Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sound Mind-Troubled Moments

Bar Harbor Maine.  Its a beautiful place, especially on days when the air is clear like today.  So of course when my Dad suggested hiking, and my uncle selected Bubble Rock, high on Bubble Mountain, I was  ready to go.  So here I am, up on a mountain, and strangely, feeling really insecure despite the relative seclusion.

I look terrible.  My face has a hint of facial hair, as I'm due back for laser in a week.  Little patches around my chin and upper lip are just dark enough and close enough together to cause slight shadowing.  Very large carpenter jeans and a loose, black men's button up shirt drape my body, creating a gangly, figureless appearance.  My hair has been reduced to frizz by humidity, and is now mostly out of sight,  wound atop my head and covered with a ridiculously masculine Cincinnati Bengals ball cap.

 Traveling androgynous with people who consider me male can get dicey.  With every interaction there are all these questions.  Do these people see me as female?  Do they see me as male?  Are they trying to figure out what I am?  Am I embarrassing my Dad?  Trying to present as my own gender was out of the question, and being androgynous feels awkward, second guessing what everyone thinks, so this morning I decided to tip the scales of perception toward male, just for a day, to keep everyone comfortable and make interaction a little easier.  I hated the decision from the moment I made it, but there weren't any better alternatives.

Now, I'm hating the decision even more, as I sit on the mountain trying to enjoy the beautiful landscape while thoughts of my appearance and other people's perception keep slipping into my mind.  The climb up here was not good for my self esteem.  Almost immediately upon hitting the trail, a young couple caught up and passed us.  As I heard the first foot steps I turned for a glimpse, and my heart just sank.  The girl was dressed exactly I wished I could.  Shorts and a tank, only she pulls it off better than I ever could.  Shorter, curvier, just a very normal girl, living an active lifestyle with her boyfriend.

This quick passing stirred my emotions and left me feeling terribly insufficient and inferior.  But I was meant to be humbled further by the end.  The trail turned out to be a parade of such couples.

Still sitting here at the top, looking out over a placid lake far below, I replay the climb's emotional climax in my mind, trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with me.

It happened less than 1/3rd the way up.  Couples kept going by.  Except for my little group, that's all it was. One cute little couple after the other.  Then it happened.  We stopped at a flat section of rock with an interesting view when yet another couple happened by, only they stopped, and proceeded to ask Dad to take a photo of them.  The guy was gorgeous.  Maybe slightly younger than me, but still very cute, striking the perfect balance of boyish charm with a dash or rugged handsomeness.  His hair was dark brown, short and tousled, and he had just a touch of stubble.  Very athletic.  Kind, gentle eyes. Normally he would have had my full attention, but I was focused on his  girlfriend.

Like almost every girl up there, she was actually dressed for the hike, and pulled it off gorgeously.  There she was with her cute little outfit, near perfect body, and gorgeous boyfriend.  And here I was single,  vacationing with my parents, and climbing a mountain in summer, dressed like a male Seattle grunge musician.  She made me feel like such a loser.  Envy was just flaring. Yet at the same time, curiosity.  How much curvier was she than me?  How wrong is my body really?  What kind of shoes did she pick for this?  All these questions  could have been easily answered with a simple glance.

But I couldn't do it.  I just could not look in her direction.  The why is the crazy part.  In the wake of my insecurity and perceived inferiority, I had become hyper aware of my god awful masculine presentation. I just knew that she had to see me as a guy, and that if I looked in her direction for even a moment, that she would think I was attracted to her.  The idea of her writing me off as a guy was annoying, but bearable.  However, imagining this girl thinking privately "Ha! That goofy weird looking little guy is into me."  was just way too much for my pride to take.  I think my sanity was slipping a bit.  My inability to even look in her direction made me feel even more inferior.  So it became a catch 22.  With the idea of looking in her direction, or not, either making me feel bad, my brain basically started going in a feverishly panicked loop.  I settled on finding some other direction to look while the couple conversed with my Dad and Uncle.  I was afraid my envy and emotional turmoil was completely transparent, and I felt ugly and masculine besides.  I didn't want the girl to see me looking so hideously inferior, and I didn't want the guy to see me because next to his girlfriend I'm such a nothing.  I wanted to disappear.

In the end, the cute little couple finally struck a pose for the camera and I casually looked their direction for the first time since their arrival.  A very romantic choice.  She hugged up to his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.  His arms looked so strong, and his chest so solid.  Hurting my pride I even more, I realized that I wished I could be her.  I looked away.

He explained to my Dad that his camera doesn't have a viewfinder, because it was an expensive extra cost option. Hmm, the lack of a built in view finder, and the viewfinder being costly meant the camera was an expensive import like a Leica or something.  His implication that he didn't have loads of cash to waste on something as frivolous as a viewfinder was very humble.  Hmm, moneyed and humble.  She's a lucky girl indeed, I thought.

When they finally left, my nervousness started to fade, but my self esteem was just crushed.  In addition to my physical problems I was now reminded by this sudden frantic interval that I also have some kind of weird social anxiety that is probably completely unique to me.  How many ways can one person BE messed up?

Still sitting here at Bubble Rock I snap out of my reflection.  Its a major curiosity-a curiously rounded bus size rock sitting on a slick, sharply angled cliff face and balanced on assorted smaller rocks beneath it.  Its estimated that it has been here for over 10,000 years.  A glacial erattic.  Fascinating, but I'm focused on my insecurities.  I wish I had a mirror so I could see just how awful I look compared to all these other girls.  What are people seeing when they look at me?

I rise to leave and yet another couple is coming toward us.  They look to be in their fifties and sixties.  After a brief exchange, the husband continues for a closer view of the rock, and the wife chats up me and my uncle.  At first she is mainly talking to me, but my insecurities, inferiority complex and jittery social ineptitude left from the humbling experience farther down the trail have left me feeling to insecure to converse.  The added distraction of wondering how she perceives my gender further scatters my thoughts.  Again I find myself wanting to disappear.

While my uncle is carrying the conversation for a moment, I casually look for a place to sit, innocently picking a spot that puts him between us, so that she can't see me and I speak as seldom as possible.  She leans around my uncle to ask a question of me in particular.  "Isn't he getting awfully close to the edge?"

She is speaking of her husband.  Why didn't she ask my uncle?  Honestly I think she is wanting a woman's opinion.  A new surge of self confidence.  It's a big conclusion to draw, but I'm almost sure.  I mean really.  If you ask a man if someone is standing to close to the edge of a cliff, what's he going to tell you? :P Maybe I don't look that much like a man after all.  Now a let down.  What happens if she catches a glimpse of beard or sees my face at another angle and suddenly has to wonder what on earth she is talking to?  I remain mostly disengaged from the conversation.  Presenting like this, everything is just too much work.


Moral of the story?  Hmmmm.  Being caught visually between genders can be difficult.  Carrying on conversations with people who think you are a woman, at the same time as people who think you are a man, can be difficult.   Being an envious, childish, overwrought loser with an inferiority complex can be difficult.  :P

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A momentous July

I wrote a bit ago, while on vacation.  Maybe some of you read it before I deleted it, but in the end I decided it was just to long, and a little over dramatic. :P

So now I'm back to cover vacation and the time since really quickly.

First the vacation.  We drove to main with a truck and fifth wheel trailer to stay 6 nights by the ocean.  3 days driving each way, with 4 adults and a macaw inside a quad cab pickup sounds pretty hectic probably -  especially considering all the friction of a liberal semi-closeted pre-operative transexual traveling with conservatives.  Really things were mostly smooth though.

I had a minor break down finally from the tension on the day of arrival, and locked myself in the RV's master bedroom for a lot of the day.  Dad and I conversed by text and I got over a bit of the tension.  Dad said in that end, to just present however I felt the need to for now and not worry about the awkwardness, that everyone could handle it basically.  

Dad also said that though he doesn't understand my gender issues, that he does appreciate my love of adventure and the outdoors, photography, hiking and such, and that he hoped we could focus on the things we agree on.  We did manage to have a great time too!

Social interaction was interesting, outside my travel party.  It was the most masculine I had presented for a while.  All men's clothes from head to toe, though I don't layer shirts anymore.  Its just too hot!  Also, no makeup and very fluffy hair from the humidity.  

Still, it seems most days, people readily accepted me as female in stores and such.  At our first campground, the camp store worker called me a she in front of Mom and Dad.  That was the last time it ever happened in front of Mom and Dad, but I was ma'amed and addressed with correct pronouns frequently on the trip.  While occasionally I would meet someone who seemed uncertain of my gender who would avoid pronouns and titles all together, just as often people got it right despite the clothes.  In the entire 12 days I was never addressed as he or sir.

Since my return, things have been stressful.  Lots of work to do before summer ends, and very little time remaining to get things ready.  Plus we have went from four 17-24 year old male summer workers, to nine.  Of the original four, at least two seemed not to like me very much, and I've really hated having to deal with that all the time.  With the additional 5, its even worse.

Last Friday has a couple of examples of how awkward it has become. In the morning, I went to help one of the older, more professional acting workers.  We ended up at the same desk within a few feet of each other to look at a computer that needed redone, and suddenly he was getting all shaky and jittery.  I think if it had been an option, he would have ran away.  Its really hard to feel normal when people are that frightened of you.

Later the same day, the other tech, all the summer help and I were going to go to lunch in the next town over.  I was working in a different building for a while and returned to find everyone had already left.  When he came back after lunch the other tech told me he sent one of the workers to tell me they were leaving, and that he claimed to have done so.  So it seems he actually lied just to keep me out of the lunch gathering.

Last Monday I had another round of laser on my face.  I'm recovering well and I think it will prove effective.  As for now, the shedding hair is extra prominent, adding to my insecurities at work.  By the end of the week it should be getting better though.  I'm happy and doing well right now, though, just a little uneasy about my job situation.  All temporary though. :)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Impressions: A Week With New Presentation

Well, I have just finished a week with my new work look, and it's been pretty interesting.  For those who have missed previous posts, the new work look consists of basically whatever hair styling I feel like, whether it be tousled, a high pony tail or voluminous curliness,  accompanied by some fairly subtle and androgynous combination of men's and women's clothing, and a makeup look hinged on full mineral powder coverage, subtle color and mascara, and of all things, a hint of coral lip gloss with a glittery sort of effect.

You may find yourself asking "Why would anyone trans or otherwise do something like that?" Its a valid question.  And it keeps occurring to me, but I have no answer.  Conventional wisdom seems to be that its best to avoid androgyny at all costs, because its a bit confusing to some people, and tends to put people off.But for some reason, I just keep feel like publicly pushing my look a little bit more all the time.  I guess really its me trying to make a statement about who I am, without having to say it directly.

So, the response!  People have been pretty cool.  A few curious looks as mentioned earlier.  I've worked in very close proximity to my boss and he has seemed mostly comfortable and has not asked a single question.  One of the girls I work with definitely noticed, and at one point mentioned needing a screen cover for her phone because of makeup residue.  It felt like an invitation to open up, but I decided for now to keep quiet just a little longer.  I met the state's new consultants assigned to our high school for the first time Friday.  Its a moment I've feared, because if they turned out to be the kind of people put off by my appearance it could make the year very interesting.  But they were all very cordial.  Even warm really.  I was wondering about how they would read my gender, but I never got a chance to find out.  One of them asked upon hearing my last name if I was kin to Dad.  Someone who already knew me then introduced me as Dad's son at that point, breaking my little experiment. :P

First time Mom saw me, I think she actually smiled.  I say I think so, because its still a little hard to believe, considering her response to lots of earlier changes.  Her opinion means a lot to me and I hate seeing her upset over things I do, so it was a pretty major moment.  I just hope I'm not reading too much into it.

As for me, this has been very positive.  I am closer to the way I want to look on the average day than I have ever been, and still being accepted by those around me.  It has done wonders for my self esteem.  The insecurities that have plagued me are starting to lift.  I can talk to almost anyone now without that terrifying sense of inferiority making me want to run away.  :P

  My practice has been pretty limited in the past, and this has stretched my abilities Doing this every morning for a week has done wonders for my speed, as things are starting to become habit.  Also  I've never felt the need for this level of subtlety before.  So making sure shadows, and blushes blend evenly against the base color has become a priority, and I am now able to apply subtle, non clumpy mascara in moments.

Wednesday, I was out in a neighboring town doing freelance computer work.   Afterward I shed my over shirt, leaving me completely in gender appropriate clothing except my chunky Doc shoes and dropped by Wal-Mart.  I walked right past lots of teenage cliques chatting in the parking lot and in the store, but no one seemed to notice me.  No laughs, no long stares, no whispers.  I dropped by electronics for a moment, and looked at PSP games.  A kid in my section looked up as I walked past.  "Hey, do I know you?"

At first, I really doubted it.  I couldn't remember his face.  "Hmm, I... don't think so?"

"Do you work at Blah Blah Middle School?"

"Sometimes, yes."

"I do know you!"  he said with a smile.  

He seemed really cool about it.  Friendly and chatty.  

Now I'm off from work for a couple of weeks.  Two weeks with my parents in Bar Harbor Maine.  What will I do when I get back?  Kinda depends on how well laser holds up.  It will have been over 6 weeks between sessions after this.  If the facial hair is still light enough, I'll just keep up this presentation.  Going full time by december still feels within reach. :)