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Things I’ve Missed Out On


Samuel William

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I’ve been making a conscious effort these past few months to take tiny baby steps towards living the life I want. I’m not out, so I do mean tiny steps - things like buying myself sheets I love even though previously I would have left them on the shelf because they’re very masculine looking (I spent a LOT of time in the past trying to find things that were masculine enough to feel tolerable, but still feminine enough to avoid censure from people around me). 
 

In the process, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the things I stopped doing years ago because of gender dysphoria. For example, last night I wore a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to bed. When I got up this morning and wandered round the house, feeding pets and making coffee, it struck me that I actually really LIKE the feeling of wearing shorts. It’s just something I haven’t done for so long I can’t even remember the last pair I owned. Why? Because I have naturally fairly hairy legs. ‘Girls’ aren’t supposed to let anyone see body hair of any kind, and as a teenager people commented on my unshaven legs when I wore shorts. I hate shaving my legs - it feels wrong, and I see it as a pointless waste of time - so my ‘compromise’ was to not shave my legs, and always wear long pants. As in, I’m the person wearing jeans in the middle of summer, because I won’t wear skirts or shave my legs (both options which are dysphoric for me), but I also won’t wear shorts (because people suck and can’t mind their own damn business). 
 

I used to enjoy swimming, but I hate female bathing suits, and again run into issues with expectations about shaving. I haven’t been swimming for years. 
 

I used to enjoy running (not that you’d know it to see me at the moment…..), but never had access to a decent sports bra as a kid and couldn’t stand feeling movement on my chest as I ran. I stopped running. 
 

I’m not even sure what else I lost along the way, trying to cram my masculine self into a feminine box by choosing androgynous ‘compromise’ options that didn’t quite make me feel right OR make me fit in. I guess I’ve got a lot to rediscover, which should feel exciting - but right now all I seem to feel is overwhelmed and a little depressed about everything I’ve missed. 
 

Sam

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@Samuel William I feel you so much on this. You're not alone. I'm happy to hear you're taking those steps for yourself, however tiny - they are significant. 

 

To relate, I understand your statement about how the compromising cramming into boxes can potentially make you feel worse. It requires so much mental, physical, monetary, and emotional vigilance and effort - not a natural way to live one's life. I used to beat myself up constantly about such things. 

 

I personally think it's stupid, the body hair taboo. I stopped shaving during the pandemic. In public, at first I felt vulnerable and conspicuous wearing shorts. But, it's gotten to the point where I don't think about it as much. I have not been able to wear a tank top in public yet without a shirt over it - armpit hair on a "female" seems more alarming to society, it seems. I hope to get over that too. 

 

There are many alternate options for bathing suits these days. They make board shorts for women, for instance. Therefore, whether an afab person wears men's or women's board shorts swimming, although it's not as typical as wearing a skimpier women's suit, I think it would not be as unusual as one might think. These days, I wear a women's "boy short" bottom which is just long enough so that I don't have to torture myself with shaving, and a long sleeve rash guard with a shape wear tank under it. I can't stand any breat-binding garment. So, my strategy keeps the chest reasonably contained without appearing "obscene". In particular, a dark color rash guard further obscures chest curviness as shadows are less prominent on a dark surface. I have a large chest proportional to my frame, but it's the best I can do at the moment. I love to swim and like you, avoided it for a long time because I felt completely panicked when considering what to wear. 

 

About feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Consider reframing that experience in terms of grief. It's natural to feel overwhelmed as you reflect on your life and wonder about all the various twists and turns your path might have taken. I suggest a remedy is to focus on being present in those moments. Find something, anything to be grateful for in the present and feel that gratitude in your heart. Who is grieving? Maybe it feels like there separate parts of you. The present you who is beginning to take the tiny steps is strong and responsible, like a good parent. The past you, a child, only had what he had to work with at any given moment. As a therapist once told me when I was lamenting not being able to do more to advocate for myself in a past situation - accessing your power to do ANYTHING when there is so much in the way of social normative expectations is like trying to punch through sand. Therefore, any tiny step is a miracle. In those moments when you feel depressed, try to see the present you, the adult, reaching out to comfort the younger you who necessarily did the best he could given the circumstances. Try to perceive that sadness as a solemn tender moment to reconcile the past you with the present you. This will pass, and you will feel stronger and more connected as you proceed with your tiny steps - they add up. 

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I never missed out on some of this stuff, even as a girl.  I never took up shaving my body hair even with the social pressure.  I went all through high school sports with hairy armpits and no bra.  😆

 

One thing I do now is totally reject feminine underwear.  Always hated it, but wore it at parents' and GF's insistence.  Gave the last of it to my female partners and told GF I just wasn't going to do it anymore.  My "girl parts" are a lot larger than most, and I'm delighted to no longer feel all that pinching, chafing, and rubbing.

 

In recent years I have been comfortable outdoors shirtless, and I've even played adult intramural sports like that with no problems.  But now that I am more comfortable in my boy form, it barely even registers in my mind that anyone would have a problem with it.  I look like a "pretty" teenage boy instead of an early 30's girl, and I enjoy it 😇

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13 hours ago, Vidanjali said:

To relate, I understand your statement about how the compromising cramming into boxes can potentially make you feel worse. It requires so much mental, physical, monetary, and emotional vigilance and effort - not a natural way to live one's life. I used to beat myself up constantly about such things. 

Absolutely - SO much energy wasted in mentally reviewing every step before you take it. Ooh, I like that shirt - but will it draw undue attention? This is a comfortable way to sit - whoops, people will look at me funny. I’m working on switching that anxious inner voice off, but boy, is it hard work, for two reasons. 
 

Firstly, I was an extremely shy teenager who found high school very, very difficult - in hindsight, I can see that’s where so much of my hypervigilance about this stuff began. High school in Australia goes from year 7-12 (so roughly 12/13 year olds to 18 year olds); in my first year, I was still struggling with my developing body, thrown into a much larger social setting than I was used to (among a bunch of teenagers who hadn’t known me since I was 6), and forced into a dress for the first time in years (compulsory school uniform - blessedly that changed after a few hellish months, and I was back in pants from then on). I can still hear the voices of some of the kids who tormented me in those first couple of years, before I finally managed to develop a decent friendship group - and definitely some of the comments were about things like my short hair (‘You look like a boy!’ - simultaneously very affirming and confusingly unpleasant, because it was so clearly said as an insult) and failure to shave my legs/wear makeup/whatever else I’d failed at that particular day. 
 

Secondly, while I have come a long way from that miserable, frightened teenager, the other voice in my head comes directly from an extremely opinionated family member….who I currently live next door to, and who feels the need/right/obligation to offer opinions on pretty much everything I do. I second-guess myself a LOT based on comments she has made/might make, and then get annoyed at myself for doing so. Eg, I can guarantee you that if I put a pair of shorts on and went outside with my unshaven legs, she’d comment on it - quite possibly more than once. I need to get over this knee-jerk reaction to avoid her disapproval, but it’s a challenge. 
 

So, in the meantime, I keep taking my hidden little baby steps, while I work on evicting all of the inner voices that aren’t mine. I might choose to wear jeans in summer anyway, but damn it, I want that choice to be based on Samuel’s voice - no one else’s. 

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6 hours ago, awkward-yet-sweet said:

@awkward-yet-sweet, I wish I’d had your confidence as a teenager! I also totally relate to the underwear thing - I never found girl underwear physically uncomfortable, but my body and mind both relaxed when I replaced them with boxers. I didn’t even realise how much I needed that change until I did it - for years, I kinda liked the idea of boxers, but wouldn’t have said the other underwear bothered me that much. Once I wore boxers for the first time, though, I couldn’t get rid of the others fast enough!

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11 hours ago, Samuel William said:

@awkward-yet-sweet, I wish I’d had your confidence as a teenager! I also totally relate to the underwear thing - I never found girl underwear physically uncomfortable, but my body and mind both relaxed when I replaced them with boxers. I didn’t even realise how much I needed that change until I did it - for years, I kinda liked the idea of boxers, but wouldn’t have said the other underwear bothered me that much. Once I wore boxers for the first time, though, I couldn’t get rid of the others fast enough!

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate to have my sister backing me up.  There's less than a year of age difference between us, and we went to school together and played on teams together.  We also look very much alike and had the same style.  It helps to not be alone.

 

I wear boxers most of the time.  Actually, around the house, that's about all I wear.  I really dislike clothing of any kind in warm weather, so about the only thing my partners can get me to wear is shorts and a t-shirt.  One layer, nothing underneath.  I can be pretty stubborn about things like that.

 

A lot of the time, I wear basketball shorts.  Silky texture, good at sweat wicking.  If I have to wear a shirt, I often use ones that have the arms cut out.  Anything to stay cool in summer.  Bonus is that it is androgynous looking or even masculine. 

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14 hours ago, awkward-yet-sweet said:

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate to have my sister backing me up.  There's less than a year of age difference between us, and we went to school together and played on teams together.  We also look very much alike and had the same style.  It helps to not be alone.


Yeah, I can see how that would have been a positive! My siblings are all much older than me (I’m closer in age to some of my niblings  than to my siblings!), and my sister is super feminine and very opinionated. When I was a teenager, she was more likely to be pushing me to do things she ‘knew’ would be good for me (by making me fit in more, by making me more sociable, etc) than backing me up in my own brand of weirdness. 
 

As a side note, I always find it interesting how many people praise ‘individuality’ as a concept, yet try to dissuade individuals they know from being different in any way. The body hair discussion from this thread is a perfect example. It literally causes no harm to anyone or anything if someone who is AFAB walks around in public with unshaven legs, and it’s completely illogical that ‘male’ hairy legs are seen as acceptable and ‘female’ hairy legs as unacceptable. Yet there’s an enormous weight of social pressure/expectation out there which lands on anyone who doesn’t conform. 
 

At least now - as an adult, accepting myself as a trans guy - I can see things more clearly than my confused younger self, who vacillated between desperately wanting to wake up in a male body one day, and wondering why I was such a failure at being a teenage girl when it seemed to come so naturally to the girls around me. 
 

Anyway, I seem to be rambling again (sorry about that - so many thoughts tumbling through my head, and this forum is the only place I feel comfortable airing them right now). It’s awesome to hear about people who had support to be themselves when they were growing up, and I hope that becomes more and more common as people become more aware of gender identities beyond the binary.  
 

Sam

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@Samuel William I get what you're saying.  I think I gave up early on fitting in because I realized that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn't going to happen.  I think my parents had a lot to do with it.  They wanted me to be a certain way, follow a certain education/career path that was totally alien to my nature.  I never did the typical rebellious teenage stuff, but I resisted stubbornly in my own way.  With my sister doing likewise, we were just kind of impossible to change. 

 

I've always thought that desiring to fit in and do what everybody else does...its like it originates from a place of self-centeredness.  What allowed me to be comfortable with hairy legs and hairy armpits and such was the realization that people really don't care.  Aside from any unpleasant comments to the contrary.  My body and my choices don't matter to others because I'm just not significant.  I find social media hilarious, because it runs on the assumption that the world cares about my posts, my pictures, or what I had for breakfast. 

 

The reality is quite different....and in a self-centered world that can be an uncomfortable thought.  But once I embraced my own insignificance, it was mostly liberating.  If I don't matter much, then nobody will mind much. 

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