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.