The power of gender validation is strong. Especially after we take on all the intense work and struggle to cross the binary gender frontier. For most transgender women and trans men validation is difficult to achieve as we attempt to live a new life as our authentic selves. In the past I have attempted to document my struggles with validation.
Looking back, I suppose it all started with my earliest days of cross dressing in front of the hallway mirror growing up. Unlike girls of my age bracket, I didn’t have any feedback. Except from the mirror.
Mirror Photo Source Cyrsti Hart
Which I discovered later wasn’t the best choice. The mirror was excellent in telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. Not what was really happening. A tendency which would cause me tons of pain as the years progressed.
Perhaps the biggest mistake I made in the validation process was getting past the idea women primarily don’t dress themselves with men in mind. They dress for other women. As I began to understand the feminine validation process, I started to grow up mentally and began to dress to blend. My “style” shifted from borderline trashy into my beloved “boho” style which was coming back into fashion. I was able to relive a portion of my youth and still have the style to blend into the public’s eye. This included upgrading my ill fitting clownish wigs into more expensive but presentable hair. Once I did all of this, I was able to achieve a feminine presentation which allowed me to explore the world as a woman without getting laughed at.
At this point of my validation process was when I gained the nuances of gender communication. Of course I always knew women and men communicated differently but I didn’t realize how much until I started to communicate one on one with other women on a regular basis. Many stereotypes were true. For example men really don’t listen to women who communicate on a totally different plane than men. With my gender background I carried so many biases with me. For example, I knew many of the men I knew only looked at women on a sexual level and rarely paid any attention on a professional or intellectual level. Even still I wasn’t prepared for the immediate gender rejection I experienced when I attempted to interact with a man.
My very first experience I remember was when my car suffered an untimely breakdown. As I waited for a tow truck of course I was “helped” out by a well meaning policeman. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the tow truck to arrive and the cop and tow driver got together on the best route to get my car home. Amazingly neither of them wanted to listen to my directions! I guess living there wasn’t good enough. Finally as I rode back in the front of the tow truck, my perceived lack of intelligence presented itself again and again. As the driver painstakingly described his truck I finally dumbed down to asking the most basic questions. It turned out this experience was one of many as I explored being validated as a woman from men.
Women were much easier. As I quickly accepted, learned and ultimately enjoyed my new communication roles my confidence grew as well as my validation . Most of it occurred when I learned non verbal communication skills women use.
Looking back at the transgender validation process, it was a long experience to jump from the mirror to the world. But, it was worth it.
Perhaps one of the best decisions I made in 2021 was my decision to share my posts I write here in Cyrsti’s Condo on a writer’s publishing site called “Medium”. I enjoyed the other LGBTQ writers I saw and decided to share my experiences. Even though you have to pay a minimum yearly price (fifty dollars) to be a member, I quickly recouped the money I spent by getting paid for posting on the site. As an added incentive, I was even given an award for being one of their new LGBTQ writers.
Also I was able to make new friends such as Jen who shared her unique experiences. Here is one:
“Trans women with men? Trans women? I have live 58 years and haven’t seen one transwoman anywhere any time. Till 6-7 months ago and a chance meeting across a youtuber that somehow managed to attract her attention ,and after a month of trying to track me down finally contacted me. Long story short it was love at first type. but as you say fairly often ,that’s a different story. My story seems to mirror your in a lot of ways .
Though I never married a woman and after a few sexual experiences as a teen. Having sex with another woman kind of grossed me out. These were not ugly girls that wanted me ,some were the hottest thing in school but like you I want to look like them than have ,eew sex with them , my last girlfriend was smokin hot ,I came out to her and she proceeded to out me. so I outed myself ,figured that way i could have my side told first and so I opted for the gay option over the trans , because gay you might get your teeth kicked in but you would survive. I could have been pissed my last girlfriend did that but truth be told she introduced me to my first two boyfriends. That was all the convincing I need to know it that inner voice was a bunch of horse hocky. I was 16 100lb 5’5 with hair down past my butt . My hair was long than any girl in high school , Which I dropped out to move in with my boyfriend who was 10 years older than me. My mind was on transitioning 1981. It did work out.”
Thanks Jen for sharing. I am glad it all worked out for you. As I have written, I believe these days the increase in social media usage has led to an increased awareness in the availability of other transgender women and trans men. In addition, in many areas there are transgender – crossdresser groups who further the attempts of novice individuals to get out of their closets and into the world. The best example I have is the group I am part of right here in Cincinnati. For most of the year, the group hosts socials at various restaurants where novice and experienced members gather.
Before I became involved with this group I felt my relationship with my partner Liz was relatively unique. She identifies as a cis woman lesbian while of course I am a transgender woman. The diversity of the group was further personified when one of the transgender women married a cis man. So now I think almost anything is possible. Just part of last years thoughts at the beginning of a new year. In future I will be sharing other comments from Medium.
2022 is here and once again it’s time to consider coming up with resolutions. I say consider because I have in the past not really believed in resolutions. Perhaps the closest I have come to having a resolution for a new years was when I started hormone replacement therapy eight years ago. Back in those days I was on pills so my partner Liz and I went to a special venue I liked and I took my first doses of estradiol and spiro which helped to suppress my testosterone which was on the decline anyhow because of my age (early 60’s).
One way of another, the beginnings of HRT would be in many ways the ultimate resolution. To me it represented a point of no return on my transition journey. From that point on, I was firmly in the transgender camp.
Unfortunately the holiday message remains the same for far too many LGBTQ individuals. Especially the transgender portion of the population. Tragically, 2021 witnessed another record number of transgender fatalities.
On a personal level again, so many transgender women and men are alone after being rejected by their family and friends. Again and again I write on how fortunate I am to have a solid family support system around me.
Before all of that support came along though, I suffered from being desperately lonely. At my age (early 60’s) I thought another long term personal relationship was completely out of the question so I was prepared to go it alone.
It was at that point when I started to explore the feminine world seriously for the first time. I called the whole experience as going out to be alone. On the rare occasions I was approached, I was learning how not to be alone. I just didn’t know it.
My “Sad Eyes” Photo
In addition to my favorite venues I went to and was accepted, I tried many of the on line dating sites. Predictably, I encountered much more trash than treasure. I went so far I was ready to give up when Liz came along. Truly, by her own admission, she found me. She said I had “sad eyes” and we started to correspond with each other. I was too paranoid about my phone voice for the longest time to be brave enough to talk in person. I finally overcame the vocal obstacle and the rest was history. We have been together for ten years now. What made the process easier was we lived only approximately seventy miles apart. Also to be clear, I was still trying to live on both sides of the binary gender spectrum.
To make a long story short, I had hit a personal jack pot with Liz as she was instrumental in kicking me out of the closet into a full time feminine life. It can happen to you too when you least expect it.
Many years ago I struggled to think my cross dressing urges were just a harmless way of expressing myself, even to the point of referring to it as a hobby (to myself). There was no way I was going to tell anyone else of my hobby without subjecting myself to ridicule, or worse. As the years went by I outgrew my idea of wearing women’s clothes as being any sort of a hobby. My love of sports and model railroading were hobbies. Attempting to develop my feminine self the best I could became an increasingly serious pursuit.
By that time in my life as I entered my college years, I began to wonder if my crossdressing urges were more of an addiction. The reason being was because when I took the time and effort to dress I would automatically feel better for several days. What I didn’t realize was I was feeling natural for a change when I was aligning my feminine side with my external appearance.
Photo Courtesy: Cyrsti Hart
Along the way I received a clue from the first gender therapist I went to. She bluntly told me I would never totally lose my transvestite urges. (Remember that word?) To me it meant the path I was on had nothing to do with being addicted to wearing women’s clothes. The whole process provided me with one answer but in turn sent me on another path searching for answers.
For what ever reason as the years flew by I couldn’t face the fact I was living a lie as I tried as hard as I could to be a macho man. The only addictions I was living through were the stresses my severe gender dysphoria was causing me and the extreme amount of alcohol I was consuming to to outrun all my urges.
I was very fortunate in that all of my excesses which led to thoughts of self harm didn’t kill me. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to write about my life was in hope others could learn from it. Another way of saying I/you were there too and could make it out of the closet and into the world.
Finally after years of struggle I figured out the only addiction I had was holding on as long as I did to my white male privilege. Once I let it all go it was similar to taking a heavy weight from my shoulders. Very few people were around to witness my gender transgender transition but the ones who did mentioned how much happier I was.
I am fond of saying I was a crossdresser for a half a century before I could get it through my thick noggin what my problem was. At that point I started hormone replacement therapy and formed plans to live full time as my authentic feminine self.
I guess you can say I am still addicted…to my estrogen patches.
These days it seems, toxic masculinity gets all the press and it should but on the other hand does toxic femininity exist also? What form/forms does it take?
I have always thought women have as much ego as men. Of course it just manifests itself different. I go way back to the “A” list crossdressers I met at the coming out mixers I attended. They were always huddled in their little clique and reminded me of the cheerleader types in the high school I went to. Later on I would refer to individuals such as them as “trans nazi’s” They valued their self worth by the number of operations they had undertaken to secure their “trans-ness.” Seemingly the trend has never totally gone away with the fairly recent wave of “I’m more Trans than you.”
I used to think most of this had to do with a holdover affect from male competitiveness. An example would be since I can’t out compete you in sports, I will mold myself into the most attractive woman I can.
I’m sure you all have known those women who seem to grow older gracefully and a few of them who didn’t. My very own Mom had a difficult time with the graceful aging process. Some attribute the process to a hormonal balance. After menopause women have a tendency to experience a lowering of their estrogen levels which leads to a higher testosterone level. Obviously I am not an expert so it’s just another theory.
Another reason for toxic femininity could be that women operate on more of a layered existence than men. Families, kids and boys/men play a big part in a woman’s ego. It’s one of the reasons marriages are less likely to survive when the husband decides to transition into a woman. All of a sudden the wife does not have a spouse but now has a competitor. What will she ever tell her friends. Then again, I have known cis women in my life who have never gotten along with other women. For whatever reason. I have also met “TERFS” who have taken it upon themselves to be feminine gatekeepers and keep me from their world.
There have been times when I wish I had one super power. I wish I could know what other women think of me when they meet my eye and glare. Sure, perhaps they are transphobic and dislike me or do they consider me competition. One night, I ran smack into a gaggle of cis women in a rest room in downtown Cincinnati. Even though the venue was heavily straight, it also advertised it’s
Photo Courtesy Cyrsti Hart
pro LGBTQ stance, so I wasn’t expecting any pushback when I used the supposedly female only space (which wasn’t). One woman in particular glared at me as I went into the stall to complete the reason for my visit. As I followed restroom etiquette to a fault, I paused to wash my hands and quickly check my hair and makeup. The funny part happened when I had to dry my hands and the woman who glared at me was standing very close to the air powered hand dryer. As she glared again, it gave me great pleasure to push the button and rearrange her hair. Getting the last laugh was fun.
Even though toxic masculinity takes a more evil and often violent form, toxic femininity exists too on a different level. Unfortunately it takes a trip or two into the girls sandbox to experience it. My disclaimer is toxic masculinity can kill you. More on that in another post. Be careful on both fronts.
Seemingly the Christmas Day post here in Cyrsti’s Condo would be one of the easier ones to write. But, it just isn’t.
I know for many in the LGBTQ community the day brings back memories of ex-blood families who have rejected us. Of course I have documented many times how my brother and his family did not support me when I came out to them as transgender. These days the extended family I have developed have more than replaced what I have lost from my brother.
The bigger loss to me were the frenetic times I spent with my deceased wife whose favorite holiday by far was Christmas. All the memories now are so fond and bring back such great memories, it makes Christmas one of the more difficult times of the year for me too. As much as I try to make it as close to any other day as possible, I just don’t want to.
Even my daughter quit celebrating the Christmas holiday when she converted to Judaism. This Christmas she is spending in Alaska with her kids on some sort of a glacier. That leaves just me, Liz and her son to feast on a holiday ham. As far as ham goes, we now have an embarrassment of riches. We bought one on our pickup from our main grocery store was shorted on our order. So it was deducted and we went down the street to another store and bought one. Then when we returned home and found the ham they shorted us. Finally, to make matters even more ridiculous, Liz was gifted a large ham or turkey from her company. So either we have enough protein to last through June or we donate one of the hams to a local food pantry.
So much for our positive food issues. Let’s get to the important part of this post. I hope you all have a meaningful holiday, however you decide to celebrate it!
If you are like me, there have been many times in your life when you wished you could go back to a social situation you found yourself in and redo it. Often you have thought of a comment or reply which may have been more appropriate or even witty as a retort to a person who approached you.
Seemingly as transgender women or transgender men we are more subjected to the possibility of a negative statement or gender comment.
Today, I have decided to share Connie’s comment on how she handled a situation following a comment directed towards her:
” You’ve reminded me on an incident, many years ago, when my wit was quick enough to make the perfect zinger. I was feeling every bit the woman I knew myself to be at a rather-formal gathering one night. A man approached me, I believe with full intent of chatting up a lady (I have always tried, as a woman, to be a lady). After a bit of small talk, including some obnoxious toxic male comments from him, my voice must have finally outed me. The guy suddenly remarked, “Wait, you used to be a MAN?” My quick retort was, “I used to be twice the man you’ll ever be, and now I’m twice the woman you could ever handle.” 🙂
Nice! The worst I ever had to handle was a guy who was adamant about wearing my panties. We were kind of on a date which went quickly sour after that comment and was quickly brought to a halt. For his sake I hope he gathered up enough confidence to buy and wear his own panties.
Ironically (or not) I become a little agitated when a guy comes along with with strong male toxicity. Especially when he views transgender women as sex objects only. Then again he may feel the same way about all women, trans or not.
I am also a bit humored when a novice transgender woman says how desperate she is to find a quality man. Just think of the dating pool she just entered with the number of cis women seeking that same man.
Bullied Kid Photo by Kat J on Unsplash
Connie was correct though. Once we transition, the possibility exists you can become twice the woman a man can handle if you have learned any gender lessons at all. The possibility of recognizing male toxicity and steering clear of it is easier once you have lived it in a previous life. After all men aren’t shy of bullying other men as well as using other forms of gender dominance to get their way around other men. In many cases we did have to be twice the man as someone else just to survive.
This post actually began with a question which I saw asked in Facebook from one of my acquaintances who is starting down her own gender path. This isn’t an exact quote but essentially she asked what/when did we know we were women.
Backtracking just a bit on the subject, I have never felt women were ever just made because they were born female. Both binary genders, male and female end up being socialized into men and women. Obviously, since I can’t birth a child or have monthly periods I prefer to refer to myself as a woman of transgender experience. In other words, I had to spend many years outwardly living as a man before I could finally take the plunge and begin living as my authentic feminine self.
These days also there are those who somehow want to suggest late transitioners such as myself are not “transgender enough”. Mainly because we put off completing our gender transitions. There are several problems with that idea. The main one being, all the changes which have occurred over the years when transgender women and men are concerned. After all term “transgender” wasn’t even used until the mid 1960’s (according to my quick research). My gender dysphoria predates that by approximately twenty years. Of course too, I predate the internet and all the social media sites which have made more knowledge possible about all sorts of gender issues.
I am fond of using the term “gender fluid” as an example. If I go back to my teen and pre-teen years, I remember vividly how many times I would wake up in the morning thinking which gender did I want to be today. I most certainly could have been described as gender fluid before I more clearly understood my true gender intentions.
I also can not take all the credit for socializing myself into a woman of transgender experience. You may recall recently I wrote about my daughter’s role in setting me up in a very intense and scary appointment at my first hair salon. I also have written about my two very close cis female friends who initially accepted me as a person and paved the way for me to socialize with them as a girlfriend. I love to say they taught me more about my new life than they would ever know. Before I met them, I never considered all the layers there were in a woman’s life which men didn’t have. They definitely helped me climb out of my closet but the person who kicked me out and slammed the door was Liz.
Liz (left) and I. Pre Covid New Years Photo
Liz is my current partner and we have been together over ten years now. When we met, even though I was having success socializing my feminine self, I still was clinging to the slightest bit of male privilege and life I was leaving behind.
She flat out told me she never saw any male in me and I should take whatever means necessary to get out of the closet (totally) and live full time as a woman.
So, I am far from being wise enough to tell or suggest to anyone what makes a woman. We are socialized by society to be confined to our own gender closets. How we escape makes us the women we are today.
I become a little embarrassed when someone asks me when I started to transition into the transgender woman I am today. I just can’t say I don’t remember.
Photo Courtesy Cyrsti Hart
I feel as if there are several answers which are too complex for the great majority of those who asked to follow. After all, they weren’t looking for an answer in a book length format. Even still the whole idea is something I should be able to explain in a simple blog post. Without having the person’s eyes cloud over in boredom as I explain.
Perhaps the easiest answer is I started to transition when I was born. However, since I didn’t really know what the problem was, did being born really count. The excuse is also to blame my Mom or her doctor for putting her on the meds which were so popular in the late 1940’s into the early 1950’s which (I think) flooded the womb with estrogen to prevent mis-carriages. Since my Mom had suffered several, the meds were prescribed. The drug was called “DES” and was a form of synthetic estrogen prescribed between 1940 and 1971 according to Google. The double edged sword of course was I may have not been born at all without the drug. I will take being transgender instead.
From birth until I was approximately 12 years old, I went through a phase of life I call “trans-interrupted” During that time I saw no way out of being a boy and indulged in all boy things such as sports and exploring the nearby woods to our house.
So, I could say I started to transition when I noticed I still could fit into and try on some of my Mom’s clothes as I entered puberty. I like to say those adventures into femininity started me on a half century trip into cross dressing. It wasn’t until much later I finally figured out all that time I was actually cross dressing…as a man. It took awhile to transition myself away from it because I was so good at it and had established quite a bit of male privilege.
Then again, I could say I began to transition the night I sat all alone and decided I couldn’t take all the ripping and tearing I was experiencing in myself any longer. All coming because of my developing gender dysphoria. The whole process led me to be extremely depressed all the way to attempted “self harm” as my therapist calls my suicide attempts. Finally I decided to follow the feelings I was having when I was exploring the world as my feminine self. In other words, I felt so natural. I finally got it through my thick noggin to do what was best for me. No matter how selfish it may seem to others in the world, I had to save me.
Lately, I have been taking the easy way out when someone asks me when I started to gender transition. I reply by saying I do remember. It was eleven years ago when I was 61 and decided to seek out whatever help I could find to begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The process was a way of telling myself there was no turning back as my life was changing for the better. Plus it’s a simple way (I think) of explaining to others where I am in my life. It helps me also to have my rusty memory working overtime to clear out the cobwebs.
I read lots of books, from mythology retellings to literary fiction and I love to reread books from childhood, this is a place to voice my thoughts for fun. I also like to ramble about things such as art or nature every now and again.