4 Moments During My Transition When Womanhood ‘Clicked’ for Me

I sometimes get asked where I ‘am’ in my transition, or if it’s ‘finished’. Those questions can vary a lot in intention. Some people ask because they’re profoundly interested in my genitals and are trying to figure out how fuckable I am. Others ask to understand about my internal sense of gender and well-being. Answering the former is easy: I am extremely fuckable, but I also have standards, and this conversation is over.

For the latter group, this article is dedicated to you, because I don’t have a definite statement of where I am. Gender transition always felt like a second adolescence to me. A time of learning my new physiology and social scripts. It’s about figuring out who I want to be, then making it happen. I can’t think of a time when my transition truly began, nor do I ever expect it to end. But there were definitely moments when womanhood felt close. Here are a few.


When targeted ads began spooning wedding crap onto my feed

The first time it happened (on Instagram), I asked my girlfriend if she’d been scrolling on my phone. She said ‘no’, which left me confused about the ad for a picture-perfect heterosexual wedding pushed to my screen. I scrolled on, but it began to happen more often. Engagement ring ads for synthetic diamonds and recycled gold rings to fit my tastes. Luxury handbags and perfumes that I didn’t want. Period products for the period-less and maternity fashion for the severely disinterested.

I like to think my online browsing habits haven’t changed much. But those distant, algorithmic engines of capitalist hate clearly think otherwise. That single-minded dedication to selling femininity would be admirable if it weren’t so irritating.

When I can’t count on myself to affirm my femininity, automated marketing will be there for me. In the worst way possible.

The first time I changed outfits because I was worried for my safety

It was a short little thing. I also went braless. I feel comfortable in ‘short and braless’. I spent my adolescence and early twenties covering my body because nothing felt right. Black jeans in the middle of Summer. Adolescence (the correct one) came late and Summer is living her hot girl Summer while my thirtieth birthday approaches.

I asked my ever-lovely girlfriend what she thought.

“Hot.”

Followed by a momentary pause with a look of thoughtful concern. She explained I might stand out more than I usually do. It’s true — I’m usually the only Chinese girl present. It draws men to converse with me. Or worse.

Her feedback was sound. I’ve been targeted for casual sexual assault too many times. Men blocking the exit to my booth seat to touch me. Groping. One turned his friendly arm around my shoulders into sticking his tongue into my ear without warning.

I feel a kinship with girl friends and girlfriends that I never even saw in cis-het men. I didn’t believe for a moment that camouflaging myself would wholly avert sexual predation. I still don’t, but I did believe I was among friends and lovers who looked out for my well-being.

I did switch outfits that night, but never again afterward. Now, I just trust the network of known and unknown women around me to protect the herd.

When I kissed my pelvic floor muscles goodbye

Not every part of my feminine form sparks joy. Estrogen stitched my mind and body together into a cohesive whole, but it took away my familiar muscle mass. At first, the difference was almost imperceptible. Long-distance drives became more exhausting. I needed more breaks during chore-heavy days. We bought a jar opener once it became clear my days of manly duty were past.

I’m cool with that. My subscription to Estrogen Weekly listed loss of muscle mass as a normal thing. However, I refuse to gracefully accept the atrophy of my pelvic floor muscles. I used to pee once before bed and made it through the night with my complaint. Now my girlfriend and I share the delightful three-pees-for-me ritual before we take our chances with sleep.

Worse than that? No matter how I shake, squeeze, wipe, or dance, there’s always a few drops left to ambush my underwear. During one such nighttime performance, she told me that weakened pelvic floor muscles are like an infomercial.

There’s always more.

When the thought of masculinity was scarier than the needle

I’ve had a fear of needles since childhood. I think it’s pretty rational to be afraid of something piercing the veil of my body and ending up inside me. The day I switched from oral estrogen to injectable estrogen was terrifying because I didn’t just have to deal with needles. I had to stick myself with one. On purpose. Absurd.

I fussed over my injection kit to delay the inevitable. I fumbled with sterile swabs, cotton balls, and that amber vial of fluid until I had to make the decision. Should I take the more effective injected estrogen or stick to the weaker oral option? I weighed my options and shakily slid the incarnation of my fear into my own body.

My fear of masculinization overrode my fear of needles. I’d seen another side of life at the end of a needle and had no interest in returning to bristly body hair and the constant mental agitation. I’d never define womanhood as the presence or absence of a sex hormone, but every injection reaffirms my mental fortitude. Nothing speaks more to my womanhood than an intense desire to live as myself despite persistent fear.

Until a better option comes along, I get to deliver that injection every week. Some days go painlessly. On other days, I feel a needle piercing into a nerve cluster or striking the still-healing cavity left by a previous injection. It’s viscerally painful, but necessary. I’m used to it now, but we should never mistake acclimatization for acceptance.

Besides, womanhood has always been an incomprehensibly complex recipe to me. Every ingredient in the preparation matters. And if I can’t get homemade estrogen, then store-bought is fine too.

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 31 articles for us.

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