Ten Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition

Exactly two years ago, I sat apprehensively in the reception area of the public health clinic in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, waiting for my name to be called. If all went according to plan, I would leave that evening with my first prescriptions for estradiol and spironolactone- Day 1 on hormones. I had just come from work, and since only a handful of my colleagues knew about my transition, I was still presenting as a boy (albeit an androgynous one wearing gold eye shadow). I remember looking around the room at the other trans girls sitting nearby. I couldn’t wait to be just like them- to have people see me as my true gender and to finally start feeling comfortable in my body.

It was hard to believe that I had been closeted only two months earlier, and yet here I was, about to embrace the part of myself that I had been ashamed of for nearly all of my life. I was ready. Since coming out, I had pored through several radical gender books, watched transition videos on YouTube, and researched the hormones I was about to take. I knew what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

Day 1 on Hormones

Day 1 on hormones

Two years and 4,860 pills later, I now realize how little I actually understood back then. There were so many aspects of transitioning and being treated like a woman in society that I was totally unprepared for. And today, as I prepare to take an indefinite break from my public trans*-related online presence (more on that later), I’d like to share ten lessons that I wish I had known in February 2011.

[Note: this advice is based on my own personal experience as a queer, femme, white, upper-middle class trans girl with "passing privilege"- some of it might not be applicable to you.]

1. Brace yourself for beauty culture
This is especially true for my fellow femme girls, and there’s a reason it’s #1 on my list. Before I started presenting as female, I had no idea just how toxic beauty culture is in this country. Women are constantly inundated with airbrushed images and messages aiming to tear down our self-esteem and make us feel inadequate. Fashion magazines and the beauty industry make billions every year by exploiting these insecurities with the promise that if we only try harder to be prettier, we too can be happy.

As a trans girl, beauty culture can be especially difficult to navigate because most of us have haven’t been exposed to it very long. Our cis partners and friends have been dealing with it since middle school (if not earlier) and many have had years to develop effective coping strategies. So us DMAB ladies have to make up for lost time, and on top of that, cissexist standards of beauty add another way for us to feel insecure.

It helps to maintain a sense of perspective. Many trans girls, myself included, have a habit of romanticizing the cisgender experience. A month or two into my transition, I told my girlfriend that I couldn’t wait until I could look in the mirror and see a pretty girl staring back at me. “You realize that’s never going to happen, right?” was her response. “You’re going to look at your reflection and feel unsatisfied- just like every other woman.” And it’s true: even the most gorgeous of my friends can list a dozen things she’d change about her appearance. So the next time you’re feeling unattractive, don’t blame yourself; blame capitalism and a beauty culture designed to make you feel that way.

2. Say goodbye to male privilege
If, like me, you presented as a normative guy before transitioning, you probably didn’t realize just how many privileges you were about to give up. I took so many little things for granted, like being able to walk outside or go to a bar without random men feeling the need to comment on my appearance. Sexual harassment is such a routine thing now that I can’t even remember what life was like without it.

You’ll probably also notice that people take you less seriously at work because of your gender and presentation. You’ll have to be twice as assertive as you were before in order to get people to pay attention to your contributions, and you’ll possibly be labeled a “bitch” for doing so.

3. People will surprise you
Coming out as trans* is a great way to find out who your true friends are, and it’s not always the people you’d first suspect. In my experience if someone is a fundamentally good person, they will almost always be accepting despite any religious or political misinformation about trans* people they may have learned. It’s a lot harder to otherize being trans* when you know someone personally who is. So try to give people the benefit of the doubt when coming out to them – you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

4. Prepare for (micro)aggressions
I grew up in a mostly white, conservative suburb where my family was considered “middle class” because we didn’t have a house on the water or a yacht. In other words, I lived in such a privileged bubble that I had never even heard of microaggressions until I started experiencing them after coming out. If, like me, you were presenting as a heternormative white boy before transitioning, these can seem a little jarring at first – but it’s something that nearly everyone but straight white cis men have to deal with on a regular basis. So what are microaggressions exactly? In my case, it’s every time a well-intentioned friend posts an article about a trans* person on my wall or remarks on my physical changes since the last time they saw me, or every time someone asks if my girlfriend and I are sisters (even if we’re holding hands.) It’s the little interactions that happen every day that remind you that you are “different” in some way.

(Unfortunately, many trans* people, especially trans women of color, face more than just microaggressions- they are often subjected to discrimination, violence and institutional hostility. I realize that I am incredibly privileged and in no way am I trying to diminish the struggles of others, but microaggressions are still unpleasant and something that I was not prepared for.)

"Oh, are you two sisters?"

“Oh, are you two sisters?”

5. Go to therapy
Seriously, you should go to therapy. I don’t think it should be required to “prove” your gender before starting hormones, but it’s something that I’d recommend for every person going through transition. It’s an incredibly emotional time full of triumphs and setbacks and too many feelings to process all by yourself – so take care of your mental health by discussing them with a therapist. I didn’t start seeing one until more than 7 months into my transition, and in hindsight I think that waiting as long as I did was a mistake.

6. Pursue other interests
Transitioning is such a monumental undertaking that it’s easy to let it consume all of the other aspects of your life if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to maintain other hobbies and interests during this time. Make time to read books that have nothing to do with gender, listen to music, learn a new language, go for a walk, you name it – the important thing is to take a break from thinking about being trans*, even for an hour or two. You’ll start to drive yourself crazy after a while if you don’t.

7. Take a deep breath and be patient
Hormones are incredible, but they take time to work their magic. You’re not going to notice results overnight. I remember when I first started HRT, I couldn’t wait for the weeks and months to go by. I looked forward to each new dose because it meant that I was one step closer to feeling comfortable in my own body. I fantasized about ways to fast-forward the next couple of years so that I could finally start enjoying life as my true self. But in constantly looking to the future, I often neglected all the amazing and wonderful things happening around me. I found it hard to simply be in the moment.

My girlfriend and I have recently started practicing mindfulness meditation, and it’s been a really useful tool to help me stay present. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to slow time down and experience life in the moment. A little anticipation can be a good thing, but our life will pass us by if we’re only focused on what lies ahead.

8. Save money
Transitioning is really expensive. Currently only a handful of insurance companies offer trans*-inclusive healthcare benefits, which means that many people have to pay for medications, lab tests, and doctor’s visits out-of-pocket. Laser hair removal and electrolysis are also quite pricey, and are never covered by insurance because they are considered “cosmetic” procedures. Changing your legal name and gender in California will set you back at least another $500. And buying an entirely new wardrobe isn’t cheap either. Bottom line: start saving now. Your future self will thank you for it.

9. Don’t expect transitioning to solve all of your problems
When I was still closeted, I often blamed every unpleasant experience or emotion on the fact that I had to pretend to be a boy. “One day,” I would tell myself, “I’ll be able to finally be myself and I’ll be pretty and carefree and never have to deal with this again.” And it’s true that transitioning has made a lot of things better. I connect on a much deeper level with my girlfriend and other people. I’m a kinder and more empathetic person. Little things like painting my nails and getting to express myself through fashion make my days more colorful and enjoyable. I’m so much happier now that I’m no longer hiding who I really am.

But transitioning is not a panacea – it won’t solve all of your problems. If you were prone to anxiety before coming out, you’ll probably still have to deal with it afterwards. I still sometimes get in stupid arguments with my girlfriend for no good reason, just like I did two years ago. I’m still addicted to caffeine and I sometimes forget to turn the lights off when I leave my apartment in the morning. And at some point in my transition, I came to terms with the fact that living as my true gender wouldn’t magically fix everything. And it felt really good to let go of that impossible expectation.

10. You do you
Most trans* people spent years pretending to be someone we weren’t in order to please others – whether it was our parents, our friends, our classmates, or society in general. And most of us made ourselves miserable because of it. With each passing day, it gets harder for me to remember what it was like to interact with a world that perceived me as a boy, but I’ll never forget how exhausting it felt to be cast as the wrong character in a seemingly never-ending play.

Before coming out as trans*, I never allowed myself to fully relax. I constantly policed my gender presentation and mannerisms to make sure that I wouldn’t raise suspicion. I was terrified that someone would learn the truth about my gender. But one thing that transitioning has taught me is that life is too short to worry about what others think of you. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, and some of them are inevitably going to disapprove of you and your life choices. For me, the decision is simple. I’d rather face the possibility of rejection then spend another minute in the closet.

Most people don’t ever get the chance to spontaneously and completely reinvent themselves: trans* people do. Take advantage of this opportunity by being the most authentic you that you can be, and don’t worry about trying to conform to society’s expectations of how someone like you is “supposed to” look or act. If you’re a trans girl that enjoys rugby and hates dresses, don’t let anyone try to deny the validity of your gender. If you’re a trans guy who loves sparkles and makeup, own it. And if you’re trans* but don’t feel comfortable in either binary category of male or female, resist the pressure to pick one. Be proud of who you are and don’t be afraid to show it- you deserve to live an authentic life.

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So there you have it – ten things that I wish I’d learned before embarking on the incredible adventure of the past two years. There are many others that didn’t make the list, such as realizing that girls can sometimes be just as gross as guys (I thought the transition would mean an end to unpleasant public bathrooms, but I was wrong). I’m undoubtedly still learning – I don’t claim to have everything figured out at this point. But my two-year anniversary on hormones seems like the perfect time to begin the next chapter of my life – a chapter that focuses less on my gender and the fact that I was DMAB.

And so it give me all the feelings to write that this will be my final piece for Autostraddle, and that I will taking an indefinite break from my online trans*-related social media presence. I remember feeling sad when Sebastian made a similar announcement last year, but now I’m beginning to understand why he made that decision. I first became aware of my true gender when I was five, and the dysphoria of having to pretend to be a boy hung over me for next 18 years. I don’t think a day ever went by when I didn’t dream about how much better life would be if I could just be myself. And ever since I tearfully came out to my girlfriend on the night before her first law school final, I’ve been immersed in queer gender theory and radical trans* activism and writing about these things online- and it’s been such an incredible experience in so many ways!

I’ve had old friends from high school reach out to me to say that sharing my articles with their families helped them become better trans* allies. Literally hundreds of queer and trans* people from around the world have told me that sharing my story helped them find the courage to begin living life authentically, from the closeted trans boy stuck in a USC sorority to the young teenage girls in France and Venezuela. As someone who felt scared, alone, and ashamed of who I really was for so much of my life, it’s really hard to describe just how wonderful each one of these messages makes me feel! But I don’t think that my trans* status defines who I am as a person…and I’m really looking forward to focusing on other parts of my life that have nothing to do with my gender for a while. I’m going to be 26 in a few months – it’s time I figured out what I want to be when I grow up!

I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had on here, and for the people I’ve met. Each and every one of you is part of why Autostraddle is so special. I’ve never met a community that is so open, accepting and empowered before and I’m going to miss all of your beautiful faces. So thank you, sincerely, for being such wonderful people and for helping make this trans girl feel loved and proud of who she is.


 

Autostraddle is currently soliciting submissions from queer-identified trans* women — read all about it here!


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Profile photo of annika

I'm a 23 year old femme lesbian living in SF. Once upon a time, I was a USC frat boy ;) I ♥ music so please recommend your favorite artists to me!

annika has written 21 articles for us.

124 Comments

  1. Thumb up 27

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    Thank you for acknowledging your position in this piece. The dangers to Trans* people of color or those without support are potent and deadly, but I appreciate this list.
    The beauty culture took me completely by surprise when I began my own transition. This issue preys on the self confidence and identity of so many Trans* Women and I think a large part is due to inexperience with it. I have heard over and over “I want to transition… but I would be far to ugly.” I said this myself for years! It is a cruel testament to the power of the toxic beauty culture that we internalize even while still “supposedly” male that, for some Trans* folks, simply not being “pretty” can be one of the most powerful forces we first have to defeat in ourselves.
    The fact little girls and then women are inundated by this toxic media day in and day out and manage to break out of it is amazing to me. Not because of their assumed weakness but because of the opposition’s near omnipresence.
    It’s a big part of passing privilege in that if you pass you are under less threat. Its enforced in areas of less privilege incredibly violently so in many cases the Beauty culture has a very real enforcement arm for those unable to live their day to day lives in the bubble of privilege that some of us do.
    We don’t have to “pretty” to be real people, or real women, we only have to be.

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          I wanted to add RE: establishing your position as a white middle class etc. that, while I think it’s great that you acknowledged that every element of each individual puts their experience in a different light with different struggles, don’t think that makes your experience any “less”.
          I’m sure you weren’t apologising for yourself, but when it comes to life experiences, you could have said “when I started wearing heels, my feet hurt for a while.” and if that was a big problem for you, put it on the list!
          I imagine anyone can read this and see that when you’re climbing into a new life, anything can be earth shattering.
          Good luck with everything, thanks for your posts x

  2. Thumb up 11

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    Annika, I love you and I’ll miss you here, but I think everyone understands why you are taking a break.
    I just wanted to say that I am so happy that I got to meet you in person, you are an incredibly kind person and I admire your fashion choices!

    Wishing you the best, hope to see you again someday!

  3. Thumb up 7

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    One thing i cant agree with enough is not getting caught up in transition so much that you don’t think or do anything else. I remember doing that and after some time my friends started calling me boring and didn’t seem to want to hang out.Another thing you talked about “expensive” that is a understatement,anyone starting or thinking about transitioning must realize that anything medical is very very expensive,unless you can take out a 30k loan you best have been saving your money along time ago..

  4. Thumb up 35

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    Annika, you’ve given this community so much. I have learned from your writing here and I learned from you again reading this final post. All your writing attests to your strength, grace and thoughtfulness. You clearly have so much to offer the world and I wish you all the best for this big strange journey that is life.

    Oh. And if anyone gives you trouble, you know which bunch of great big internet lesbians has got your back :D

  5. Thumb up 13

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    I’m glad you’ve found the time to write for autostraddle, and I’ve enjoyed everything you’ve written; your articles have been so informative with such a patient perspective.

    I’m also glad you’re taking time for you! You’ll be missed but I think a lot of the best people forget or prolong the selfish decisions they need to make. (And I don’t think selfish things are always bad as it’s somehow become in our culture-especially in regards to women.)

  6. Thumb up 10

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    I will miss your posts a ton. Every time I’ve seen a new post by Annika on the autostraddle feed I get that calm/happy feeling of ‘oooh! that’ll be a good read’! (This is not to criticize the other autostraddle writers at all! You’re all lovely. I just especially like Annika’s stuff.) You have to my mind such skill at talking about emotionally charged or potentially (or actually) divisive experiences in a way that is constructive and (which I have particular envy of) which doesn’t detract from the flow of the writing. So I guess I’m complimenting your writing structure? Gods that’s geeky. Anyway, have fun in the world, you will be missed, and I hope you keep writing whatever else you do!

  7. Thumb up 3

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    Thank you for sharing this!

    Some of it made me realise even more how lucky I am to live here in British Columbia (esp. the costs-related points – if you jump through the right hoops (logical hoops though, IMO), our provincial health coverage will cover HRT and SRS – though we’re on our own for hair removal and FFS).

    Some of it was new to me, or helped put some of my non-coherent thoughts together and put things into perspective, or gives me some ‘advance warning’ of things to expect. For that, thank you.

    Regarding hobbies and other interests – I emphatically agree! Being able to lose myself in music, linguistics, etc. has been something that’s really helped me keep going.

    And it’s pretty timely, too, in another sense: just last night I was telling a friend that sometimes I feel a bit odd about appearance, that I don’t feel myself to really be overly femme-y. Another case of “can I really be X if Y?” – and hearing “yes, you can” from another source is great.

    Wish you all the best! :)

  8. Thumb up 26

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    I’m one of those girls who finally (after nearly 43 years in my case) began transitioning into a more genuine life after reading your posts. Annika, I can’t thank you enough for being so beautifully, strongly and eloquently yourself, for sharing your experiences and your strength. Although I’ve never met you, I feel as though you’ve been a spiritual sister to me through my own transition.
    I wish you so much joy, discovery, passion and strength in this next stage of your genuine life. I’ll miss your posts and the hope they offered, but I’m cheering you, (and myself, as well as all our trans* sisters and brothers everywhere) on to bigger things.
    Best of luck! (C;

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    Thank you so much for this piece and for all of your contributions here on Autostraddle. I was always excited to see one of your pieces on the feed, and I have learned so much from you. This piece especially is really helpful. My girlfriend is about a year into her transition, and she has said that she looks to me and our other friend (two cis girls) for help navigating a lot of those social situations and instances that you discuss in the article. I know what she needs help navigating, but it’s all been so engrained in me for as long as I can remember that it’s hard to pick it all apart. Thank you so much for everything, and good luck!!!

  10. Thumb up 17

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    I’m almost crying reading this. Not just because I won’t get to read anything else from you here or on your blog, but also because you nailed so many things in this post that give me a deluge of feels. I wish you all the best going forward in finding out who, as a woman,you are, and I hope to start my own search for that someday when transition calms down.

  11. Thumb up 6

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    Sincere thanks for your contributions here Annika. You have educated me, moved me, emboldened me with your writing. I learned things about myself and the world that may never have learned if you weren’t here. It was a pleasure to meet you at A camp and I wish you the best of all the best things for the next chapter. Brava. Vale.

  12. Thumb up 17

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    What a wonderful and well-written piece here. My daughter invited me to this website and I have to say I am impressed. It is interesting to have my first article read on this site be your last article written. But the real reason I am commenting is because I can totally relate to why you are hanging it up for a while. As a woman with alopecia universalis (yes, we have our own website, too), a person like me can wrap her whole world around what it means to be a bald woman in our society. Issues come up, “to wig or not to wig”, “here is an exhausting list of medications, treatments and side effects and long range expectations”, and…”will there ever be a cure?”, to… “there will NEVER be a cure”, or… “embrace your awesome bald self”, etc. Did you know that some people believe that the decision not to hide a bald head includes changing one’s entire wardrobe and sense of style? Crazy, crazy stuff! After so much change in a person’s life, which often includes total immersion in a community to find support, to find answers, to find a your own way to deal and figure out where you want to land, well…one inevitably arrives at a point where it is absolutely necessary to step away and just live one’s life, plain and simple. I respect your journey and I applaud your arrival at becoming “you”!

  13. Thumb up 5

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    I’ve never reached out to you, Annika, but your writing has always touched me. I’ve always admired your eloquence and poise, even when discussing difficult and uncomfortable topics. I’m sad to see you go, but I wish you all the best in the journey that’s to come. Although I’m sure that if anybody is up to the adventure, you are.

    Also, I want to be *you* when I grow up.

  14. Thumb up 4

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    I’m sorry that you’re leaving Annika, but of course I understand why. I just want to let you know that reading your articles over the past couple of years has been incredibly helpful in planning out my own too-long delayed transition. Thank you for being so eloquent and inspirational in everything you’ve written!

  15. Thumb up 2

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    I’m sad to see you go but it is a great thing to move on from any stage in your life. During transition it can be overwhelming to go it alone; but I think all of us trans* people reach a point that you just don’t think about it. I used to tell people, or my friends would tell people because no one know if I’d look like a boy or girl when I went to parties but now I think its just evolved. That is a great thing to move on from actively being trans* to I think passively being trans* and being able to exist without having that modifier attached to you. I still get labeled as a lesbian or as a tom-boy or as “Jess the chick that loves cars” but it is oddly freeing to realize that you have attained something. I don’t believe you ever are completely done with being trans* I think it is a part of a person for their entire life but it is nice to know it fades from the foreground.

  16. Thumb up 9

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    Annika, I know I reached out to you via tumblr when you announced you were leaving on there, but I wanted to write something here, too. Thanks so much for your wonderful articles and insight. You’ve been consistently one of my favorite writers on the Internet, and I’ll definitely miss your presence, but I understand wanting to feel like you want to focus your writing and career on things other than your gender identity and your experiences with your transition. It can get exhausting when people reduce us to our identity markers if we write about those identities a lot.

    But thanks so much for providing so much insight and a great resource on here! One of my close friends recently came out as trans* and I know your articles have helped her in her transition.

    It just bums me that so many of my favorite bloggers, and trans* bloggers in particular seem to be stopping at the same time! (I’m also a fan of Natalie Reed at Freethought Blogs and she recently made an announcement that she is going to stop her blog there.) Are you going to be at A-Camp this year?

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      I won’t be at this upcoming A-Camp in May, but I’m sure I’ll be back at one soon! Trust me, there are few things that can entice this high-maintenance city girl to spend a week in the forest, and A-Camp is one of them :)

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    I said my well-wishes on your tumblr Annika, but I wanted to say once more how much I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts in your articles. I know my girlfriend and I have both gotten a lot from reading about your experiences, trials, and tribulations, which are quite similar to our own.

    I wish you the best and I hope you take care of yourself.

  18. Thumb up 9

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    Now consider what it was like 60 years ago. No Internet,No Search engines,no one to guild you,no one to support you,no doctors that knew that much about this,hiding to survive,no rights period and only threats of being hurt or killed. I would have loved it to have been like it is now. A piece of cake compared to then. This is from a pioneer trying to transition back in the early 70’s and seeing Dr. John Money at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore,MD. I went through a couple hours of mental evaluation testing and I was told they was nothing they could do for me because I was married (2 points off)and seemed to only like females (1 point off). They had a 5 point system back then that determined whether you qualified to get help. My testing was used by Harry Benjamin for the standards he developed. After 30 years of eating me like a cancer I transitioned in 2005 by myself. I only go to the VA now for my needed medications. We do what we have to do to be ourselves and survive. It’s getting a lot better but much is still needed mainly equal rights which means jobs and medical needs.

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      Agree that a lot of younger trans people have little idea how complex transition was pre-Internet (really, pre-1995!), much less pre-trans health clinics, and pre-GSAs. That even libraries in the most progressive places had 1 or 2 books about the subject if you were lucky… most had zero. People who transitioned in that era had to be incredibly driven, desperate, gutsy and resourceful. No one’s saying being trans is ever a piece of cake, but I wish people dealing with those issues currently understood how we have incredible privileges in terms of advice, camaraderie, medical care and resources and how that’s multiplied in even the last 5 years.

      And what’s important to remember is that for a lot of trans people in poor communities and countries, it’s STILL that way. The Internet has had a profound impact on the trans community’s ability to access information but it still hasn’t penetrated everywhere by a long shot. And that it isn’t “oppression Olympics” whenever someone reminds larger communities about that privilege.

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        That was exactly why I failed in my first attempt to transition in 1994 at nineteen; I was threatened with being involuntarily committed and couldn’t locate other avenues. I tried again in my early 30s.

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        Very true there are many people still suffering and trying to transition in the world. The thing that sets it apart from 60 plus years ago is no Television and wasn’t in many homes till the mid 50’s and they did have men dressing as women and women dressing as men on TV and movies. None of this addressed someone with gender identity problems other then when Christine Jorgensen had her surgery in Denmark back in 1952 but was quickly put on the back burner for the most part. I remember seeing her on a talk show in the mid 60’s I think it was Mike Douglas Show. So with today’s communications most people are at least aware of our existance unlike it was 60 plus years ago. Now if we can just get the TV/News Media to get it right. There is so much I’ve learned about people over the years and much in how people see you is what they first see. A smile is everything and with a great personality with complete confidence in who you are you just won them over in most cases.

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        The first time I came out was in 1988, and I was living in Miami at the time. The one therapist I was able to find who dealt with trans issues and the Harry Benjamin protocol, told me that because I didn’t present in a heteronormative fashion (I was presenting butch at that pint,) and because I identified as a lesbian, I didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria for “gender dysphoria”, and would eventually “..get over it”.
        Thank God or whomever, that the universal understanding of gender and sexuality has become more sophisticated since then. I was lucky to have found a place here in New York called Callen Lorde that both works with medicaid, and is staffed and run by a wonderful group of progressive queermos. When I showed up for my first appointment a little over a year ago, nobody told me to “get over” anything. Instead, I was welcomed, assigned a wonderful therapist who’s job it was NOT to determine if I was truly transgender, but to help me adjust to my new, more genuine life, and shortly thereafter, I was started on HRT.
        A supportive community like Callen Lorde can really make all the difference.
        When I was turned away back in 88, I spent 3 years drunk on an extended bid to self destruct.
        Now, I’m a year into my transition, and I’ve never been happier.

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      I have so much respect for the strength, courage, and determination it must have taken to transition in the pre-internet age. I remember how lonely and lost I felt in high school a decade ago before YouTube/tumblr/etc. existed. At the time, I didn’t even know that it was possible to be a trans girl attracted to women!

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        It was a nightmare for many years but it also made me stronger and a survivor. The main thing many people especially my age is that I gave them hope in transtioning themselves after they saw I did it at 58 and came out looking pretty good for a Grandma.lol It was very devastating for me to have started my transition back in 1974 only to be denied any help and return to the life I was living eating away at me for the next 30 years. Its about the respect and acceptance of everyone.

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    Every trans* person comes upon that moment that they can go on with life. I’m also 2 years on hormones this month but I have a radical different outcome (it often makes me jealous and very sad) thanks to the hormonal house of cards that keeps completely collapsing and a very indifferent endocrinologist-monopolist in a system that doesn’t care so my transition will last a whole lot longer.

    I’m sad to see you go as a writer here on Autostraddle Annika as I enjoyed your writing (and videos too). I wish you all the best in your life. May it be a long, happy, healthy and productive one.

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      Your post sounds far too familiar; like my own experiences and feelings. I’m on my third provider for HRT (nearly a year ago I finally a found an informed consent provider, who had been in operation for 10 months at the time.) Before that, I had endocrinologists who seemed interested in preventing me from transitioning, and they were successful for years – a year to even get my first HRT prescription, the tiny doses and occasional reductions.

      It’s been five years now, and the past summer saw a number of friends get surgery and I had to bite-back tears to be happy for them while feeling an internal pain when, also last year, I had tried to get a surgery letter and was denied because my therapist saw the one year RLE for surgery requirement as one year before a request for a surgery letter.

      The journey was far longer than I would have liked, and that took a toll on me as I spent a long time passing up opportunities, particularly jobs, while waiting on transition (I’m the part of the US known as “The South” and my then-employer was among the best in the region for transition support, but they were horrible in other ways..)

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        Hi Danielle,

        It is never so dark that the sun won’t shine again, that is something I fiercely cling to in life. Before you know it things have changed again.

        Like last night, I had posted here and decided to check my email. To my surprise, and in typical Amsterdam gender clinic fashion, I had an email saying that they had decided last week that I had succesfully concluded my RLE (after 2 years…). No word about the hormonal upheavals though…

        So, now to keep my fingers crossed that my hormonal levels won’t collapse again.

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    Such good life advice whether or not you’re trans. “and don’t worry about trying to conform to society’s expectations of how someone like you is “supposed to” look or act” — so true being a gay woc too! Fantastic article! I’m going to miss you on Autostraddle but I hope you’re still coming to A-Camp!

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    I loved this article. It gave me a great point of view on male privilege. I’ve always known as I woman, I’m treated differently, but I can’t always target how. It gave me a great perspective.
    Also, Annika, you’re beautiful, don’t forget that.
    I also want to apologize for staring at you during A-Camp in September. I distinctly remember an occasion when you were walking my way and I could help but stare at you, but it was because you were so beautiful. I’ve been kicking myself since because I was worried the prolonged stare came across as judgmental or something of the like.

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    your post made me tear up. so many things you said, I recognize and suffer through as well. the invasive beauty culture and how hard society makes it to even consider the possibility of transitioning. It just gave me a lot of feels. You are a beautiful person Annika and I enjoyed your stories. Best of luck in life.

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    I don’t really have much to say, but Annika I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been reading Autostraddle for about a year now and I’ve always loved your articles. I think you’re a very courageous and beautiful person and I will miss seeing you on this website! Take care!

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    Annika, your first article for Autostraddle was my last straw. You essentially helped me come out as a trans girl and start my own transition, in April 2011, because I wanted to be like you. Then, one year later, we’re painting our nails together at A-Camp! I will always appreciate your inspiration and support, both online and offline. Thank you.

    Now to keep working towards calming the TRANSTRANSTRANS voice in my head! I’m sure it’s a relief for you, and may you live it up grrl.

    Stay in touch if you can. ~xoxo Gaela

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    Wonderful article, but I feel it important to point out that people perceived as straight white cis men experience microaggressions too, and they can be just as hurtful.

    “Why aren’t you dating anyone?”
    “Fatass.”
    “Man up.”
    “You work where? Seriously?”
    “What a shitty car.”
    etcetera.

    I’m not saying these are universal, just that these happened to me in both queer AND heteronormative environments.

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        I’m not looking to argue. Just tired of being erased. From the wiki on microaggression: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional…”

        I’m running out of safe spaces and it hurts. As a gender dysphoric pansexual male bodied person who appears white I can’t talk in men’s spaces, feminist spaces, gay spaces, straight spaces, trans* spaces, etcetera. I apologize if my comment offended and thank you for your reply.

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          Well maybe the first thing to do is to try to respect other people’s safe spaces, which starts from realizing that an article about a trans lesbian’s experiences are not the place to start whining about how hard straight cis dudes have it.

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            Wait, why are people attacking Nicholas? This is a person who sounds confused and hurting.

            Nicholas did not identify as a white cis straight man.

            Nicholas identified as a “gender dysphoric, pansexual, male bodied person” and is looking for a safe space.

            And the attacks on their comment are intense, IMO.

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            “Nicholas did not identify as a white cis straight man.”

            His original comment was about straight white cis men and relatively minor (and not particularly gender-related) problems they might face that are not at all comparable to the sorts of experiences Annika is writing about. So that’s why it’s being brought up and that’s why it’s relevant, even though Nicholas identifies differently.

            Also, Autostraddle is a queer women’s space and bringing up men’s issues, even if they apply to queer men, is still derailing. As I said in one of my other comments, just because someone like him needs a safe space does not mean that this place needs to be it. I think the link I provided above might be helpful in terms of why these comments count as derailing: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/phmt-argument/

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          Yes, it can hurt to feel “erased”, and your feelings do matter Nicholas. Many people don’t necessarily understand how the patriarchy can harm those who’s place within the heteronormative hegemony isn’t internally secure (i.e., if even though you appear to be a straight, white man, your true gender and sexual identity may be different).
          I understand Rose’s reaction because this is an emotionally charged comment section: many of us feel we are losing a very beloved friend of many years, and it feels like this might not have been the best forum for you to bring up what feels like extraneous issues, but your feelings do, as I said before, matter.
          I’m not certain where to say you might find community, but I’m pretty sure there are pansexual pages on Facebook that might be a good start.
          Good luck, and don’t give up. (C;

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            I don’t deny that the patriarchy hurts people who are not women, including men. But to bring up men’s concerns – especially things that really have nothing to do with gender (remarks about your car and job are more about class, and c’mon, like women don’t get the “why are you still single” shit 10x worse than men do) – in a women’s space is derailing. Just because I’m saying this is not the place for it does not mean that I don’t respect the need for such a place.

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            I should have used “men’s concerns” because really, the things he mentions in the original comment are not men’s concerns specifically.

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            I did want to thank you for disagreeing respectfully, though. I feel like I have a tendency to get defensive in these situations, and I did want to say that I appreciated your comment in this thread. These discussions can be difficult, but I do believe in the importance of AS being specifically a place for queer women, because I think that even in general queer sites, there can be a tendency to privilege men’s experiences and opinions. (Hence why so many “general gay” publications are really all about gay dudes.)

            Also, I read your other other comments here, and I really hope you submit something to Trans*Scribe! I think you have an interesting story to share.

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            Hi Rose,
            I’d originally sent this to you privately, but I’m not certain it worked. At any rate,
            I’m not familiar with trans*scribe.. can you fill me in?
            Right now, I write for Velvet Park mostly, but I’m always looking for other forums..
            I agree with you by the way about safe spaces for queer women.. Even (and I know this might sound petty,) but even Logo only shows “The L Word”, (there’s no other programming for women at all,) and it feels like they’re placating us, since they refuse to show the episodes in order, and when they do show them, they’re on in the middle of the night.
            I know that’s slightly off subject, but it is endemic of the marginalization of lesbians and our culture, even in queer spaces.
            Ok.. Rant over.. (C;

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            Anyway, Rose, class-based microaggressions are real and are also intertwined with gender, gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, etc. etc.

            Being dismissive about class issues is not a good look.

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            Jesus Christ, where was I dismissive of class issues? The point is that he phrased these as “things that apply to men” and they are not things that apply particularly to men.

            And that he’s bringing it up on an article about the experiences of trans* women. It’s not relevant. Not every article needs to address every social justice issue all the time.

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            I also think you didn’t read the last sentence of the comment you’re replying to at all. Making baseless accusations based on something you either didn’t read or misread, is “not a good look” either.

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    Beautifully written. I really related to the first thing on the list. Whether you’ve been living publicly as a woman for two years or twenty, whether you’re cis or trans, impossible beauty standards can really get you down some days. Thank you so much for sharing this, and best of luck to you :)

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    Annika, I know I’m basically repeating what everyone else has said, but thank you for sharing your stories and advice with us. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful person, and I wish you the best and hope to maybe run into you on the web one day in the future. But enjoy “doing you.” :)

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    i have loved reading your articles, and in fact just the other day was thinking “oh i haven’t seen anything from annika recently.” i don’t think i’ve ever commented on anything you’ve written before, but i wish you the very best with everything.

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    Annika, this was amazing. I don’t think I’ve commented before but I’ve read several of your pieces here at AS in the past year or so, and I’ve consistently enjoyed your writing. I appreciate your ability to describe subtle aspects of gender and trans woman issues in a manner that’s easily relatable to others. I’m a bit sad to hear this is your last piece, of course, but I get your reasons… seems like transition and dealing with all the potential fall out just eats up a significant part of our lives.

    In my case, I kinda had to push myself away from physics a bit to deal with transition… I guess I’m lucky that I’ve always had things I was passionate about, but that also kinda gave me a way to hide and put off dealing with gender issues. But of course, once I finally sat down and got myself deal with it, it kinda took over my life for the next couple of years (or longer, really). It makes me sad to think that there was a lot of time and energy that just got lost in that, and I can never get that back (and a big part of that was spent just trying to cope with the garbage directed at me by some people around me).

    Now that I experienced all that though, I feel more drawn into activism/writing than ever before. I’m guessing you could relate to that from what you wrote here…. maybe activism is in part a coping mechanism within a cissexist society. Looking back on it, I could have used a lot of the things you’ve written here back then… especially the part about microaggressions and not expecting transition to solve all of your problems. More than anything, I wish before I started transition I would have just understood how to take better care of myself, physically and especially emotionally… to keep myself strong against all those things I just never saw coming.

    <3

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    Good lookin’ out Annika. Best of luck.

    “If you’re a trans girl that enjoys rugby and hates dresses, don’t let anyone try to deny the validity of your gender.”

    Thank you.

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    This is such a wonderful article. Thank you for writing it. Also, you are gorgeous. Just saying.

    My fiancee is trans and had to deal with everything on this list when she came out to the world. Currently I think the things she struggles with most are:

    1. Wishing that the hormones would work faster/she could jump forward to getting all the various treatments and surgeries done. Patience is not her best virtue.

    2. Feeling unwomanly because she did not grow up learning how to use her body as (many) ciswomen do. For example, how to feminize one’s posture, feminine gestures and arm/hand placement, and how to move, walk, or dance in a feminine manner. She has found it difficult to pick some of these characteristics up during her transition, causing her lots of anxiety and self-doubt.

    There isn’t much we can do about #1 except to wait it out. With #2, though, I have tried to help her as much as possible, but as someone who grew up learning all of these things so that now they are second nature, I cannot teach her as well as I would like.

    This brings me to my question for you, Annika: what resources would you recommend for a transwoman to help her feminize her posture and movement?

    Thank you again for writing this article. It is superb.

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      I’m not really sure! I didn’t consciously try to alter my posture/mannerisms/etc. after coming out, although many of my friends have commented that they are very stereotypically feminine. I actually had to police my movements when I was still presenting as a boy because I was terrified that someone would suspect the truth about my gender! I think that since I realized that I was a girl from a very young age, I paid close attention to the way girls were socialized to talk/act/etc. and internalized it to point where it just comes naturally to me.

      The best advice I can give your fiancee is to relax and not try to force things. She *is* a woman, so by definition the way she carries herself is womanly. I’m reluctant to reinforce gender performance norms by offering her tips, but at the same time I can understand why she’d want to undo some aspects of male socialization. Maybe she can watch how you walk/sit/etc. and practice copying you in front of the mirror? But by far the most important thing is that she shouldn’t doubt herself :)

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        I experienced the same sort of policing, as to my movements, manner of speaking and actions. I studied boys intensely, watching to figure out how they move, talk and so on, because it was my way of “passing” as male. Still didn’t help to much.

        One of the biggest parts of my personal transformation hasn’t been acquiring these motions or such, but in allowing myself permission to simply be who I am, and grow comfortable in that. I went through a stage where I was over doing it in on the femme areas of the spectrum too for a while. Which is simple to say but takes a lot of self forgiveness.

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        Yes that’s how it was for me also. I had to hide or police as you said my mannerisms before I transitioned as well as my voice. I lowered it as much as I could when living as a male.Yes that fear that someone would find out and back in my day it was possible electro shock treatments to cure me or getting beat up or killed. There is no magic mold that fits every situation or variations of people. Anything that helps is better than nothing as it pretty much was in my beginning. I didn’t realize it at the time but I pretty much learned everything a female needs to know from watching my Mom and asking her questions from why do you put your make-up on like that to why do you do that in order to make that pie or whatever it was. When I watch those old movie and TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s I placed myself into the females roles. I guess everyone has simular stories or they could be complete different. Be true to yourself.

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    You have been an inspiration for me as I started HRT about 5 months after you. Thanks for being such a positive figure in the trans community online. Anywho, best of luck in your life and figuring out what you want to do in life!!

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    I was read a few comments about men’s concerns. The thing that hit me was the talk of transitioning. Transition is not only about male to female but female to male also. I know many Transmen friends and have met Chaz Bono and they have many of the same problems as I do just in reverse. I told one of my Transmen friends one day wouldn’t it be nice if we could just switch bodies. Don’t we all wished it was that easy but think where we might be in another hundred years.

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      “The thing that hit me was the talk of transitioning. Transition is not only about male to female but female to male also.”

      Being trans* is much more complex than switching from one binary gender to another (and in my case, I don’t view myself as ever having been “male”- I am and have always been a girl.) When discussing these issues, it’s important not to erase the voices/experiences of nonbinary trans* people :)

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        But of course its much more complex than that. I was speaking as most non-trans people see us. They don’t see a girl in a boy’s body or vise-versa. People see a girl or a boy even if they are dead wrong about that person’s gender which could be your nonbinary trans person or even anyone outside the LGBT community. Most of us see ourselves as one gender or the other or even both.Most of us were born male or female no matter what our minds tell us and that was why I said what I said to that transman. Its up to each to know that we are but over my years I have seen all of this becoming more and more complex with more and more labels that are only confusing people of all walks of life. The key is education and correct information throughout the complete human race with respect and acceptance of all.The other thing I have done is forgive those who hurt me and caused me to suffer many years ago because of their lack of knowledge about us. I also demand nothing from anyone and their opinions and comments about my past gender or gender I identify as today. I understand many of you are transitioning at very young ages today. This was very rare and only happened for a couple of lucky people in the right place at the right time and met all qualifications in my day. Having lost two Gay younger brothers from Aids or the onset of HIV I know most Gay issues also. I hear all voices and experiences from all walks of life. Its been a very long hard road for me and now because I lost everything and living on a fixed income I will more than likely never have the one surgery I dreamed of for close to 60 years.

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    Thank you Annika for all of you articles on Autostraddle! About a year and a half ago I tried OkCupid, having heard about it on Autostraddle. After a few months a woman messaged me, and we wrote back and forth for a bit. Then we decided to meet. Before I drove several hours to see her, she said she wanted me to know something, that she was trans. I quickly responded that of course I still wanted to meet her. Before going on the first date I read the Trans* 101 article on here, wanting to do my best to be respectful and show kindness. Now we are engaged and plan on going to the County Clerk in a few weeks to try to get a marriage license in our small town. Annika, I will be forever greatful to you for your openess in sharing and to Autostraddle for creating a safe place for discussions of trans* issues!

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    Annika, I really want to thank you for sharing here on Autostraddle. I remember reading your first post; your explanation of yourself really hit home for me. I don’t identify as trans* but more gender fluid. Reading what you’ve posted here has helped me realize a part of myself that I hadn’t been comfortable with before. So thank you very much. By the way you’re gorgeous! Love, Raven.

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    as the lesbian significant other of a trans lesbian, knowing you write here and reading your postings has often been my only connection to autostaddle. i’m sad to see you leave, but am also happy to see you move on and grow. i’ve been sad to see autostraddle only have one trans woman writer and hope to see more trans women in the future (as i expect see more folks and writers come out as trans men or trans masculine–as is common in lesbian or queer women spaces)

    i wish you the best and hope your time at autostraddle has been as empowering as i know it has been for trans lesbians in my life. good luck and thanks for what you have done, as i’m sure youv’e made more of a diffence for trans lesbians and trans (queer) women than you know.

    your writing has been impactful. i hope you realize. and you leaving *is* a loss, but it is also an important move. it is inspiring, as you’ve always been. good luck, annika (which is a fierce name, btw).

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    Annika,

    It is with mixed emotion (happy that you are moving on, sad that I will not see more of your writing) that I wish you well on your continued adventures. This is the first article of yours that I’ve read and I passed it on to two of my MtF friends who are just starting their transitions. Camp sounds like such a good deal I hope to send them both. Your contribution to the community will make the path easier for those who follow. And aside from all the words on beauty – in any frame of reference you are beautiful both inside and out.

    Love,

    Suzi

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    Annika, I wish I could remember how I first found your blog. I think it was through your tumblr. Something must have been reblogged somewhere. Anyhow, then I emailed Laneia in all caps like THIS IS THE WOMAN OF OUR DREAMS and was so excited to force you to write for us, and even better was that when you read the site you wanted to and we didn’t even have to force you!

    Not gonna lie, I knew jackshit about trans* women back then. I began the slow process of self-education and you have been a huge part of that. You’ve weathered some serious shitstorms on the internet with grace and patience and strength and I really admire that about you. You’re constantly dealing with being judged, but you’re so non-judgmental of others. That’s pretty kickass, just like your writing.

    So thank you for being part of our team. You’ve opened so many people’s eyes and our site and the world is better for having your voice in it. We’re committed to continuing to work on trans* visibility here. Your heart will go on and on.

    I think I am ~drunkish but here’s the thing: thank you.

    Love
    Riese

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    Hi Annika, I never commented on your articles before, but I just wanted to chime in and tell you thanks so much for your articles, here and before, which were always such a source of wisdom. Please come back to us when you are ready.

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    “I never allowed myself to fully relax. I constantly policed my gender presentation and mannerisms to make sure that I wouldn’t raise suspicion. I was terrified that someone would learn the truth about my gender.”

    My life :-(

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    Worthwhile read. I enjoy reading transgender people’s blogs who are caring, kind people and something worthwhile to say. And being good looking doesn’t here either. This has made it on several blogs, and glad it did.

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    Hi Annika!

    Congratulations! Great blog!

    I just wanted to tell you that I’d translate to spanish and quote one part of this text in my blog (and obviously, I wrote a link) in the text I wrote about women’s international day. I hope you don’t mind.

    I think it’s really interesting to see what a “new woman” realiced about being a woman, a this text (specially points #1 and #2) is great to remember on what a crazy world we are, where being a girl is sometimes so unfairly hard.

    Good luck! Love,

    Aida

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    Gee you brought up an issue I had forgotten about being careful not to out yourself and being correct in your birth gender. I would never go in my sisters rooms for fear that somebody would figure out who I was. Talk about building a stone fortress to hide in. Looking back I sure was neurotic but also fearful of being found out. Today I am neurtoic and dont give a rats ass what anybody thinks. My I have changed ,,sic

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    “You do you.” Thank you Annika for being such an absolutely graceful writer and authentic person. Have a wonderful time in your new adventures – public activism is a baton that multiplies in the hands of a skilled bearer like yourself, as it is passed on to new activists. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has picked up a baton from you through your personal and insightful writing. You are personally irreplaceable, but the work of helping the world embrace the full diversity of gender and personal experience goes on.

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    Annika,

    I don’t know if you still get notices of comments, but I just wanted to thank you from the deepest well of my heart. I am 52 and for so many years I have felt immensely alone. I have lived most of my life in a lie because I thought I was a freak. I have known since I was five that I wanted to be a girl. But I was always told that *that* was weird. As I grew and tried (failing miserably) to maintain the “male” role I was expected to play, I was cautioned that *that* made me seem gay. I have no desire to “be with men” and so I shrank back. I have had so much trouble trying to align my feelings for women with my often overwhelming desire to be a woman. I thought I was alone. I thought I was a freak. I thought I was an aberration, a mistake of creation. But finding your blog posts and finding others through them that share my feelings has helped. I am too old and too poor to become the woman I have always felt inside, but knowing that I am not alone has been an incredible lift to my soul. Again thank you. So sorry to have found your wonderful and inspiring words after you decided to take an “indefinite break”. I wish you all the luck and love and happiness, and just wanted you to know what a huge difference you have made in this one life.

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