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Field Notes In/On Transition

52 weeks on HRT

As of March 21st, I will have been on HRT, transitioning for 1 year. Though I feel like I’ve actually been very very slowly transitioning, my entire life. I am just a very slow learner, a late bloomer, etc. Only recently, within this year of transition do I feel like I’m coming into myself. As my body changes, I’m noticing, that I am much more in tune with my body (and how well or poorly I’m treating it most days) and this is really new for me, feeling grounded. Like I am where and when I’m supposed to be most days (good or bad)... 

I’m of the long education on Transition, It takes your whole life whether you shift your outer expression or not. Transition for me is more about coming out as myself who is not the man you might have thought she was, more so, than it is about claiming my innate womanhood. It took me 45 years to shake off manhood, it may take me a bit of time to find my way in the Aether of women. I can be patient, I’m a slow learner, but feel like I’m doing well in school (to extend that metaphor) for the first time not because the subject is easy, but that it is what engages me. 

Am I expected to in just a year or so of being (and feeling) free enough to actually present myself as I want to somehow gain what takes CIS women 45 years to learn? It often seems like that. I grew up a boy, into mostly boyish pursuits (though according to many older folk when I was a kid, all that reading, drawing I did was not very manly, and somehow girlish) as I was far too aware that any outward signs of being into anything out of boy-world would be met with some sort of hatred, possible violence. I was scared to death of being caught out, and I realize now I never really even knew what I was afraid would happen, other than a solid childish understanding that pretty much all my fantasies about how I would or could grow up were invalid, and would be met with disapproval from anyone who found out. I never actually got past the fear to even imagine what said punishment might be. All i knew was that my feelings, desires were “wrong.”

I used to cross dress in secret like most gender variant types, though I almost never added make-up into the mix as I was too scared at not getting it all off and being found out. This is still a bit of an issue, in terms of trying to get all the makeup with my current daily routine. I rarely feel like I’ve gotten all the stuff I layer on every morning, but I’m learning. I feel far more comfortable out and about in makeup that I ever thought I would/could be. This kind of blows my mind. Almost everything I was afraid of I seem to now be able to do without more than the occasional passing (pun intended) weirdness from folk who don’t get that a person dressed as a woman might actually prefer a female pronoun or two.

I sometimes feel like people who have seen me around the neighbourhood for years have barely even noticed any difference. Though if they haven’t seen me in a while, they usually comment on the weight loss, and the transition only if I bring it up. Probably, they are just being polite, but I’d rather some questions, and openness to pretending I’m not making the biggest possible change of life that a person can make. Likely because I don’t really see it so much as a change but as a long slow evolution of my self, inside and out.

I’m still that little boy who had an unnameable yearning to always stay in the kitchen with the women, rather than go out to the garage with the men. Occasionally over the years I would get that opportunity, to be a part of the women folk (when there were no men around) but I was so frightened; of myself, of the grownups, men or women that these moments were  fleeting at best. Moments of pleasure that were not as sustained as my own imagination, where I always magically just woke up one morning, a girl, and everyone around me (in my fantasy) acknowledged and knew, loved me as such. No “Hey didn’t you used to be a boy?” Nope, just seeing and interacting with me as female, and somehow I would have that (what I thought was) secret knowledge of “how to be a girl,” upon my waking up a girl. Alas, that magic had to wait until I was a flabby grumpy 45 year old “man.” 

I have a hard time even writing that out, that I was a man (in many eyes apparently still am) since it was something that I never ever really believed. I have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out why I couldn’t be happy living as a man. I tried to be straight, bi, gay, queer, and finally trans, But I sure as shootin’ ain’t a Trans Man. I’m a Trans Woman, I kind of prefer either woman, or trans though. Pick one, use it at will. One is a bit more who I am physically, the other who I am becoming in the world outside my body. Both seem appropriate to my mind. I’m aware, very much so, that there was no magic in my story, except for the happy alchemy of having so many awesome supportive family and friends in my life to start with. 

I’m serious though about the not being a man being as key for me as being a woman. I have always thought of myself as being outside the male female dichotomy, always. Neither was really me. What I’ve realized, more since getting closer to a year in than when I was giddily starting out, that, being a woman; even a middle aged fatty like I am is so much closer to who I am inside than I ever have felt since, well, ever. I’ve never felt like I wasn’t a fake. An impostor whether I was in the garage with the men pretending to care about tools and fixing things (which to be fair, I learned a lot of useful stuff in the garage.) when I was yearning to be inside drinking tea (or stronger stuff too) and learning how to get a home permanent, or whatever cliched ideas I had as a kid. 

I like to say that comic books taught me to read, and to a certain extent that is true, though the details for me are not there, in fact. I have however the memory of always looking at, at the very last picture books, and comics. I spent every penny I had often on comics (and early days, hockey cards. I was not a speculator, collecting and bagging, i did that later though) or even trading that much. I always got ripped off when doing so anyway, as I have easy mark written all over me, always have. 

People would tell me all kinds of crazy stories, and if they had any kind of authority, confidence in the telling, I would be suckered every time. 

Sadly as young adult of the sweaty male variety I grew really bitter about this “weakness” as I realized just how often I had been taken as a chump. It took me well into my late 20’s to really feel like I can trust anyone. You may have thought I trusted you when we hung out (back when I hung out) but I always felt the sword of Damocles, waiting to sever whatever bond we had. Lucky for me as time went on faster and faster as it does, I found I had all these people in my life who were still there, who I still liked, and they seemed to still like me... despite the “Fact” that I was an impostor, some female spirit possessing a confused young nerd. 

Not feeling you can trust others enough to be yourself interferes in a huge way with being able to create lasting bonds with others. It’s taken a lot of work on my part to trust myself enough to trust others. I’m still a heck of a long way off from being able to have a “relationship.” It’s not even a concern for me at this point. I may have the odd daydream, but I’m more concerned with learning how to not let my new sense of actual self expression get in the way of all my endeavours. 

All the professional/creative half assedness in my life has come up against, and ran screaming from the same unknowable face as my fear of letting people see that I am Josie, and NOT Joe. (As far as my name goes, I don’t miss being Joe at all. It feels weird when people call me that, but not because it’s a male name (Lots of women with that name), or that it’s a reminder of who I was. It just doesn’t “sound like” my name anymore. I heard someone calling it the other day and I never turned until 5 or 6 in, they weren’t yelling to me, but some scruffy beard-o across the street. That made me smile all day.... ooops big sidetrack) But a name is not a big deal, what has become a bit more of a big deal to me, are all these dreams that I’ve dabbled with over the years.

I remember my step father trying to give me a talk early in my University days, about “what career” I wanted. I guess people still thought you could (or wanted to) work just one job your whole life. I said I wanted to draw comic books. My step father, an Army Cook was not impressed with this answer, nor with my majoring in Film studies.... Which led to work in Theatre, (real honest to gosh paid work occasionally even) Film, Publishing, among the myriad other jobs I needed but never really wanted....I said this, despite knowing that while I had a bit of drawing talent, I was completely undisciplined, interested in too many other things to have the focus to be an artist, really of any kind. Of course within a few years I was writing poetry, as “my calling,” if there is such a thing. I wrote as furiously as any young man (I almost wrote confused young man, but that seemed redundant) does. I partied my ass off, I worked really really hard all through University, as a Bartender, then as a theatre manager, sometimes movie tech. I often worked full time while taking a full load of courses, and partying somehow almost every day. My grades reflected this lifestyle. Which I wouldn’t trade save for the fact of my gender, for the world. 

I spent much of the next 20 years absorbed by being a poet, one who often wrote dark scary stuff about my own sense of self as well as (free verse) odes to women I wanted to be (and thought I was in love with) or at least be close to.  Eventually, after living the lie of being a gay man in Tokyo for 3 years, my poetic output had trickled to the odd haiku, or weird sexcapade I may or may not have had while in Tokyo. And I’m pretty sure I’ve written of this a few times already, but I don’t seem to have that same poetic urge anymore. 

I haven’t even been doing much rewriting of decades old pieces (that had never slowed down even if new output has) in the last few years. Even self-publishing two books in the 00’s hasn’t awakened that young  Al Purdy wannabe... I was too scared of my female self to be a Lorna Crozier wannabe. I can write these blogs, and pen pithy snark on my facebook page, and I have gotten really confident remaking my old poems and turning them into video poems. 

I have been accumulating some crafty bits, and doodling (though not drawing so much) more than I have since the mid 90’s, when I indeed was a comic book artist, who did not lose a cent (made money if you count the big ass tax refunds I earned) doing two issues of a very stereotypical 90’s ‘zine. But the daily thunderbolts called poetry seem to have dried up.

I feel my creative juices stirring more and more, the longer I transition, but the daily unstoppable urge to write has almost gone. With the blog, my process is different. I get some ideas, write them in a placeholder file, and basically think about what to write, writine and rewriting in my head for days often until I have to spill it all out into the word processor; and I guess it makes sense that I might be a bit fallow at least in "the old forms" while transitioning, especially as I’m in the public so much with work. It's pretty exhausting.

One thing that has been a big fear for me since starting transition, is of course encountering any conflict. This means I have really limited the places I go. I don’t delve outside my neighbourhood very much. 

I need to get out of my comfort zone more, as I’m someone who likes to be stimulated by seeing strange people, going places I don’t go to often, seeing them differently from my memory. This is one place the poetry comes from, or at least enters my mind. Its like clearing your head with a walk. Sometimes a bus ride does the same thing. Or just seeing how awesome that house that just got reno’d down the street looks. I’m also scared to be too far afield without my picture ID which seems to be taking the full 45 days (at least) to get to me.

I’ve spent much of the last year introducing myself to everyone (and still do with my near daily “selfies” that I post and plan to keep posting) that I’m a bit exhausted. I want to blend back into the throng a bit. I’d like to feel like I could go to the movies and be able to pee without fearing for my life. This is likely an unreasonable fear, but nonetheless Trans folk get the blunt end when it comes to disputes. 

I’m just not ready to engage as much as I might want to with the wider world. I want to be able to see what my life beyond this initial shock and awe of transition is like. You might say I’m antsy even. I am scared to death of the future. But I always have been, so....

Back when email became a thing, I came up with this little zen phrase that I added as my “signature” It looked like this:

“Believe in who you are today, not who you think you were yesterday” 
                                                                                         - Joe Boyce Burgess

That guy was wiser than he knew. I know.


  1. I know I've told you before, but it's worth repeating: you're an amazingly strong person, and it's a privilege reading your blog. Your honesty and willingness to share your experience is wonderful. Keep writing Josie...Wade

  2. Thanks Wade, i appreciate the support! xoxo


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