Through the course of my transition one item that constantly came up was my appearance and how well I ‘pass’. Within the community there are many people who have transitioned who feel that the only way to transition male to female is to try to pass as much as possible, spend a lot of money on hair removal, breast enhancements, facial feminization surgery and more. The attitude is one of “be the best woman you can be as long as it meets what I say a woman is.” A good critical look at this from one woman’s perspective is I’m A Trans Woman And I’m Not Interested In Being One of the “Good Ones”, For others how they present in their gender is a lot more fluid, or they lean more towards the masculine. So what to does that mean in my own journey? Read the rest of this entry »
In my last post I discussed what it means to be invisible, to not be seen. Today I’m going to look at what it means to be visible in a wider context. I am approaching this from my own perspective and experiences to date. I have mentioned in this blog that I am back in school, but I haven’t really discussed what I’m studying or what my long term journey is moving towards. My studies and my long term journey directly relate to my being visible, not stealth and being open about who I am. Being visible means, for me, being visible in two contexts that are often seen as being mutually exclusive. I am a queer person, a woman who is also trans and lesbian studying theology and in a process of discernment towards ordained ministry.
In our day to day lives we are called ma’am or sir quite regularly. For many people there is no concerns about this or any angst. Sometimes a clerk, cashier or other person we are interacting will use the wrong term. They will call a woman “sir” or a man “ma’am”. This happens to those who are cis* as well as those who are trans*. There are women who look more masculine and are mistaken for men on occasion and visa versa. For those of us who are transsexual or transgender this sort of a mistake has an impact that may seem disproportionate to many.
For myself and for many who go through the process of transition being addressed in a male form of address instead of a female form of address can be rather disconcerting, triggering and can cause a certain level of distress. In my own case I spent 36 years living in a body and attempting to live in a role that society said was ‘male’. A body and a role that were not who I truly am. The process of transition can be, and most often is, very difficult mentally, emotionally and physically. In my own case it was less traumatic than some, and more traumatic than others. One aspect that I am crystal clear about is that there is no way I would ever go back to trying to be a man. I am a woman. So why does this make the form of address important?
Being called “sir” or being referred to as “he” or “him” is a reminder of what I once was. It is a reminder of trying to live as someone I really wasn’t. It is a reminder of the pain and trials of the transition process. It is a reminder of twenty-seven years of depression. Early on, particularly after I shed my old identity and began living my whole life as who I truly am I would get rather irked and upset about being called “sir”. Almost two and a half years later I am at a point where I don’t want to immediately bite the person’s head off and feed it to the nearest raccoon. Unless of course it is deliberate and the person is trying to be insulting and disrespectful.
My advice to those who interact daily with people they don’t know, which most of us do to a greater or lesser degree, avoid using gender specific modes of address, especially if you are unsure how the person wants to be addressed or are unsure if the person is male or female. This will save them pain if they are in a sensitive place in their journey. It may also save you a tongue lashing at the hands of someone for whom it was the comment that pushed them over the edge into an angry response.
* I am using cis as a short form for cissexual – those who aren’t trans* and trans* to refer to those who fall at all points on the transgender, transsexual and gender queer spectrum.
Part of the process of transition, after the name change, but before one travels outside the country, is getting a new passport. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, maybe not. The application fee for a Canadian passport is currently $85 (Aug. 2011). Not a tonne of money, but noticeable when you’re on a budget. I decided to contact Passport Canada prior to applying for the passport to ensure that the gender marker on the passport would be the correct one – female.
I sent the following question to Passport Canada using their website on August 8th.
I have changed my name and have transitioned from male to female since my previous passport expired.
I would like my new passport, when I apply, to have my gender properly indicated. What will I need to provide?
I’ve been oh, so wonderful at keeping the blog up to date. In part this is because someone is trying to use the blog against me. Well, I’ll just say I’m going to be pursuing things in an appropriate venue.
That aside, life is moving forward. I am now living, working and socializing as Talia, as me. Work has been great. The company I work with has been wonderful, from the admin office, to my colleagues here in Ottawa. Clients have also been wonderful. I have not had any problems with old clients, or new.
I have been singing in the Church choir since January and it has done wonders for my voice. I am passing as female on the phone to the point of having difficulty on occasion when I have to identify myself under my male name. OOPS. Forgot to drop the voice again… The legal name change is in the works, but these things take time.
One of the big up sides to HRT is that it has really helped with my mood. Feel better than I ever have, plus I’m noticing the physical effects. As one friend said, “Who yanked the pull tabs on your chest?” These are good things. I am passing the vast majority of the time and have not had any problems while doing normal daily things. Can even make some people wibble when they realize.
In July I’m going to be going to my cousin’s wedding. This will be the first time that much of the extended family will meet the new me in person. My cousin was great when I told him and said I was quite welcome. He was more concerned that I’m ready to deal with the family. My response was that if he’s okay with it then I’m ready. After all, much better for them to meet the new me at a wedding than at a funeral.
All being said, I’m very fortunate to have good friends, family and an accepting church community. Still stresses in life, but they are quite manageable.
Last weekend I hit a good milestone in my journey. I was referred to in the feminine pronoun by strangers twice on Saturday. Once at a small restaurant – they didn’t have coffee! Talk about blasphemy! The second at Walmart when a staff person addressed myself and a friend as ladies at the checkout. This was a very positive experience and a reassurance that my appearance is coming along nicely.
Given all the ‘fun’ with my friend’s ex being an abusive turd toward her it was good for us to have a relaxing day out and about. It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend when we go to pick up the stuff that’s still in the house. Stuff he’d promised to arrange to have moved from Montreal to the Ottawa area. He’s changed his availability for her to pick it up once he found out that her help wouldn’t be available after a certain date. We’ll get her stuff, if he decides to be difficult that’s his issue – we won’t put up with it.