A Personal Update
Original Publication Date: 2018–03–04
I haven’t been in a writing mood for a while. Writing this post was a real struggle; I’ve had plenty of interesting post ideas, but no motivation to actually sit down and write. Amongst other things, I’d planned to begin a post series discussing the different pieces of art I found meaningful over the course of my US trip. I hope I can find the energy sometime in the future to start that series in earnest; while I’ve never really been an Art Person, I’d like to move at least a little in that direction. Only in the last 12 months or so have I actually figured out that I actually like art, and that I like going to art museums. It’d be nice to develop this enjoyment into a proper hobby, and for that to happen I’ll need to devote some time to actually thinking about it.
In any case, I figured I’d do another one of those update posts to ease my way back into writing. Writing about myself is quite easy, relative to other subjects. I suppose it’s narcissistic, but there’s not much point throwing away effective writing hacks. Plus, I think my life is reasonably interesting! Transgender people obviously aren’t all that common, which helps; if I wasn’t trans, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable posting life updates in long-winded blog form. Which, honestly, is a shame. Personally, I’d love to read similar style updates from people I know (COME ON PEOPLE! Be more narcissistic! Write about yourselves, please! Trust me, you’re all fascinating and deeply interesting in your own way!).
When I last wrote an update post, it was the middle of December. I was staying in a hostel in Denver with my three closest friends, and writing from the hostel’s combination bar/kitchen/common room. It was cold outside, and I’d just seen snow for the first time. I had a few things on my mind that wouldn’t go away; firstly, the fact I had barely any money left and there was still five weeks of the trip to go; secondly, the fact that I had a enormous mental block on going into the women’s restroom. Not just in the particular hostel we were staying, but in any public restroom. At the time, I don’t think I would have gone into the women’s if I’d been offered $20, or maybe even $50. It was TOO SCARY.
So, where am I at now? Well, I’m still concerned about money. I have something like $1700 in debt to my parents and sister to pay off, as a result of borrowing funds to survive the US. I received some bad news a few weeks ago — I’m ineligible for Centrelink support. I’d been hoping to receive some financial support; either on the grounds of being trans and living in an unsupportive environment (kind of a long shot, I know, but it was worth a try), OR via the Youth Allowance program, which I’d qualify for at the end of March by turning 22. But it turns out because my uni course is a postgrad course and “not strictly necessary for employment”, it isn’t covered by Centrelink. Which sucks! Over the course of 2017 I’d gradually got more and more excited about the prospect of receiving additional funds and not having to increase the number of KFC shifts I need to work. So yes, that piece of news was certainly a blow. It means I won’t be leaving home anytime soon.
What about trans stuff? Well, the women’s restroom is now my default (yay!). But I will use the men’s on occasion, especially if I’m unfamiliar with the specific bathrooms in question. Or, if the bathroom is small and only has a couple of stalls — I figure I would be more threatening in a more confined environment. The first time I went was a few days after I wrote that previously mentioned blog post; in late December at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, the former home of the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. My friends and I were watching a live edition of WWE Smackdown. After some really pointed stares when I visited the men’s early in the night, I decided to make my first attempt on the women’s that evening. I was strategic; going while one of the matches I didn’t care about was on, so as to minimise the number of people around. My plan worked, and I wasn’t confronted, yelled at or chokeslammed while in there, which was a BIG relief.
So, what else is happening in Trans Land? Well, before I started my medical transition, I’d hoped to pass as a woman after six months or less on hormones. I’m now at seven months; while I don’t pass, I regularly see rapid head turns and double takes; which, at this point, is more amusing than offensive. The tricky thing is that I’m not sure in which direction the double takes go — are people initially reading me as male and then updating to female, or vice versa? I don’t know! Although my male-ish sounding voice is definitely a major reason people read me as male, there have been plenty of occasions where people gender me as male before hearing me speak. So I know it’s not JUST my voice.
How is my voice doing, anyway? Well, I think it’s considerably higher than it was a year ago. My speaking and singing voices have shifted from “somewhere in between baritone and tenor” to “DEFINITELY tenor”. It’s tricky figuring out exactly where my voice is now and where it used to be because voices change depending on the context, and mine is no exception. For example, my voice at the drive-through at KFC is much deeper than the voice I use for conversation. While KFC voice is still deep enough that when I’m gendered at all I”m gendered male, I have no idea about what my voice sounds in general. What do I sound like if I’m at HJ’s buying a Stunner deal or getting a Frozen Coke? I don’t really know.
I’ve asked friends and family if they’ve noticed any changes, and the response is usually along the lines of “maybe a little…I haven’t noticed.” This doesn’t really square with the ongoing feedback from my pitch analyser app, which states I’ve definitely moved up. It’s hard to know what source of information I should predominantly trust. All I can really know for sure is that my voice is changing, and that the acts of talking and singing feel different to what they felt like in the past. I can feel myself resonating in my head when I talk, and less in my chest; simultaneously, I can hear myself pronounce words and sentences with an increasingly feminine inflection.
What else? Well, as of a few weeks ago, I changed my legal name (!!). This in turn allowed me to change my name at university. Last week was the first week back; it was scary doing introductions and icebreaker activities but then I’ve always found these sorts of activities anxiety-inducing. If anything, I was LESS nervous than in the past. Consistent with my General Trans Experience so far, everyone was polite and respectful (touch wood!). I felt far more comfortable than I’d imagined I would be; safe, but confident enough to ask questions in front of the class when something confused me.
The last year or so has felt like an unending list of difficult challenges; like a game sending an endless stream of enemies for you to defeat. Mentally I’d been preparing for the return to uni for months, and now that the first week is over I’m not quite sure what the next Big Challenge is. Things like Moving Out and Getting a Full-Time Job look menacing, but they’re also general challenges for people my age; nothing related to Trans Stuff. The way forward seems clearer and less littered with cages, mines and traps.