Dysphoria is a difficult feeling to explain, so too is whatever you might call the opposite. I’m talking about the feeling of looking into a mirror and seeing myself looking back, of when I was fourteen and stole a pair panty hose in a rare moment of experimentation, of presenting full fem and the calm confidence that chips away at my inhibitions, of being surrounded by other women who accept and recognize me for who I am. I don’t know what the word for this feeling might be. I might call it relief, affirmation or just plain magical.
I work from home but occasionally have to go into the office for a day. Yesterday was the first time I went in fully as myself, and though my heart was racing all day it was wonderful. The company I work for is pretty great, progressive and people focused, everyone there has been incredibly supportive. At lunch I sat with a number of female co-workers who were all very happy and excited for me, they really made me feel like one of the girls. Several people told me I’m pretty. When I was presenting male comments on my appearance barely registered, but as a woman they make me downright giddy 😀 something I wouldn’t have expected.
I’m well aware of how incredibly lucky I am, I’ve spent my life terrified of how people would treat me if they knew who I really was, and have come to learn that there is actually a lot of good in this world. That said I think it’s important to acknowledge the countless stories of poverty, violence and tragedy. My own teenage years weren’t exactly smooth sailing, and while there was certainly some harassment, incidents were few and far between. This was because by that age I had learned to make myself mostly invisible.
In elementary school I was picked on constantly, tormented by my peers at every opportunity throughout the day. In retrospect I can see many of the ways that I brought it on myself. In retro-retrospect that’s a load of crap and no one should be treated like that no matter how strange their behavior. The first social skill I focused on was how not to be noticed. In grade seven I moved from the french emersion program I was in to an english school by my house, mostly to get away from the people I went to elementary with.
My good friend Ash also switched to the english school but we were still only acquaintances at that point. We saw each other at cadets but rarely outside of that, and while I made a few friends I spent most lunch hours wandering the school grounds by myself. My grades were mediocre, I tested well but never bothered with homework. I was trying to figure myself out, and when that prospect became too uncomfortable I focused on trying to figure out the rest of the world.
One of the things I learned early about male behavior is that they will give no end of grief to anyone who doesn’t fight back. There were a few times someone saw me as an easy target and I had to prove I wasn’t. Eventually I did manage to make some really good friends that have stayed with me over the years, but of course even my friends were kept at arms length. I rarely talked to girls and never went to parties. My favorite classes were band, drama and art, each would prove significant in their own way.
In band class I learned to play the baritone saxophone, a skill that carried over into cadets and ultimately led to my joining the reserves. My high school drama class was heaven on earth, I had a great group of friends and the teacher was phenomenal. It was a very open environment and there was even a semi out lesbian in the class. Admittedly I couldn’t look her in the eye let alone talk to her. At the time I told myself my interest in her meant I was some kind of pervert, but the truth was I admired her a great deal.
The problem with drama is that it struck way too close to home. I loved it but that also meant peeling back the layers, one day my teacher observed that I was starting to come out of my shell. This comment filled me with a deeply irrational sense of panic. It was art class that I felt provided a nice balance of creative release and heteronormative appearance. After High school I spent a year working to save money then enrolled in the Alberta College of Art and Design.
My savings got me through most of the first year but without being able to work full time I couldn’t quite afford the second. I needed a job that paid well and only required evenings and weekends. Since I had all that cadet experience and even played in the sea cadet band it made sense to join the HMCS Tecumseh Naval Reserve band. They needed a bari-sax player and it seemed like a perfect fit. The money from basic would take a healthy dent out of my tuition and the regular pay would hopefully cover the rest. Too bad a problem with the paperwork meant that I missed out on the navy reserves basic training for that summer.
There turned out to be an alternative though, it was too late to get into the navy reserves, but the army comm squad still had another week open for enrollment. So I joined the 746 Comm Squad. There were rough spots throughout junior high and high school, obviously the chronic self harm was troubling. I had entertained a few suicidal thoughts but never more so that as a result of my experiences in the Comm Squad, though admittedly it had almost nothing to do with my gender identity. Well as I think this over maybe it did on some level. Anyway that’s a story for another day.
Oh and while I was in art school I came up with an idea for a book about a young artist who is one of a select few able to shape magical energy with her thoughts. Because of her artistic skill she has much more control over this energy that others with this same ability. It’s been going through my head for years and some of it has made it’s way to the printed word. The first chapter is posted under my menu. If anyone likes it I will post chapter 2 next week 🙂