A friend who was travelling in South America saw a beautiful card that reminded her of happy pictures she’d seen of me on a long ago holiday. Thinking about the difficult times I have been having in recent years, she thought receiving the card might cheer me up. I was pleased to get the card, but I wasn’t unhappy before I got it. I realized how important it is for me to share my present happiness. We tend to focus on the difficulties that transgender individuals face, but really, as we acknowledge and affirm our true nature we also become more and more contented with ourselves and with life. The unhappiest times are usually before we transition, when we are hiding or in denial.
My self discovery has not been achieved through theory. It’s a practical process, one of trial and error, with success measured by emotional rewards. I tried very hard to be a man. I felt like an impostor, and I was sure that people could sense that I was not authentic. I hated what I felt was my withdrawal into an emotionally repressed male shell. I felt I emerged only as a lover, blossoming in the intimacy of the bedroom, but my feminine ecstasies would eventually turn off my heterosexual female partners. Later in life, experiencing the elation of submitting to a masculine lover, I began to understand that I was more female than I had ever admitted. I began to dress as a woman all the time, and I took great pleasure in creating lovely combinations of skirts, blouses and scarves every morning despite being harassed by men at work. I enjoyed a new inner strength while feeling gentle and sensitive, much nicer than toughness and cynicism.
It’s not all joy, being trans. The hard men at work, uncomfortable at their mixed reactions to my new softness, ganged up, lashed out, cornered and threatened me. I was traumatized and I became ill and couldn’t work. My wife and old friends were repulsed by my agony, embarrassed by my inexpert attempts at female presentation. My employer decided that it was easier to fire me than try to clean up the rotten mess that had been uncovered. My first psychiatrist suggested my unease with life and the male role had to do with a chemical imbalance. His chemicals, however, caused an agony of trembling anxiety. I needed something positive to guide me. Walks, scented baths and soft beautiful clothes brought me joy. Expressing my joy through dance encouraged physical, mental and spiritual health. I turned my back on regret and recrimination and followed the joy.
The most profound and enduring improvement for me has come since beginning hormone replacement therapy. I think the hormones have made it easier for me to feel secure as a woman. I have found a lasting equanimity. Equanimity. It’s beautifully simple and apt as a description of what is different between my hormone adjusted female self and the male person I used to try to be. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines equanimity as; “Mental calmness, composure and evenness of temperament, especially in a difficult situation”, as in; “She accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity”.
Finding it easier to express empathy, being able to love myself, and my sensation of equanimity are some of the things I find different about myself living as a woman. I feel at peace, contented and optimistic most of the time. This is a dramatic change from my previous state of being, locked in a shell of obsessive cynical pessimism and subject to angry surges of testosterone induced adrenaline. Everyday life is now not so hard for me. Instead of dreading a new day, waking up and forcing myself to climb a forbidding mountain, I can now enjoy one step at a time and appreciate the changing views. I no longer feel I need to get to the top. I admit I need to rest when I’m tired, because I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not invincible. I can change my mind and let go of goals and expectations if they prove too much for me.
Friendships have taken on new meaning, and though it makes me sad to have lost some friends, other friendships have flourished with my newly found appreciation for each person’s special strengths. I’m more interested, and get pleasure from asking questions and listening. I have a greater tolerance for the inevitable differences and incompatibilities among people. I find I engage more openly and honestly with friends. My friends seem more interested in being with me. I have friends of many genders, but most are women. Their acceptance of me as a woman has given me joy. I enjoy the sensuality of dance and play. I don’t feel sexually interested in my friends, and I’m glad for the operation that has freed me from testosterone. Yet sex is still a pleasure. I’ve always been bisexual, but in recent years my fantasies have been of men, strong but gentle, solid, furry men. Free of the obsession with sex, I’m happy to know that it’s still possible.
My optimism has grown from a renewed faith in myself and joy in everyday life. I'm not always full of joy, but even in my frequent moments of tears I don’t lose hope, which is a huge improvement over previous years. Our society poses difficulties for transgender people, as it does for women, for the economically deprived and for the older job seeker. I find myself in the intersection of these oppressions. Sometimes it’s hard to get through the difficulties. I feel thankful for being alive, for being me. I like my new life, and I like myself. My new name, Miki, makes me happy. I feel sad about some of what I’ve lost, but it has become overshadowed by appreciation for what I’ve gained. I am sustained by the love of those in my family who have not rejected me. I am thankful for the joy of feminist sisterhood, and grateful for the kind acceptance of my male friends.
I wake up in the morning, and look forward to my life.