Bread and Purple Flowers Too

2011 May 30

Purple Flower

One of the purple flowers that lines the street outside my apartment.

I have recently been contemplating an unexpected state of affairs. It started on May 13th when my doctor doubled my estrogen prescription, but first it might help to understand what I experienced when I first started taking estrogen back in October. Along with increased emotional sensitivity and ineffable changes to my perceptions I experienced euphoria. However, it was not long before I felt myself return to my usual depressed state. So when I started taking more estrogen on the 13th I was hoping to effect changes I would see in the long-term—increased breast growth, for example. It did seem that the estrogen had lifted my spirits, but this time the feeling was brief and not so pronounced, and it soon became a memory tucked away in the attic of my brain. However, after some days had passed I started noticing differences. One was that flowers captivated me like never before. Throughout most of my life I cared about no flowers besides red roses and carnations, but suddenly the purple flowers that line my street made my turn my head like they were Amber Heard. This change, while welcome, was nothing compared to the change in my emotional experience. It was not the euphoria I experienced in October, but my mood was noticeably elevated independent of external influences. Before it was as though I was hearing a continuous series of dissonant sounds that was always present, no matter how favorable the circumstances were. Now a symphony has replaced the dissonant sounds, and the harmony has soothed me even when I am at my lowest. I feel as though for the first time in my life I know contentment.

It will be a rare post in which I substitute discussion of my delight over purple flowers with my usual rage over social injustice. For one thing I think long-time readers would think my blog had been hijacked. More importantly, my happiness is all the more reason for me to fight the oppression of trans women. I should not have had to wait thirty-three years punctuated by self-injury and hospitalization for depression to experience what most cis women will know their whole lives. What’s more, for various reasons many trans girls and women who would benefit from hormone therapy have not yet started receiving it. Maybe they live in fundagelical Christian homes, where their parents hope to “pray away” their daughters’ gender identities instead of giving their children the respect they deserve; maybe they are locked away in one of the vast majority of US states that deny trans prisoners hormone therapy; maybe economic circumstances prevent them from buying what ought to be freely available; or maybe transphobic feminists have convinced them that they are infiltrators or worse, if they transition. Whatever the obstacles are, we cannot smash them too soon. Every woman deserves to have the emotional stability that I have now.


Nothing More, Nothing Less

2010 October 22

On the 19th I started taking estrogen tablets. While this has mostly been a cause for celebration, I’m dreading the moment someone says, “Congratulations on your first step towards womanhood!” I’d like to pre-empt this now. Taking estrogen never could have been my first step towards womanhood for the simple reason that I have always been a woman (or a girl). On the 18th I was a woman without estrogen, now I’m a woman with estrogen, and in my mind there is very little difference between the woman that I was and the woman that I am.

I once stumbled across a remark a cis woman made—something along the lines of, “Wearing women’s clothing and having surgery doesn’t make anyone a woman,” though her choice of words was much cruder. This wasn’t anything new, but it stood out to me, because she chose to offer her words to the masses in the comment thread of a news story about the murder of a trans woman. Even if I had wanted to contribute to the derailing of the thread, I wouldn’t have bothered to respond to someone so unabashedly callous. But if I had responded, I would have said, “Exactly! It is not clothes or sex organs that make a woman but what’s in her head!”

This is not to say that I don’t feel closer to women while I’m on estrogen. I’ve already had a number of new experiences on estrogen. That is, I’ve had experiences that are new to me but not at all new to most of the women who have walked the face of the earth, and contemplating this is nothing short of wonderful. But then I also felt closer to women when I found my new voice. When I started doing voice work, I immediately felt a connection to all the trans women who had gone before me, struggling to make the sounds that resonated with them, and especially to the trans woman who showed me that the voice I wanted was within my reach. Finding my voice remains the moment of my transition that I’m the most proud of, because it required me to work under daunting circumstances, and all the immediate support I received was from other trans women. But I wouldn’t count this as my first step towards womanhood either. Trans women, like all women, can only succeed when we don’t try to obtain what we already have.

If you feel like being happy for me, then by all means be happy. I for one am ecstatic. And if you’re happy because you understand that this is nothing more and nothing less than a milestone in my efforts to have the body that I want, then I can know you empathize and be all the more elated.