Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seeing red

Being a transsexual is expensive. I've been a little stressed about money lately, with student loans looming over my head and the perpetual cost of living in NYC taking such a big chunk out of my paycheck, and I realized how much extra money I've had to ease through things if being trans didn't cost so damn much.

There are medical expenses- my surgery cost around $10,000 all told, if you add up the 7550 surgery fees, 1800 flights + hotel for me and my mom and sister, probably at least 300 on food/taxis/etc while in San Fran, plus around 800 bucks in lost wages while I was out of work, including the 300 that my Union is supposed to reiumburse me for but has refused to. My other medical expenses are actually much lower than most trans folks have to deal with, since I have access to health care through Callen Lorde's youth program, which gives me intensely discounted services. My testosterone has cost me only 10 dollars per vial, and I'm only halfway through my second vial at 7 months on T. Usually it'd be around 60 or 70 bucks a vial. Each time I visit the clinic, which is every other week to get my shot, I have an optional five dollar copay, which I usually plain forget about, but which I have paid a couple of times. Then there's my once a week therapy, which ordinarily would be either out of pocket (who knows how much therapy costs these days?) or at least an insurance copay, but is free for me through C-L. (All this through my 24th birthday! Nice to get some advantage out of my youth). And then my weekly transmasculine support group has a $5 suggested donation, which I fork over when I have it easily to hand, which is about half the time.

Then there's all the cost associated with changing my identity documents. My name change process cost me...let's see, about 60 bucks for the initial petition. Then I was fortunate enough to get free support from the ACLU, so I didn't have to pay for my legal assistance, but that's just through good contacts in the community and the grace of the ACLU. Then it was $73 to get published in the village voice, and another $20 for the certified copies of the final order, once it went through. Then there was the $30 I sent to my surgeon for a notarized letter proving I'd had surgery (you'd think he'd include that cost with the nearly five grand surgery fee, but you'd be wrong) so I could bring that around to various institutions and prove myself. The new driver's license cost me $45. Most of the other places (social security, bank, etc) didn't cost anything but time, but time is costly, and I sure spent plenty of it in waiting rooms and on hold.

Hmm. I feel like there's more in there, but I can't think of it just now. I guess I'm saving money by no longer having to buy sports bras and tampons, but I'm turning right around and spending it on shaving cream and razor blades. It's enough to make a guy wince- what is it, well over 10 grand spent on my transition? I feel absurdly privileged that I've managed to pull all that off over the last year, and also profoundly sad that it costs so much to set things right between my body and my life. Also twinges of nostalgia- think what else I could have purchased. Finally travel outside of the US or Canada- probably could've made several trips. Or I could've paid off 1/3 of my student loans. Taken a date out to dinner every night for a year. Made a downpayment on a house, for god's sake. Oh well. I'm not going to say it's not worth it, because it absolutely, totally, one hundred percent was. The cost just makes me a little sad.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Got ID?

I've mostly finished getting all of my new pieces of ID in order. I'm still waiting for my driver's license and credit card to come in the mail, but I got my new social security card and bank card. And I've got my temporary license, and heck, probably best if I'm not using my credit card right now anyway! I also got my new work ID, and called my cell phone company and I called my union about getting a new health card issued, which would be just about my last step. It's funny to feel like I'm reinventing myself, but perhaps also just clarifying/reducing in the sense of distillation.

While visiting relatives for Turkey Day, someone apparently said something about how I look "more like yourself than you ever have." Which seems to be a common response and is one that I'm a little cautious about it (how could I look more like me than I used to? I was me then, and I'm me now, and I look like me both times.) but I know that's just me being contrary, because really, it's a very lovely and affirming sentiment to hear, and it's something that I certainly feel, too. I'm more familiar with and friendly towards myself and my appearance as it becomes more solidly, comfortably masculine. I certainly have been enjoying a selfesteem boost lately with the realization that I'm a reasonably good looking guy. But it's funny to think about because if this is my "true" self, if I look "more like me" now, then what was I before?

Immature, I guess, in every sense. I said something terribly self deprecating once to a lover about feeling like a dented can, in that I didn't feel fit for consumption, because I had such tangled up insides when it came to myself (my gender/identity). A better metaphor, perhaps, would be unripe fruit...still inedible, but not intriniscally busted, just not ready yet.

I'm going to stop myself efore I get too unberably gay with this transition-as-ripening metaphor, but I have to say that transition has brought (and I hope will, along with time, continue to bring) me a measure of maturity that I certainly appreciate. Fitting, considering that adolescense is in all ways a time of maturity. I wonder what it's like to transition later in life, as a truly second adolesence? Because really, at the age of 20, I wasn't quite finished with my first one by the time I started this second.

Anyway, all that is quite off track because what I meant to discuss was myself now and myself then, and how we relate, especially considering the recent official/legal replacement of my old self (name/gender markers) with my new one. As a friend put it, I want to hang on to my history, but I want it to be just that- history. So I want to put it behind me and live my life for who I am now, without being tied (shackled?) to my innacurate/immature history, while still allowing that history to inform who I am today.

If that sounds like a complicated dichotomy, it's because it is one. Definitely complex feelings here, since I want to simultaneously honor my past and keep it firmly distanced from myself. I think some of the desire for distance is because for a long time my history was refusing to cede gracefully to my future. Or rather, other folks were refusing to let go of their (historically more or less accurate) visions of me as female, in favor of seeing me (much more accurately now) as male. So I've still got my guard up, still used to fighting to be seen. (I think trans folks will always be fighting to be seen, especially those of us genderqueer types who want to be seen as something that the world doesn't know how to see.)

So I'm still wary and defensive, which makes it even harder to tread that complicated, weaving back and forth line between acknowledging/honoring my past (not making it secretive) and living my life as it is now (sometimes being seen as male without any additional nuances). For instance, the other night I was out at a bar with friends and friends of friends, and one of those acquaintances, upon learning that my sister goes to Smith, asked me. "Oh, did you go to Smith?"

The question, on the face of it, is not such a bad one. She knew my twin sister goes there. But it was painful to me because it brought up a flare of Dammit-Smith-is-a-women's-college-so-she-must-think-I'm-a-girl!!! panic, which was probably partially evidenced in my startled/emphatic "No!" response.

But then I took a second, and a breath, and realized (duh) that Smith is NOT a college of only women, and that all it meant is that this person knows that I'm not a non-trans man. So I carried on in a calmer tone, explaining where I went to school, etc.

But that interaction is emblematic of issues of disclosure that crop up for me all the time. I don't want to be ashamed of being trans, I don't want to hide it. But I don't want to be OUT about it ALL THE TIME. Put in caps for emphasis...I want to be out, but I don't want to be only known as trans always. I suppose this wouldn't be so much of an issue if being trans weren't such a big huge deal in this society, but while I'd like to be casual/not anxious about disclosure, it's not something that can be casually dropped into conversation.

I'm the last person who'll say that I don't ever make a big deal out of it, but even if I weren't the one making the big deal, being trans tends to...make deals big.

Like when a woman in my psych class says to me, when I don't understand a reference of hers "Oh, it's because we did that at slumber parties...boys' slumber parties must be different!"

I could say, "Well, actually, I went to girls' slumber parties when I was younger, because I was [sort of] a girl then, and I still don't know what you're talking about."

But no one in that class knows I have a vagina, and none of them really need to know, I guess, but they don't need to NOT know, either, but it's not really something that you can just drop into conversation. Partly because being trans is still [made to be] so much about one's body, specifically, one's genitals, and you can't casually discuss genitals in most conversational settings.
So anyway. Having new documentation brought this up for me because I no longer have forced disclosure at bars and other ID situations, but while I think that's good, I also worry that it'll feed the opportunities to be stealth, and I (clearly) have not made up my mind about being stealth vs. being out vs. being discreet. I'll never be a non-trans person, but I couldn't help feeling like my history is evaporating a little with each new piece of plastic...like when I was at the Social Security office, and the woman was sliding all of my pieces of paper back under the plastic divider to me, one at a time.

"Here's your temporary license, and your name change order, and your doctor's letter."

Then she held up my old social security card "And this isn't you anymore."

And threw it away.

stick 'em up

Been a while- I've got a couple of half-formed posts lying around that I might try to finish up, but in the meantime, a few more things have been boiling around in my head.
I'm trying to decide whether to ask my doctor if I can start self-injecting. The protocol would have me waiting a year, which would be April, but Callen Lorde, bless its heart, is genuinely flexible, and my therapist has hinted that I could bring the topic up for discussion and it would be well received. There are a number of factors to consider.

Pros: No more time spent (wasted) trekking to and from the clinic every other week, not to mention time spent in the waiting room, etc. Being able to switch to a weekly or 10 day cycle instead of my current 14 days, which I suspect (though through anecdotal evidence only) might help with mood swings and acne issues. In general, having more control over my shots- not having to plan my weeks around when appointments are available, and not having to be late for a shot if I'm out of town for more than 2 weeks in a row.

Cons: I have to stick the needle in my butt myself. I wouldn't have thought I'd be squeamish about such things, but the thought is honestly not appealing. I'm sure it's something that would get easier with practice, but still, it's not something the I'm bouncing up and down eager for.

Though I am pretty eager to mitigate this acne of mine- it wasn't really a component of my first puberty, and I have to say I think it's my least favorite component of this one. Really makes me feel unattractive and juvenile to have an oily, pustulent face.
Other than the acne, other T-related stuff is progressing just fine. Hair keeps coming, muscles keep firming. It's been pointed out to me several times by now that if I'd just work out, I could easily build quite a bit of muscle, since I've got muscles now that are scant but definite. Amazing what hormones can do for you. If I took advantage of my newfound muscle building abilities, and worked out, I could become, as they say, jacked.

My motivations in that regard are somewhat suspect, though. Why do I want to be more muscular? Mostly to more definitively code my body as male, and I'm not sure that's something I need or want to do anymore. I mean, muscles are useful- I'd like to be able to sweep my lover into my arms more easily, or hoist the suitcases up to the top shelf of my closet with slightly less huffing/puffing. And well defined shoulders and a flatter stomach would let my clothes hang on me in a more pleasing way. But a big reason I want muscles is because manly men have muscles, and I'm starting to let go of the idea that I'm going to be a manly man. I'm going to be me, Eli, man, and I've got some muscles and they're great, but why do I need more? If I do, I want the muscles for the suitcase-hoisting, not for the ego-boosting.
Although if I had more muscle on me, it might keep me from having silly ridiculous moments like this one. For...oh, I don't know, two months or so, I was a little bit worried about the left side of my chest. I'd been healing nicely from surgery, but when I was lying down and playing my fingers over my left pec, I could feel a hard edge at the end of the muscle, just above the scar. I was worried, maybe there was some intense scar tissue under there, or an adhesion? It was definitely something I'd never felt before surgery, and I was trying not to worry, but was definitely a little anxious about it.

Until a few weeks ago, when I was standing in front of my mirror checking out my chest, and I felt that hard lump, and I happened to move my arms up and down a bit...and realized that the lump didn't move with me. In fact, I could see the lump staying still under my flexing skin, and I could see similar lumps above and below it on both sides of my chest. It was my damn ribcage! I'm so scrawny that since I no longer have breast tissue in the way, I can feel my freakin' ribs when I'm poking around my chest. God, I felt like an idiot.
Speaking of my chest, it's doing well. There's been a subtle paradigm shift sometime in the last month, and I'm not sure when it happened, and I wasn't even aware of it til it shifted, but my chest has slowly become normal to me again.

It's been what, three and a half months? I didn't realize how much I was feeling the sudden absence of my breasts, but I was definitely getting used to the new landscape of my chest. It's no longer a new landscape. It feels normal to me, instead of new and exciting. My scars no longer seem like remnants, but rather like features of my body in their own right. They're fading, but not as quickly as I might've hoped. In fact, they almost seem pinker now than they did a month ago, and they've definitely wider. They've spread some. I hear that scarring generally looks worse before it looks better- something about blood flow to the area making scars look reddened, but that'll stop as the healing continues. I woke up the other morning and forgot that I had scars til I looked down and remembered- that was nice. Not to forget that I've got a trans body, but to forget about the trauma I put my poor torso through in order to shape it like I wanted.

And really, that's one of the more taxing things I've ever put my body through. I had that heart surgery in 7th grade, but that seemed easier, somehow, because it was so minimally invasive, and deliberately kept lowkey. These are certainly the biggest scars on my body. I've never broken anything (except that pesky knee, but that seemed minor, too) and so this has been my major wound.

My nipples are healing well, and sensation is returning, but it does seem like the pain nerves are the first ones to come back, because they go from numb to stabby with nothing in between. I'm hoping that'll stop, which I think it will...already my incisions are less tender than they used to be, so that bodes well for the nips.

So anyway. It's very nice to feel like my chest is my own- a totally new feeling, I think. It used to feel like breasts, which didn't make sense as mine. I mean, I knew it was my skin, but it didn't make sense as my body, which is why my body freakouts were so often centered around my chest. And then after surgery, it was doubly alien for a while- unfamiliar, and also unfeeling. It was a Brownstein chest. Now, though...now, I think it's mine.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Friday morning I went to the DMV with oodles of paperwork in hand and a supportive Rochelle by my side. 75 minutes, one eye test, two license request forms and a minimum of fuss later, I was awarded a NY State driver's license in the name of Elliott John, male. Pretty exciting! Of course, I didn't get to walk out with my new license...they took my picture that morning, but issued me a temporary paper license until they mail out my actual ID, which should arrive in 3 weeks or so. I'm impatient, but excited, though I also miss my old Oregon license already. I don't want to lose touch with my Oregonian identity! Now I'll just be any old New Yorker with a New York driver's license.

A male one, though. Named Elliott. *cue cheering*

It was a pretty painless event, all in all...I had to fill out one form with my old information on it to change from Oregon to NY, then another form with my new information, to change my name and gender on the NY license. Neither of the women I interacted with gave me any guff, just asked for all my paperwork and calmly worked everything out.

I've already been to the Bank and filed the forms for my new cards, so I'm waiting on those, and also with my human resources office at work- just waiting for them to update the database so I can get a new ID card. These things take weeks, apparently.

Tomorrow morning I'm headed over to the Social Security Office to get a new card. Excellent. Once that's taken care of, I think I'll be all set. My citizenship papers still have all my old information on them, but I think I can take that to a passport office with my letter and other documentation and apply for a passport (which would be a good thing to have anyway) with all the right information on it.

I need to call my cell phone company, still, but other than that, I think I'm in pretty good shape. Everyone who officially knew me as female will now know me as male.

And I have to say, it's a relief to have (or be in the process of acquiring, technically) documentation that doesn't cause a little glimmer of embarassment/disconnect when I show it to anyone.
Another shot tonight. Woot. Still thinking about switching to weekly shots. We'll see if I make any progress on that front.

Still getting hairier daily, and my voice is still getting lower, which may be empirically verified (or not) by checking out my latest voice post here.

My sideburns are getting long and fuzzy in a vaguely 19th century sort of fashion. I'm immensely fond of this look, and am considering increasing their surface area into genuine muttonchop territory. I will, of course, keep you posted on this possibility. I'm spending Thanksgiving with my dad- I'm hoping he can give me some advice and guidance around getting some beard trimmers, which I think would help with this facial hair maintenance thing. I haven't a clue about brands or varieties (though I suspect they're mostly all the same) and I was thinking that beard trimmer shopping might be some nice Father-Son bonding time. Hopefully my sister will come along to offer what feminine depilatory wisdom as she sees fit.
Next week, Ray from the Gender Identity Project (of recent New York Times fame) is coming up to the school where I work to give a presentation/training about working with Trans folks. I'm excited about it, and intrigued to see some good dialogue started on this topic in my workplace. I'm sort of out as trans and sort of not here...the first year students all read me as male, since they all know me post-surgery and hormones, whereas the second year students are a mixed bag. I don't know if they've been wondering about (or even noticing) my transition, but it's there to see if they've been paying attention. Unless they think I just started working out and not shaving as diligently this year, which could maybe explain my bulked up build, slimmer chest silhouette, and sideburns. Maybe.

Anyway, I don't know what the format of this training will be (lecture? Q & A?) so I don't know if there will be space for me to speak there, or even if I want to, but I'm definitely going- to support Ray, if nothing else.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the NY Times tango: two steps forward, one step back

Many folks have been sending me the article that was published in the New York Times yesterday (available online HERE) about the Board of Health considering a change to its birth certificate policy to enable trans folks to receive new, amended birth certificates with their chosen sex marker on them.

My reaction to the article is decidedly mixed.

The news is, of rourse, great- it's high time that the city reviewed and changed its policy around birth certificates. This is an important step towards removing some of the gatekeeping hurdles that are keeping trans folks from going on about their lives. I think it's highly important that people be able to have birth certificates which accurately reflect their gender identity and presentation, both for personal peace of mind, and also for identification purposes. Everything needs to match up if one wants to avoid a lot of potentially difficult, hurtful, and confusing situations. I've been fighting my own identity document skirmishes, as you well know, which I'll write about in a minute. But back to the Times article.

While the news is good news, the reporting and language of the article, on the other hand, don't get the highest marks from me. I certainly didn't appreciate the quotation from Dr. McHugh, the psychiatrist from John's Hopkins...he was the one who said that he'd "heard of" someone harassing people in the women's restrooms. I think that retelling such a fearmongering anecdote (just where did he "hear" this story?) is exactly the kind of smoke-with-no-fire vilification of trans people that hurts our cause the most. For one thing, putting an image of a stick person in a skirt on the door isn't going to make a restroom any safer, nor is this law (or the recent decision by the MTA to allow trans folks to use bathrooms of their choice) going to make restrooms less safe...anyone intent on harming or harassing someone is going to find their way into the bathroom anyway.

This isn't about allowing men to use women's restrooms- it's about not harassing women who might not look like most women, but have a right to use the women's room nonetheless. Which is a a crucially important distinction that's also completely missed in this article, and the poor reporting that really frustrates me.

The reporter repeatedly refers to trans people as "women who become men" or, as when referring to the lawyer quoted in the last paragraph, a "man who has lived as a woman since 2000." Those are innacurate and offensive characterizations. Transgendered men aren't "women who become men." We ARE men. We may have a different medical and social history than most men, but that in no way diminishes our identity and standing as men.

And frustratingly enough, it appears that the reporter has been told this...he quotes a transwoman who testified at the hearing, and notes that she "asked to be identified as a woman for this article." Such a disclaimer should not be necessary! If he isn't sensitive enough to know that he should refer to her as a woman, then it's a good thing that she asked him to. Following that, though, he shouldn't need to mention it in the article! Furthermore, he should follow those guidelines and refer to ALL transpeople respectfully, rather than with the invalidating "women who become men" lingo that he uses thoughout the rest of the article.

I know I'm being particular here, and that reporting around trans issues has come a long way, especially lately. At least this reporter got everyone's pronouns right, covered the topic in an essentially unbiased way, made sure to get quotations from people with multiple perspectives, even if some of the perspectives are frustrating.

And I am wary of making blanket pronouncements about what is or is not respectful to trans folks. "Transgender" is an enormous blanket term, and not all of us have similar ideas about what is and is not appropriate. I'm sure there are trans folks out there who wouldn't mind being described as a "man who became a woman," just as there are those of us who flinch at such binary terminology.

To me, such a description is both inaccurate- I don't think saying that I used to be a woman is very useful at all, since I never really fit any of the common definitions of the term, except perhaps anatomically- and insulting- it feels like an attempt at invalidation, an attempt to say "See! You're not REALLY a man."

I think that most of the people I know, trans or non-trans, would agree with me on those counts. The notion that gender oughtn't be defined by anatomy is one that has long since burst out of Women's and Gender Studies Departments, and I think it's clear to most reasonable people that describing someone who has transitioned as "a man living as a woman" is both hurtful and disrespectful.

So yeah. Anyone else have thoughts?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

happy halloween

Last weekend my roommate and I went out to a Halloween party dressed as Adam + Eve, and looked adorable, as you can see. We went to a party at the house of some dear friends of ours and had mostly a very excellent time, until one unfortunate incident at the very end.

Part of the reason I was so excited to wear this costume is that it was so skimpy...I made a conscious choice to wear it to a party with a lot of friends, but also a lot of strangers. It was an act of deliberate disclosure, and a bit of vanity. As one of my friends put it, a fun costume and a chance to show off my new chest all at the same time. I felt good about it, because I want to make sure that I remain realistic and down to earth about my self and my body...this is what I have, wide hips, chest scars, and all, and it's a great body, and it's masculine, and it's mine. My kind of masculine.

Anyway, those good feelings were what made such a contrast to the crappy feelings I had at the end of the night. Long story short, another party guest, whom I'd never met before that evening, was sitting next to me on the couch when (with neither invitation nor provocation) she decided to reach over and pinch my nipple. Hard.

I don't know if I'd have been so upset if it hadn't been so a) surprising and b) painful! My nipples are still very much healing, and I don't have a lot of sensation in them yet, but most of what I do have is pain reaction. Her pinch hurt a lot, and kept throbbing for several hours afterwards, besides feeling very invasive and inappropriate. It was crappy because it reminded me that my nipples are definitely still second class nipples at the moment- surgically reconstructed, and not healed, and in a new place on my chest. It was the first time that I've been made to feel bad about my new chest, and that hurt almost as much as the over-zealous tweaking.

Discussing the episode with one of my friends, he suggested that it could be a function of my evolving presentation as a gay guy. I'm still my usual fey self, and now that I'm no longer so ambiguously gendered, gay dude is the immediate and natural conclusion that most folks come to. And I'm fine (nay, happy!) with that, though I'll leave for another time the in depth discussion of my complicated queerness. Anyway, my friend reminded me that gay guys are often overtly sexualized by (usually straight) women, as a sort of "safe target" for sexual flirtation and interaction, especially since gay guys are seen as so hypersexual anyway. Doesn't excuse her behavior, but perhaps explains it?
Other than that irritating incident, life has been pretty good lately. The shots keep coming every two weeks, and my six month milestone bloodwork came back with nothing remarkable on it. We're going to go over specifics next week, but it seems like I'm falling in a normal range on all parameters. I'm looking forward to the spring, and the possibility of learning to self-inject and give myself my shots for two reasons- it'd be nice not to have to schlep over to Callen-Lorde every other week for what should be a 10 minute interaction but for which I often have to wait over 30 minutes. Also, I think my body might do better on a 1 week cycle...I'm beginning to suspect that my acne is related to peaks in my T cycle, and my mood swings related to troughs, as both of these maladies seem to be cyclic in their intensities.

However, I'm not looking forward to actually having to be the one to stick the needle in my butt. I'm a pretty tough guy, and I don't have problems with these shots I get now, but I'm getting a little squeamish just thinking about having to jab myself. We'll see.
I finally got the last piece of paperwork from the courthouse about my name change, and I should be getting a letter in the mail from Dr. Brownstein any day now certifying that he performed "irreversible gender reassignment surgery" on me, so I'm hoping on Monday I can embark on the complicated treasure hunt of getting all of my documentation changed. I need to go to the courthouse and pick up certified copies of my name change order, go to the DMV for a new license (trade in my old Oregon one for a NY one with Elliott on it and M in the gender category), go to the Social Security Office for a new Social Security Card, go to the bank and request new cards (though not new checks, since I had them put just my first initial and last name on the last batch), call my student loan company and update them, and go over to the Human Resources office here at Columbia to update their database and get a new ID card. phew. I think that might be it. maybe fax something to Simon's Rock for their records. Don't know yet what order I'll do this all in, since these places are variously located all over town, but I'm gonna dedicate all of Monday to the endeavor, so hopefully I can get it all done in one exhausting day. Better bring a book and some comfortable shoes for the undoubtedly endless line-waiting I'll have to endure.
Plenty of other things swilling through my brain that I never seem to have the time to post. I'm still sporadically attending the TransMasculine drop-in group downtown, though I missed last week. I am of course grateful and delighted to be part of a trans community here in the city, but also worried about being subsumed or assimilated somehow into what is surely a new and vaguely radical box, but a box nonetheless...and along what are often essentially arbitrary lines.

In other words, sometimes I wonder about hanging out with other transguys just because we're all trans. Identity politics can be dangerous, even though there have been innumberable benefits to connecting and strategizing with other transguys. Ending the isolation is awesome! But I worry about, as a fairly brilliant friend put it the other night, all of our narratives blending into each other and losing distinction. There's plenty of ways to pursue one's own masculinity, and having out at group can sometimes feel like TransMan 101: How to Do It Right. I know we try to avoid that, and honor all perspectives and paths, but it's a hard trap to avoid.

And on what feels like a related note, I've been feeling a little silly lately when I remember that I'm not the only person doing this transition thing. If that's the right way to put it. Basically, this has been feeling very natural and normal (of COURSE I'm growing a beard and don't have breasts any more), and it's easy to forget that it's a path I set myself on very deliberately, and worked hard to stay on. When I see other of my friends transitioning, and notice how different they look/sound than they did when I met them, it reminds me that I, too, used to look and sound different. This is such a personal journey, but so public, too.