Real Life

She was living in her parents' house. Not earning nearly enough money. She sometimes felt that the pronoun was undeserved, she hadn't done enough to earn it. Hormones for a year and her appearance basically hadn't changed. People in stories always changed extremely. Transformed beyond recognition. They got desirable female figures, dyed their hair blonde, wore makeup and dresses. Even the nonfiction stories the press seemed to pick up, the people they seemed to be interested in, were like that. Look at these before and after pictures, it's amazing how much the person changed. She looked the same. Still wore t-shirts, hoodies and jeans, they were just from the women's section now. Her hair had gotten longer. She kind of wanted to cut it—she liked the aesthetic of short hair on women—but was afraid it would make (even) more people see her as male. If she dyed her hair it would be some color like red or blue, but she was too much of a coward. Unlike stories where a “new gender” made people brave. Didn't want to draw attention to herself. Didn't want bleach to damage her hair.

She had been going to college, at a school known for being liberal. She came back after summer break, some a few more months of hormones and wearing female clothing. After someone called her “he”—how dumb was the guy, she gave a female name and had visible (fake) breasts—she ran away. Went home. Cancelled classes for the semester. Couldn't deal with it. She was theoretically going back but not looking forward to it. Maybe it'd be better next time. Yeah right.

She was really thin, probably underweight, and 6'2”. Maybe 6'3”. People sometimes said she should be a model but a. they were people who knew she was trans and were very nice and she paranoidly feared they were patronizing her and b. it meant she basically wasn't to grow any boobs. Straight up and down. Best that could be said for that was that it was androgynous maybe.

She remembered a time at what was supposedly a support group, supposedly for trans people. The facilitator, also a trans woman so she should have f**king known better, insisted on using “he” because as she said, “you look more male to me.” Or something like that. Who could remember exactly what someone said a year ago. Maybe it was less than a year. More? She couldn't remember.

Back when she first realized she was trans—realized she was female—she thought transitioning was gonna solve her problems. Her social problems, her self esteem and body image problems. If she did have body image problems; it's not that she thought she was too fat, just that she disliked looking in the mirror. Anyway it hadn't, if anything she was more awkward because now it actually made sense to expect people to dislike her, to be weirded out by or flip out at her. Not that that had happened. She felt worse about her body because it was not only ugly, but the wrong sex. She needed to gain weight to have boobs. She looked terrible all the time. Even if other people disputed that.

She didn't like the term “passing” because she was real liberal and it involved certain assumptions, yet she was still basically obsessed with the concept. It felt like the people who knew who from the past would never really think of her as female, just adapt to using a different pronoun out of kindness. Humoring the crazy person. It didn't help that people slipped up when they were distracted. It made it feel like “he” was how they really thought of her, and they just papered over their true, unacceptable thoughts with tolerant, enlightened word. She only wanted people to think of her as female—they didn't have to think she was cis—but it felt like trans women would secretly seen as men as long as they were seen as trans. She knew there was nothing wrong with being trans but was still problematically happy if someone didn't realize. She didn't want random guys in public to hit on her but was worried that it meant something that they didn't. Although that was probably because she didn't go outside much. Not interacting with people was easier.

She had been reading weird stories—stupid stuff, really—since she was very young. Stories about people “changing gender”, crossdressing or having their body magically transformed. Changing gender was in parentheses because she didn't want to imply that having your body changed to the opposite sex meant your internal sense of gender was changed. That was a problematic implication for real-life trans people. The idea that someone put into the body of “the other sex” (in quotes because it implies there are only two binary sexes) should just stop whining and get used to it. Behave how someone with that type of body was supposed to behave. Then again, it was magic, or sufficiently advanced technology. Who the f**k knows what it would do to your brain. But she was very careful, a good liberal. If she hadn't met someone before she was usually careful to call them “they”. She didn't want to make any assumptions. Way too many people had called her sir for her to want to do that to somebody else.

The first time she remembered getting an erection—yes “she” and “erection in the same sentence that way sounds very funny, very interesting and unusual, laugh it up, asshole—was from reading books with crossdressing. At the time she thought they seemed to make her have to go pee, except it felt good. In retrospect most of those books were meant to be funny. She didn't think it was funny at the time. She stilldidn't think it was funny.

She actually never crossdressed—well back then she would have considered it crossdressing. Even though she wasn't religious she thought of it as sinful. And taking people's clothes was creepy. In fact men dressing as women was creepy. She used to be really worried that she was an incurable pervert, that she had done this to herself by reading all those weird stories and now she wasn't turned on by normal sex. Sorry, “normal”. Even though she never remembered a time when when she was turned on by that. She was afraid she was ruining herself, corrupting herself past any chance of having a normal relationship.

Not that anyone ever suspected anything. She wasn't bullied at school—she was tall, got good grades and according to other people she was handsome. Her stepdad maybe thought she was gay because she never dated but that's about it. She never thought asking someone out seemed worth the risk of rejection. Rejection was something she was terrified of. She also didn't ask friends if she could come over to their house. Always waited for them to call. She didn't want to bother anyone. Annoy anyone who secretly disliked her. She had changed her mind on those things though. Honestly, she wanted a relationship, she just wasn't sure what gender she was attracted to. Maybe she was asexual, demisexual, something else. Maybe she was straight, gay, bi, pan but was too messed up about her own body to imagine sex with anyone.

She spent most of her preteen and teen years on the internet, reading every story she could find. It was escapism. She still spent far too much of her time that way. The only difference was that now all the stories upset her, with their worlds of people who were seen as female with magical ease and problematically limited notions of femininity. Or maybe that should be femaleness. People in stories seemed to start as nerds and turn into cheerleaders. She started a nerd and was still one, and wasn't planning on changing. She was still the same person—honestly, she had always been pretty tolerant of differences between humans and was an atheist so didn't have any religious objections. She had never cared that much about men being stereotypically masculine and women being stereotypically feminine. Despite reading all those stories she hadn't really thought about real trans people—she had just kind of assumed everything that didn't seem like (her) real life was fiction, or at least not thought about how it applied to the real world. Accepting trans people didn't require any changes to her belief system, unlike some people. She just wished she could accept herself.

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