of internalization. And I’m sure, even as I write this, that this is where a divide begins. A divide between those who grew up before the 2010s and those who grew up afterwards.

The difference is that younger folk have grown up not just with the internet, but a mature internet – that is “mature” as in a fully-realized and developed tool. Queer spaces have not just been carved out, but they flourish, and in them you can quickly find many others sharing the same strange feelings of incongruity as you. Even if they don’t match 100%, after reading ten, twenty, a hundred stories, the sum total of overlap begins to build a picture of a new you.

Of a happy you.

And so after over a decade of toying with it, of thinking and hemming and hawing I was really running out of room and increasingly I felt like I was running out of time.

My egg finally and utterly shattered one night while reading a comic on a subreddit for eggs, a place where people coming to terms with being trans would share silly memes, trying to bring a bit of light to a rather stressful and confusing part of our shared struggle. The comic said something along the lines of “If you’re putting off transitioning because you’re afraid of not being a pretty girl – you’ve already accepted that you’re a girl. You’re already dealing with internalized misogyny.”

It was almost instant. Reading the words and it just clicked.

And I realized there was no going back. The boulder was rolling down the hill. I had been pushing it up and over the hump for twelve years. I stood from atop that awful hill and watched as it got away from me, and then after a few seconds, realized that I was expected to follow it and so clumsily at first began running down the hill after it, struggling to catch up.

COVID and the resulting stay-at-home orders have brought discord and pain to so, so many but I sat there, watching the She-Ra on netflix with Brigid, and I could feel it welling up. This amazing chance had dropped onto my lap. I could have like four or five months to transition completely in private while maintaining my job and income. And it kept getting pushed back! Further and further! I might even have a whole year.

It took me multiple weeks to come out to Brigid.

I had told Brigid multiple times of my feelings of genderqueerness, my concerns with transitioning, but I told her that I had thought about it and did not want to do it. She’s always been supportive of my decisions and made nothing of it, though once she did ask if I was interested in dressing more femme and at the time I was screaming “yes!” in my head, but declined, citing what now I recognize as gender dysphoria as why I couldn’t.

But there were multiple times, as we were sitting in bed before going to sleep, that I could feel the urge and drive building to just tell her, and then… I couldn’t.

And it happened over and over.

Then, finally, one morning in late June we were making coffee before catching a few episodes of She-Ra and I barely managed to squeak out the words “I want to transition.”

I honestly don’t remember much from the rest of that conversation, other than Brigid saying “Okay.” After that it’s really all just a blur.

On facebook and twitter I came out as a trans woman, beginning a new era in my life that has brought with it drastic changes.

Not even just that day, rather the next few months went by very quickly as I prepared to come out, start HRT, and at least try speaking with a therapist. After so long of just thinking about it meant that when the time came, I was running, sprinting through whatever popped up. After meeting with a GP and some bloodwork, and some day-of mix-ups at the pharmacy, on August 24th at roughly five o’ clock on a Monday evening, I had my first dosage of HRT. 4mg of Estradiol and 100mg of Spironolactone. I took all three pills at once and regretted that by the end of the night, as it was a bit much for my stomach to process.

The next morning I took one of the estrogen pills and the spironolactone. Nausea came and went through the day and again at night, it spiked, but it was fading. Whether it was the pills or anxiety, I will never really know. It doesn’t even really matter at this point. I was on my journey. And four days later I came out to the world.

Six Months Later…

Niamh. That’s my name. Sometimes I need to remind myself. You refer to yourself as one thing for so long it’s not easy to get over. Same with pronouns. I’ve exclusively used she/her/hers since coming out, but still in my head, my ego, uses the wrong name, the wrong designations because it had for thirty-one years. I correct myself every time. I owe myself that much.

When I first came out to Brigid, one of her first questions was what did I want to do about my name and my initial reaction was to keep at least “Nick”, arguing at the time that it was unisexual for both Nicholas and Nichole.

But the more I thought about it the more that rang as false. I already desperately wanted to change my middle name, which I had grown over the years to loathe, despite using it in a professional sense for quite a while. This is, after all, N H Kendall dot com. There is another Nick Kendall, a professional violinist, who hogs all that precious, precious SEO.

It didn’t take long, but I quickly came to the conclusion I really did want to change my name. I wanted to keep my initials, I knew that much. I wanted to have feminine names. I wanted to celebrate my Irish and German heritages if I could. Niamh is a very traditional Irish name meaning “brilliant” or “radiant”, pronounced like NEE-uhv or NEEV; I prefer the first. Golden-haired Niamh was also one of the Queens of Tír na nÓg, the Land of the Young, a name for the Celtic otherworld. For my middle name I chose another older, more traditional name Henriette, and as of writing, have chosen to pronounce it in French. Is it a shout out to my home – Detroit? Is it a stab at the H I carry, marking bound to my father and his fathers and fathers back to the 1800s? To leave it unpronounced? You tell me. It’s a little and a lot of both. It’s also just pretty.

Briefly I considered ditching my last name, a name that I’ve actually used as a first name for quite a while as it is, a woman’s name. That, however, was a step too far in the end.

The sudden shift is a common feeling now, as my transition progresses. Nothing is sacred anymore. Any feeling or nudge, any deeply held conviction is up for reconsideration. And really, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Aren’t we supposed to be reflective on ourselves? Reimagine and rebuild ourselves from time to time?

For me, one thing I was immediately interested in confronting was my sexuality. For a lot of trans people there is a period of “Am I sexually attracted to this person? Or do I want to be them?” And once you start on the road to being the gender of your choosing, what really were you feeling? It’s complex and difficult, but I think in a way it’s both necessary and inevitable.

Coming to terms with being a woman also involved unloading a lot of toxic masculinity, which had been smothering me for so long. Simultaneously, coming to terms with being a trans woman who as of writing is still interested in keeping and maintaining the functionality of her penis forced myself to ask some pretty critical questions and confront my internalized transphobia. The process would go like:

If I consider myself a woman, why don’t I necessarily consider other trans women women?

I do! And there’s a lot of hot trans women out there! I’d totally hook up with one (marriage aside)!

Even if she had a penis?

Well yeah.

Then what about men?

Well… I’m not sexually attracted to men.

What if they were non-binary?

I guess that depends?

Depends on what?

The “catch” was that neither had undergone GRS, that is colloquially “bottom” surgery. The image urged users to pick which one you’d have sex with and then defend why it wasn’t gay.

I began to appreciate that my sexuality was not a monolith. It wasn’t a single facet of who I found attractive or even who I was. And once I was able to understand that, I was better able to relate to the people around me and understand my own feelings much better. The way I came to think of it was what I had been assuming was “sexuality” was actually three scales that I could use independently of each other, sort of like a character stat diagram. The three arms were: aesthetic attraction, romantic attraction, and sexual attraction.

Aesthetics are how people look. Who do I find “pretty” to look at? Who do I aesthetically appreciate. Luckily we were watching Bridgerton at the time, and what I discovered was that I found men, women, and non-binary folks as potentially aesthetically pleasing. Thus, at least on this one axis, I was pan.

Romantic attraction, though, is a bit harder to define. For me, it’s who would I stay up with all night discussion life while nude and drinking wine. Who would I, in the absence of sexual intimacy, be willing to hang my arms around and get kisses and fervent glances from. And it’s as wishy-washy as it sounds. There’s a lot of “depends”, but in the end it’s more of a femme thing – women, and femme-presenting non-binary. I’d be willing to call this “pan with preferences” or “pan lesbian”.

Sexual attraction is who do I want to do the dirty with. I think this is the one that most folks will get immediately and it is here that I remain the most steadfast. I’m solely attracted to women and femme-presenting non-binary folks at a purely sexual level. Over-all, I think this puts me in the “pan lesbian” category, but generally I just use the label “lesbian” because if I’m honest, most of the gents falling into that first category are like celebrities at their peaks. I am almost certainly going to continue to reëvaluate this over the next six months.

Finally, I think I’m ready to reach the part that I’m sure brought you all here. The T&A. My six months on HRT. I hope if nothing else, what my cis readers take away is there is so much more to transness and transitioning than the medical side of things. It is a deeply emotional beast. And while it is easiest to measure the time I have been taking some pills and now the injections, my timeline is more about the firsts that come with wearing dresses, presenting feminine in public, being ma’amd, my ever growing, ever changing relationship to the LGBT community, the trans community in specific, and my growing confidence in myself.

HRT is prescribed as a cure to gender dysphoria. That’s what the paperwork says. So let’s start there.

The idea of being a woman and being thought of as attractive by other women was exhilarating. If only I could reach out and pluck it.

Gender dysphoria is a vicious monster. For some trans people it’s extremely visceral, a sort of gender-based panic attack that can leave them unable to function. For me it was very different, almost more insidious, I felt nothing.

And the problem with feeling nothing is that it’s harder to realize that you’ve been carrying it around for years and then decades. When it did actually manifest, it was often in the small things. Like being uncomfortable when my wife ran her hands through my chest hair. It was hard to pin down, easy to ignore, and thus it was more successful in evading treatment.

Explaining gender dysphoria to cis people is difficult, to say the least. More than feeling ugly, or mismatched, more than the awkwardness and the emptiness. It is much worse than the sum of its parts. Draining you physically and spiritually. And at the emptiness, you flail powerless to beat it back. You try to grow buff. You wear a beard for seventeen years. You hope and you pray that you’ll get better, that one day you’ll feel right.

And pray I did. One of the only times I prayed to a higher power ever was in early puberty when I effectively grew very small, but clearly unmasculine breasts. I prayed for puberty to carry me to the other side, or at least take them away. But no dice. I was forced to undergo a very awkward puberty, left without words or definitions to express my horror to those charged with caring for me.

Since starting HRT and presenting female, though, I have felt a strange and intoxicating rush that I can only assume is self-esteem and body confidence. I have found it so much easier to be happy. And I love standing in front of the mirror.

I love the physical changes to my body. Losing the beard and lasering it off bit by bit. I love my little titties and I love that HRT has sucked all the fat from my neck and collar and stuffed it all into my ass and thighs. I’ve lost about 12# or so, mostly to muscle loss in my arms, which are slimming. My fingers too are slimming down, as my jewelry held in place with little plastic forms make me aware. I love makeup. I love getting dressed up and putting together outfits. I love presenting a more honest me. I would even risk saying that I love my voice.

The confidence that has come with embracing my femininity has been utterly infectious. I revel in every cry, every glance of my curves, knowing that all the hair on my back and chest is thinning away. And the hair on my head is so much longer, I can twirl it in my fingers and Brigid can comb it for me at night. The confidence is so powerful, in fact that even with spironolactone essentially completely suppressing my libido, I feel much more sexual in a way. I also feel so much more in control.

For decades I suffered from a libido that was completely out of control, to the point of negatively effecting my life and my ability to even just interact with people. I’ve described the problem as fueling your Ford Fusion with nitro-methane for thirty years before someone finally comes up to you and says, “You can just fill the tank with unleaded gas.”

And there’s the crux.

Testosterone was clearly, clearly not the fuel I was meant to be running on. Physically and mentally, it was killing me. Estrogen is right, though. Everything just works better.

For the first time in over thirty years I feel good.

And so, the end for now…

There is a chance this was not an easy read for you. And that’s how it should be, honestly. It was not necessarily easy to write, but it was, all things told, cathartic. Transitioning has also been very hard and also very easy, and very cathartic all the same. I don’t think there are words I could ever string together to completely convey how right all of this has felt.

I can only keep insisting that you listen. That you read. That you internalize in yourself the words that trans people put out for you. And that you, more than anything, believe us.

In six months I shall return to this and perhaps go deeper into the physical and mental changes I’ve been seeing as well as comment on my experiences as a trans person out and about, if being out and about is something we can do by August. But I felt it necessary to set the stage, to dig to the root of my own transness which even still might be enigmatic to you all.

Hopefully you continue with me on this journey. I look forward to sharing my HRT-versary with you all. If we are diligent, it could even be in person!