It’s such a tiny little thing. I can’t tell if it went down or not.
The other pill I take, the testosterone-suppresser, is pretty large, and I know I swallowed that. But the estrogen pill is the size of an overgrown flea, and I think it got backwashed. My first day, my second dosage of taking these things and I’m already screwing it up. Also, it’s four in the morning.
It’s been a sweet Friday night, to be sure. I went to a reading, then to a beer garden, then to an apartment rooftop in Astoria with friends I haven’t spent enough time with. Getting lost on the way back to the subway, I drunkenly stumbled into a bodega for directions, left and got lost again, eventually lurching into a cab after half an hour of stumbling and slurred “HEY CAN YOU PLEASE TAKE ME TO THE ‘N’ TRAIN?” after which he dropped me off at the station, two blocks away. (And graciously refused payment. What a guy.)
After an hour on the subway, I am home, still somewhat drunk, quite tired, and I’ve backwashed my estrogen into a fifty-ounce bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. And now to be sure if it’s entered my bloodstream, I have to drink the entire thing, because while potentially skipping a dose wouldn’t medically be a huge deal at this point, it seems insufferable to me to be foiled on the first day by a fizzing tower of plastic.
In years prior to this moment, I’d be walking down the street, thinking about the reading I should be doing, or whether I should eat at that burrito cart three days in a row, or how I should call my grandparents, or any one of innumerable daydreams, and then I’d see a girl. And she’d be tall, or she’d be short. She’d be wearing jeans, or a spiffy-looking skirt, or a loose dress, and she’d be smiling, sneering, laughing, trembling. Reading a book, talking with a clerk, yelling at friends, eating a sandwich. And it was like a mental clothesline, Shit, I’d think, looking with a longing was not even remotely sexual, Shit. I wish I was her. I wish I had her body, a girl’s body. Shit. It happened more and more often, and soon it began to happen every hour of every day. Shit. What’s wrong with me what’s wrong with me. Shit. Every trans person experiences gender dysphoria in markedly different ways, and often in ways more intense and painful than mine, but that’s what the psychiatrically professional term “gender identity disorder,” means to me. Ah! Shit.
While this would often be incapacitatingly exhausting (You were born the wrong way motherfucker. You’re sunken in this stupid boy’s body. You’re doomed forever) most of the time it was just annoying. Right, thanks for the reminder, brain, I hate being a man. You’re an asshole. I wish you’d give this a rest. Now then. Do I pick up eggs for a bowl of ramen or is it a sandwich night? And then the next morning I’d disrobe to take a shower, catch sight of my naked body in the mirror, and put my head against the wall.
It started mid-way through high school. I wore red shimmering dresses borrowed from amused girlfriends, pretending it was for shock value (an aspect it’s impossible to deny I enjoyed, given my mature propensity to greet the yell of “You faggot!” with “Fuck yeah, you want some, big boy?”) I also bought muted, flowing, hippie Tibetan skirts, claiming I just liked skirts, no deeper issues here. I was liberated enough to wear what I liked, don’t you know.
In middle school, a boy sat across from me on the bus every day and told me I was gay. He’d amble over and scrunch into the seat next to me and tell me I was worthless, gay. He’d tell me no one would ever believe anything I said because I was gay. I was gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. In some ways, publicly dressing in those clothes was not only an avenue for delicious shock value, but also a way to rebuke the boys like him, to leave that seat on the bus. I’m a straight dude who loves being a straight dude, and I like wearing dresses, I told myself, fuck any homophobe who thinks that’s not possible.
But I also riffled through my mother’s makeup drawers that year in high school, trying to find things to try on, in the solitude of my house, knowing somehow this was about more than finding skirts comfortable or making any sort of point.
Maybe that’s all part of the reason, indeed, why I didn’t really let myself say the words “I wish I had been born a girl,” until I was nineteen, just after I’d moved to Portland, Oregon. Given the terrifying implications of that thought, I experimented with compromises that didn’t involve transitioning. I bought more skirts. I shaved a lot of body hair. Portland’s the kind of place where rainbow bumper stickers outnumber cars, so besides occasional street harassment I was able to do this without much worry for my safety.
I learned how to put on mascara, and by “put on” I mean “smudge.” I bought women’s underwear that was too small, and my privates gleefully popped out and clacked around like maracas. I bought sleeveless dresses that made my arms look like tree trunks, tufts of armpit hair poking out from the sides. I even fried off my beard with laser hair removal, thinking, well, if I just embrace all these ways of looking feminine, that’ll be fine, then I’ll be okay, I don’t have to go that far. It wasn’t an awful time, really, the experimentation was probably healthy. But “compromise” is an odd word. A lot of positive and negative connotations.
Some weeks, I’d decide I was probably going to transition. Therapists got called, hormone info was researched. Venus razors were stockpiled. And some weeks I’d stuff all the skirts at the back of my closet, tell the therapist it was my last session, let my leg hair grow again. I bounced around. One week I told a friend, as we failed in assembling a hookah on her porch, that I was almost certainly going to become a girl at some point, and the next week I decided, sitting on a friend’s couch watching TV, that I’d probably never do it.
But most of the time I didn’t make a firm decision one way or another, I just lived in this space of being a feminine man. There was a lot of therapy involved. My best friends heard a lot of different versions of my plight. It was all very confusing, except for the Ah! Shit moments on the street, which were clear, and rarely went away.
In my last year in Portland, I was dressing in women’s clothes most of the time, working at a bookstore that didn’t mind me doing it, and dating a girl I’ll call Mikayla, who not only accepted the whole business but, bless her heart, found it attractive and loved me for it. The Ah! Shit moments grew even more frustrating during this time._ Jesus_, I thought, aren’t the clothes good enough? Isn’t the love of my amazing girlfriend good enough? Isn’t it good enough that the waitress at that crepe place addressed us with “Hello, ladies”? Isn’t this male body good enough to clothe and walk around with? Aren’t I lucky enough with this shit shit—
Now I live in New York City. I’ve been here for over a year, I’m in graduate school, Mikayla and I have parted ways, I still wear skirts and dresses, I’ve gotten a little better at the mascara business, and my underwear actually fits me. It’s been ten years since I rode with that boy on the bus. A part of me still wishes him pain, and another part of me hopes he’s made some gay (maybe even trans?) friends by now. And I’ve begun to take hormones, the knowledge of which has muted the Ah! Shit moments a bit, a relief that is frankly awesome.
It’s scary too, because I wonder what will happen if the physical changes I’ll undergo won’t be satisfying. “There are certainly some people,” my current therapist told me, “for whom being the other sex doesn’t live up to the fantasy.” (Not to mention, indeed, the discrimination and the violence that crushes against both women and trans people, that can make a situation like mine really appear ludicrous.) It’s no secret that a dream, kept locked for years, doesn’t always live up to the dreamer’s expectation, but neither is it a secret that to keep dreams locked up is a fearful way to live. And less is it a secret that living in fear blows some serious ass.
It’s a little bittersweet, saying goodbye to this fully male body of mine. It doesn’t seem to be a bad one, as male bodies go. It’s six-foot-one, decently strong, average frame, well built. With the exception of acne scarring on its back from an epic battle won thanks to Accutane, its skin is decently unblemished and not that oily. In my junior year of high school, it helped me tie for third place among the annual anonymous poll of female drama students for “Guy you’d want to spend your life on a desert island with.” Unless I’m completely oblivious, it’s seemed to please my lovers. It’s not the hottest thing around, but it’s a good sturdy model, and it works for everybody, except for me.
Little of this is on my mind now, chugging brackish, warm Diet Dr. Pepper, I’m just trying to ingest that tiny fucking probably-dissolved estrogen pill so I can end my night. Earlier on in the day, a little bit after taking the first dosage, there was an odd, light sensation in my body, a warm tingle I couldn’t really place. It was probably a placebo effect. I’m okay with that. I’m going to finish this stupid bottle of soda, pick up a book, get into bed, and that’ll be the first day. Glug.