Transgender Validation

 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. 

Making the Basic Difficult

 Recently, here in Cyrsti’s Condo I wrote a post which touched on the subject of transgender men using the men’s restroom. At the time I wondered if they felt the same trepidation as many transgender women feel just trying to take care of some of their basic needs. I also asked for trans men to respond. In response, Norm commented :

“Yes, just from one guy’s perspective, it absolutely is! I have been out for less than a year but do pass, and despite never having been given trouble, it ALWAYS terrifies me to need a restroom. I will avoid drinking when I need to just to minimize the chances I will need a bathroom in public.


Most of this I hope is in my head, but I guess it speaks the perceived intimacy of a truly private, gendered space that absolutely intensifies impostor syndrome and the feeling of ‘invading something sacred’ that we perceive is not ours by birth.”

As always, I always appreciate comments! Plus another transgender man echoed Norm’s comment exactly not to mention trans women who feel the same way also. 

Even though today I don’t experience any problems using the restroom matching my authentic self, it wasn’t always so easy when I first began to explore the world as a novice trans woman. Looking back at my process, most likely many of my problems had to do with how I presented myself. I know often my dressing style bordered on trashy rather than taking the effort to dress to blend in with other women. The whole process resulted in me getting the police called on me all the way to being asked to leave one venue. To this day I still carry the mental scars with me and do my best to follow the lessons I learned from using the women’s room.

A few of the lessons are common sense, some not so much. I learned to always check the seat before I sat down, all the way to never putting my purse on the floor. I even practiced directing my pee flow into the toilet to make sure a woman next to me wouldn’t think anything was wrong. Of course too, there are the absolutes such as always sitting to pee and washing your hands. Perhaps the most difficult thing I learned was to look other women in the eye, smile and communicate if needed. A real change from my lifetime of experiences acting like I was a man. 

I used to think of the whole restroom imprinting process as a form of PTSD from my days of being yelled at for merely trying to pee.  Now I am more a fan of Norm’s impostor syndrome comment. The final result these days is if I have to go, I go. However I know in so many states (like Ohio) which don’t have protections for transgender people at all, I know I am still at risk in many mostly rural parts of the state. Fortunately I have my partner Liz to check out the situation ahead of time.

It’s still a shame we have to make the basic needs we have so difficult for many of us. 

Year in Review

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.      

New Years?

 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). 

Photo by Artturi Jalli on Unsplash

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.

Another Transgender Pioneer Gone

April Ashley, a transgender woman who was reportedly one of the first British women to undergo gender confirmation surgery and also the first known trans woman ever to appear in Vogue magazine, died recently. She was 86 years old.

Born in 1935 to a working-class family in Liverpool, she enlisted in the merchant marines in her teenage years. She then spent time in a psychiatric unit after numerous suicide attempts.

At age 20, she moved to London and then Paris where she performed at the queer and drag venue Le Carrousel nightclub. There, she gradually saved money to eventually undergo gender confirmation surgery in Casablanca, Morocco.

She chose the first name, April, because it was her birth month. She chose her surname, Ashley, after Ashley Wilkes, an anti-war and pro-abolition character in the book and film “Gone With the Wind” whose life dramatically changes following the U.S. Civil War.

Upon returning to England, she received government ID documents — like a driver’s license and passport — that identified her as female. She later appeared in Vogue magazine and appeared in films such as “Road to Hong Kong.” In that film, she appeared alongside big-name stars like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Joan Collins.

A true transgender pioneer is gone.

Addiction?

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. 

Toxic Femininity

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.

Male Privilege

Recently I have received several very good in depth comments from Logan, a transgender man from the Medium writing platform I use.  From our communication I began to wonder how it would be to undertake a gender transition from the other side of the human binary. In other words , what does a transgender man go through to compete and/or thrive in a male world. Of course as I write this post, I am using a few stereotypes and biases because I can only speculate on the process. 

Years ago I actually went on a dinner date with a trans man. It was the first time I had been on a date with someone as my authentic self  so the first thing I remember is being scared to death. After all, I was building a new person from scratch.  But we aren’t writing about me. Through it all, he was the perfect gentleman and we remain friends to this day.

Other transgender men I have met have come through my dealings over the years with Trans Ohio which true to its name tries to provide statewide services throughout Ohio for the transgender community. My first observation was how well they presented as men. If I had not known, there would have been no way I would ever guessed their true birth gender.  Secondly they all seemed to be so well adjusted, the opposite from many of the transgender women I meet. Probably a topic for another blog post.

Here is where my pure speculation sets in. I would think using the men’s room early on would be as traumatic as it is for a novice transgender woman. Even though the great majority of men try to distance themselves from any communication in the “room.” 

For younger trans men, I am sure the parental adjustment is just as brutal. It is a special breed of parent such as my former hairdresser Theresa who adjusts to, loves unconditionally and raises a trans son. A lot of effort is needed.

I think also relationships may be easier for trans men to form, at least I know several who are in relationships with cis women. My thought is (and it is only a thought) it is because women are more sexually relaxed than men. Meaning, a hybrid transgender male person can be more appealing than a cis man.

What we can’t forget, male privilege comes with the potential of toxic male behavior which I haven’t seen from the transgender men I have known. Perhaps it is because they were never taught it growing up.

The whole process is so interesting but still so confusing to me. Perhaps Logan or someone else could shed some light on the process a transgender man goes through to survive in a man’s world. 

Grief

Grief is a part of our lives. As transgender women and men most of us at some point grieve the loss of our previous gender. Others, not so much. 

As I have written, my deceased wife of twenty five years was keenly into celebrating Christmas. In fact, she would have rooms dedicated to the holiday spirit. Including animated figures all the way to collector Christmas villages. We had fourteen foot ceilings and a twelve foot gigantic tree. 

All of this led up to the main holiday itself. For it, we had three main gift giving activities. Later in life as she started to grudgingly support my cross dressing, we had our own little special gift swap. Specifically for my feminine self. Of course it quickly became my favorite of all the gifting going on. 

As I fast forward this post to Christmas eve this year, it was a very sad time for me. Being me, I tried to hold my feelings in as I watched (yet again) one of my favorite Christmas movies “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Along the way I have learned to curtail many of my feelings around Liz concerning my previous  wife Cindy. In most cases this works fairly well. In this case it didn’t.  

I was feeling so bad I couldn’t hide it and Liz kept asking why.  Unfortunately I have carried the male tendency with me to never show emotion. Of course hormone replacement therapy has helped me to cry and feel emotions, in some cases I am still a rock. 

Finally yesterday morning I figured out the reason I was feeling so emotionally poor was I had never allowed myself to properly grieve when Cindy so unexpectedly passed away. This all happened way back in November of 2007 so it’s not like it was yesterday. I was so mad at her for not seeking the medical care for her heart problems she obviously needed. I begged and begged to no avail and then she was gone. 

The good news is I finally allowed myself to grieve her loss on Christmas Eve. Ironically, this tragic loss in my life allowed  my authentic self to flourish. During the final six months of her life I even grew a beard to attempt at hiding my femininity. I was proud I did it on one level but intensely unhappy on another.    

The photo I am sharing today is taken of me pre beard and weighing nearly 275 pounds. Today I weigh approximately 220. 

As I approach 2022, I feel better about my life following ridding myself of part of the grief I felt over the years. I doubt if I will ever be totally free of the feelings but I am trying to replace the bad with good remembrances of the twenty five years we had together which in turn will make me an easier person to live with.