While I have supported any changes transpeople choose to make to their bodies, when I first came out I looked into the mirror and decided that I would never be able to female my own body to my liking, to anything that would make my passage though male puberty less than visible.
Bones don’t lie. My frame is my frame and my hair started giving out by the time I was 18. I lived with a woman taller than I was, with feet only slightly smaller, but she was built very different, with a very different set of vocal chords.
It was decades ago when I made the personal choice for trans-natural (2007). I have never taken hormones, never had surgeries, never done anything to my body.
Much of this was pragmatic, knowing the limits of change, some of it was resisting having to engage the medical profession, negotiating their beliefs, taking the pain and paying the fees, but most of my trans-natural choice was spiritual.
From my first time out at a trans support group over thirty years ago, my goal was integration, finding a way to embrace all of me. I wanted to find my own centre rather than pushing hard to fit into some box.
I learned a lot from my trans-natural path, watching myself change even without the hormones and such that other transwomen decided accounted for their new outlook, understanding how permission is powerful and growth comes from inside.
The problem with being trans-natural, though, is that it didn’t really engage the fact that I have, whatever the chromosomes say, a trans body. My Eros is most easily unlocked by following imagined sensations of different physicality.
When I see transwomen who have chosen to remake their body, femaling it for both the social comfort of blending in and for physical pleasure, the pleasure of their own experience and the pleasure of intertwining with others, I appreciate their choices, understanding the satisfaction which can come even with imperfect intervention.
In the old days on Compuserve people would chat about which pill you might take, one that would change your body forever, just temporarily or some other combination. I never had a fear of loss of masculinity, because I was never cocky enough to use what I had properly, though the choice to be a big old eunuch didn’t seem all that desirable either. If I could have gotten pregnant, or just blended in with comfort, though. . .
A path of mental & spiritual discipline, though, of æsthetic denial, becomes a goal in itself after a while, though. You have worked to stay strong for so long, fighting the good fight, that changing path feels like giving up, like you are declaring your previous battle just a waste.
To feel empowered, though, you have to feel embodied. How would my life be different if I took to feminine caring, putting myself in a place where presenting as pretty as possible didn’t take so much work?
Living a life of scarcity, especially emotional scarcity without effective mirroring, devoted to service, the feminine can seem frivolous, trivial, wasteful. I may unscrew the lid to decide which 95 cent hand soap smells the best before I buy it, but moving up to something coyly packaged to make you feel special just doesn’t seem worth it.
Even if I wanted to buy some nice clothes, there are no stores with rich selections in my size, and shoes are just not available locally. Hairdressers can’t really help me. My face doesn’t just need the best hyped miracle cosmetic.
The big elephant in the room is this: As much as I know that I fit much better as a woman than a man, thinking and feeling like a woman in the world, maybe I’m just not a woman and never will be.
For a transwoman, much of presenting as a woman in the world demands striving to conceal their male body, their training as a man, their stories of being queer and crossing worlds. To be seen as a woman one ends up being put on mute, shrinking down, and being nice to defuse any perceived threat and calm any disquiet.
We end up having to play to the fears and prejudices of those around us rather than taking our own power.
Some feminine hearted people born male deal with this by keeping a hand in as men, becoming a kind of “skin crossdresser” who expects to be respected for their choice of expression but understands that they won’t be seen as a “real” woman no matter how much that is important to them.
Having never identified as a crossdresser, a straight man under a feminized exterior, this isn’t a comfortable position for me. I have found that it is easier to be androgynous without expressing trans, as counter intuitive as that may seem.
To walk in the world as visibly trans demands more defences, more readiness to take blows from people who disapprove or who just want to assert their belief in the primacy of biological essentialism, than to walk in the world as someone born male who acts in ways that are not macho, sexist or emotionally disconnected.
I have always felt more of a target when being visibly trans which has meant I had to feel more armoured, more ready to take the blow that comes with the “third gotcha.” While my trans expression is more honest, it also is more provocative, more dangerous That is great when I am doing my work, but in everyday life, it can just muddy the waters.
Consistent packaging, though, can appear to be more “realistic” for observers who don’t comprehend that all of me can exist inside one body in a holistic, synergistic way. Two modes of expression that seem so different seem to them to signal at least two different persona, not all of which can be real.
Women know how to dress for roles, going through many presentations in a lifetime, but they do that over a visibly female body which provides a consistent frame no matter what the hairstyle or shoes of the day are.
Providing that kind of consistency is hard for me. Is that something I need to focus on?
As much as I hate to say this, the truth is that my identity isn’t and never will be simply man or woman. In the context of who I am, those categories are not primary.
This is heart rendering for someone who has very early memories about waking up as a girl, about being seen and valued as a woman, but it is true.
I am Callan, a human being with a unique experience, a unique mind and a unique heart. What does Callan look like? How can I be the best Callan in the world?
When I see my work, I know that it is about being Callan. That’s why I know how to go out and make my stand, why I write and talk from a very Callan place.
The problem, though, is that there are no Callan public facilities that can be used, no gathering of Callans to constitute a block, no store that is designed to dress Callans, no coaches who have experience encouraging and polishing Callans. When groups are created, choices must be made, and in this culture, the essence of those choices are simple.
I want to fit in, not just to stand out. I want to have a constituency, a home.
What does this mean for my body, my trans body? Is there a way to become more grounded, more connected, more one of the crowd?
More than that, will changing my body without cutting off my stories, my facts, my experience really change the way people interact with me in the world?
I don’t know.