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Crippling Anxiety, Fear, and Doubt


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I waltzed into this week fairly stoked by the work my therapist and I did at our last session, in which she helped me through a doorway I was hesitant to cross (having her address me exclusively as "Jacqui").  She also gave me an exercise that immerses me in thinking of myself as "Jacqui" so that I can see how this makes me feel.

 

I was feeling confident and optimistic, but now that I'm a few days into the week, I'm feeling terrible anxiety and doubt.  In her blog on wordpress in a segment documenting her transition, Rachel Williams says, "I had to learn to accept myself totally as a woman in order to reject my history of male-identification."  When I read those words, my immediate thought was, "How in the world will I ever be able to do that?  Do I have the capability within me?"  Rachel adds that this definitely didn't happen overnight, but still . . . for me right now it feels daunting.  As I said in a response to my very first post, "If this takes me down a certain path, what a jarring displacement it will be to the person that the world and I are accustomed to seeing as 'me'."  When I wrote that, I wasn't so worried about what the world was accustomed to seeing; it was what I was accustomed to seeing that was paramount in my concerns.

 

I will of course discuss this with my gender therapist at my next session, but if any of you have words of wisdom or encouragement from your own experiences, I would be grateful to receive them.

 

 

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QuestioningAmber

@Jacqui I still have a hard time with the statement "I am a woman". I have been working with my therapist on this for about a year now, and I don't know when it will be simple to say "I am a woman". I want to say it is a magical journey, but I think it is just shifting your identity in simple ways. One thing I have done is started adopting they/them pronouns as a starting point. I prefer those over he/him and she/her doesn't feel quite right yet. These have all been baby steps I have taken. I hope that is a starting point, and I am also curious what others will have to say.

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KathyLauren

@Jacqui and @QuestioningAmber

 

It takes time.

 

Early on, I had a hard time saying to my therapist that I was a woman, because, at the time, I didn't feel it.  We look for some switch to flip from "I feel like a man" to "I feel like a woman" and get worried if we don't feel it flip. 

 

But that's not how it is.  Man and woman aren't feelings.  And we don't switch our identity anyway.  We are born and have always been this way, so there is nothing to switch.

 

So what changed in me that let me finally say "I am a woman"?  I started to realize how much easier it was to present as a woman.  I spent 60 years worrying whether I was male enough to pass.  I didn't call it "passing", but that's what it was.  Now, I don't have to worry about it.  I don't mean that I always pass as a woman.  My presentation is not bad, but I'm sure most people can figure out my identity.  What I mean is that I don't worry about it.  I am enjoying being me too much.

 

(TW: brief suicidal ideation...)

 

My recovery from surgery has been problematic, so of course, the thought arises that I might have been better off not transitioning.  The thought doesn't last long though!  When I think about what it would be like to go back, I shudder in horror.  I literally couldn't do it.  If the blue meanies told me that I had to de-transition, I think I would kill myself, that's how stong the horror is.  I can never go back.

 

Being a woman is so much easier, so much better, so much lighter than trying to pretend that I was a man that I can confidently say that I am and always have been a woman.

 

That realization didn't suddenly happen.  It arose organically with the accumulated experience of being myself.  I would turn around Rachel Williams' quote and say, "It was when I realized that I had rejected my history of male-identification that I accepted myself totally as a woman."

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@QuestioningAmber and @KathyLauren, thank you for your thoughtful, helpful responses.

 

Amber, your suggestion about "baby steps" is a good one; I sometimes amplify my anxiety by imposing a false sense of urgency in this process where none exists.

 

Kathy, I really appreciate the valuable perspectives you've shared here; they resonate with me, and they help.  I must admit -- there are times in my life when I felt I was trying to "pass" as a man (and sometimes failing).  Even when I didn't fail outright, I probably came across as inauthentic in some subtle way.

 

 

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Sally Stone

Jacqui,

 

I thought I could add to Amber and Kathy's comments, but what they both said was spoken so eloquently, I couldn't possibly improve upon any of it.  So, instead I will just say that as time goes by, you will become more comfortable in your new skin.  It took me a long time to get where I am, but where I am now is a very happy place.  I have no doubt you'll be there sooner than you think. 

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4 hours ago, Jacqui said:

Rachel Williams says, "I had to learn to accept myself totally as a woman in order to reject my history of male-identification." 

In my book, growing into accepting myself as a woman doesn't require "rejecting my history of male-identification." That history is as much a part of me as the events unfolding now as I move further into transition. It's not a "zero sum gain" where I need to "reject" a huge part of my life story to substitute the part I'm starting and want to explore on into the future. We are the product of everything that has gone before, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It's who we are. I don't want to "reject" that. I want to add something new, open the door on a new but previously hidden part of who I am.

 

I don't want to do this all at once. I want to move into it gradually, learning as I go, savoring every day as a new experience unto itself, not just a "delay in getting there." And I want to remain the same person with the same loves, caring, ethics and values, same experiences, same everything except my gender. I want to be who I am becoming.

 

~~With a hug from Lee~~

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A book that truly allowed me to accept myself is Whipping Girl by Julia Serano.

 

Heres an excert:

 

In the years just prior to my transition, I started to express my femaleness as much as possible within the context of having a male body; I became a very androgynous queer boy in the eyes of the world. While it felt relieving to simply be myself, not to care about what other people thought of me, I still found myself grappling with a constant, compelling subconscious knowledge that I should be female rather than male. After twenty years of exploration and experimentation, I eventually reached the conclusion that my female subconscious sex had nothing to do with gender roles, femininity, or sexual expression—it was about the personal relationship I had with my own body. For me, the hardest part about being trans has not been the discrimination or ridicule that I have faced for defying societal gender norms, but rather the internal pain I experienced when my subconscious and conscious sexes were at odds with one another. I think this is best captured by the psychological term “cognitive dissonance,” which describes the mental tension and stress that occur in a person’s mind when they find themselves holding two contradictory thoughts or views simultaneously—in this case, subconsciously seeing myself as female while consciously dealing with the fact that I was male. This gender dissonance can manifest itself in a number of ways. Sometimes it felt like stress or anxiousness, which led to marathon battles with insomnia. Other times, it surfaced as jealousy or anger at other people who seemed to enjoy taking their gender for granted. But most of all, it felt like sadness to me—a sort of gender sadness—a chronic and persistent grief over the fact that I felt so wrong in my body.
 

...

 

Unlike most forms of sadness that I’ve experienced, which inevitably ease with time, my gender dissonance only got worse with each passing day. And by the time I made the decision to transition, my gender dissonance had gotten so bad that it completely consumed me; it hurt more than any pain, physical or emotional, that I had ever experienced. I know that most people believe that transsexuals transition because we want to be the other sex, but that is an oversimplification. After all, I wanted to be female almost my whole life, but I was far too terrified of the label “transsexual,” or of having potential regrets, to seriously consider transitioning. What changed during that twenty-some-year period was not my desire to be female, but rather my ability to cope with being male, to cope with my own gender dissonance. When I made the decision to transition, I honestly had no idea what it would be like for me to live as female. The only thing I knew for sure was that pretending to be male was slowly killing me.

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@Lee H  and @Berni, thank you for reaching out and sharing helpful thoughts!

 

Lee, your comment about moving into it gradually, learning as you go, savoring every day as a new experience unto itself is very good advice.  As I mentioned before, I sometimes amplify my anxiety by imposing a false sense of urgency where none exists.

 

Berni, in the excerpt you provided, the line "it was about the personal relationship I had with my own body" gives me some hope, because my therapist is all about "listening to what my body is telling me" (this is very hard for me -- I habitually and instinctively 'live in my mind').

 

The final lines of the excerpt . . .

 

". . . I was far too terrified of the label “transsexual,” or of having potential regrets, to seriously consider transitioning. What changed during that twenty-some-year period was not my desire to be female, but rather my ability to cope with being male, to cope with my own gender dissonance. When I made the decision to transition, I honestly had no idea what it would be like for me to live as female. The only thing I knew for sure was that pretending to be male was slowly killing me."

 

. . . are also very helpful.  I must, with my therapist, figure out how my dissatisfaction and unhappiness align with my living as male, and whether any inauthenticity there is pervasive enough to be "slowly killing me".

 

 

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Reverie_Star

So I'm coming at this from a very different perspective. I found myself in virtual worlds. Any game online that allowed me to customize my avatar I was there making female versions of me and trying as hard as possible to live through them and to ignore the pain of being RL me. Now I don't suggest this route because the up and down dysphoria nearly killed me, but the one thing it did teach me was that I love she/her pronouns, and once I decided on a name being referred by it was pure elation. 

So yes I'm probably not sounding helpful yet, but the take away is best way to learn is to immerse yourself in safe ways like this forum. Places that you just are Jacqui and play in them responsibly (unlike how I did it). Savor the thrills when people proper name and gender you and love those moments. Eventually it just feels normal. My first therapist session I went in asking to be called Katherine. I cried happy tears when the first real life face to face person used the name. And I still thrill every time I hear it.

So I'm quite new around here and still learning a lot but I hope maybe something I said helps.

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Thank you for reaching out and sharing your thoughts, @Reverie_Star.  They do help.

 

As I mentioned in the first paragraph of my initial post on this topic, my therapist is working with me along the name/pronoun immersion path that you suggest, and of course I have been active as Jacqui in these forums.  Even so, the thrills you describe are more 'measured' for me, and I haven't experienced dysphoria as bad as the kind you describe. (Check out some of the other topics I started for a little more on this.  In fact, I'd be interested in what you make of my very first post -- "Sound familiar?  If so, what did YOU do?" in the "What Am I, I'm Not Sure" forum.)

 

Have you started being Katherine in the real world, and presenting as female?  The contemplation of doing that, and the radical identity displacement that it manifests, is (I think) where my current trepidation lies.

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Hi @Jacqui,

 

Sorry for the delay returning your comments (its been a big day and I'm still feeling pain from the surgery).

 

I looked at your profile picture and you seem, to my eyes, to be very young.

 

One of the things that struck me about Julia's book was the time it took for her to find her truth. It took over 20 years for julia. And so I believe you have plenty of time to work this all out.

 

This was important to me because, even though my earliest memories from my childhood are of gender dysphoria, it took me 30 years to figure this out.

 

I was trying to break out in my 20s in 1989. I tried again in the early 2000s, in my 40s but couldn't make the mental leap.

 

It was not until, a few years ago in my 50s, when I found myself, alone beside a freight rail line at 1am that I realized that, like julia Serano, the life I was leading was slowly killing me.

 

The next day, after that night, I sought the kind of help you are receiving and started the long journey here.

 

So, be aware that you have time to work on this and you have the support to help you avoid the crises (there were other events like that for me) that I faced.

 

This is a journey. Not a destination. And, for me, that is a really comforting thought.

 

Embrace your own journey @Jacqui.

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3 hours ago, Berni said:

I looked at your profile picture and you seem, to my eyes, to be very young.

 

Just FYI, @Berni, my profile pic is basically a picture of me taken 10 years ago pushed through the FaceApp gender swap filter.  I retired this year, and I didn't retire early, so . . .

 

Having said that, my family does seem to age slowly (I look 10-15 years younger than most people my age) and live long.  I joked in a post on another topic that the only downside is that we don't get out much during the day.  (Ooh . . . maybe that'll be the next big trend -- transgender vampire movies!)

 

3 hours ago, Berni said:

Embrace your own journey @Jacqui.

 

I'll give it my best shot, Berni!  I'm very touched by your interest and words of encouragement.

 

 

 

Hugs,

Jacqui

 

 

 

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Hey Jacqui --

I'm experiencing a peculiar evolution in my fear of coming out.

I'll be starting HRT as soon as the VA Rx. arrives in the mail -- only a day or two unless our maniacal Pres. has personally shot all the ponies. Since I've known I was stepping onto that path, I've become more interested in learning "Being a Girl for Dummies" and less worried about what people will think. I'm as old as dirt, and I probably wouldn't attract attention dressed as Bozo, much less as an old lady wearing sweats and sandals. I guess (hope) my breasts will start developing in a month or so, but even then, noone will notice. It won't be fast. I already pick up my groceries from Wally World wearing a bra, but an A cup on an old fart like me attracts no attention, not even from the cute young "Associates" who load the grub into my truck.

So my frightened head trips about coming out are moving toward, "Screw you and the horse you rode up on." All I think I know for certain is, by the time my breasts have grown too large to go unnoticed, if ever, my attitude about coming out also will be very different. My doc said one of the earliest effects is feeling more calm. That sounds very mellow, not worried. 

Keep on keeping on, my friend,

~~Big hug from Lee~~

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Zoey4Trix

Everyone's journey has its own unique path. My first attempt to "transition" was 2003-2007. I made the decision to stop because I wasn't sure I was ready for SRS at that time. The Therapist and Dr. I was seeing had me believing that I only had a binary choice and I couldn't make that dramatic of a  dramatic change. I struggled, suffered with depression and I ultimately decided to stop HRT. I put my wig back on the shelf. Massive anxiety and fear of loss were a major factor in that decision.

 

In 2018, I met someone who encouraged me to try again. I dropped 20 lbs. to get back my girlish figure and in Spring of 2019 I started going back out in public on a fairly regular basis. In July of that year, I did some Lipo-sculpting with fat transfer to the bootie (BBL). Last Fall I got an awesome new cut and color for my hair and started figuring out some new make up tricks and the new me started to emerge. 

 

I decide to begin HRT again in March of 2020. I discovered that Planned Parenthood was willing to prescribe HRT with "Informed Consent" so no therapist or endocrinologist would be required. This has been a better process and I feel supported as I move forward on my own terms.

 

I do consider myself trans (MtF) but I am OK moving between the male and female aspects of myself. I don't have to be one thing or another. They are both a parts of me. Now I feel that I know who and what I am, I find my world is simpler and seems more in balance and that is all I want to "be" for now. Even though I may not know if the end result will be GCS, I no longer have fear and/or anxiety about where my journey is taking me. I can see my life has infinite possibilities ahead.

 

Find the right path for your unique journey. Take your time and listen to your heart.  Look at the infinite possibilities in your life and there is nothing to fear! 

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Heather Nicole

I've had periodic, and gradually increasing, wishes to get to be female for most of my life, but one of the biggest reasons I always dismissed them as an impossible fantasy was because I didn't feel the popular narrative of "I feel that I am a girl, despite my body". Plus, I also never felt any particular hatred of being male (aside from when I felt I was being hyperbolic complaining about some specific gender stereotype that hit me the wrong way). But then, I've also never felt any particular attachment to the idea of being male, other than social expectations and an instinctual "My gender? Well, duh, of course I'm male! That's what my anatomy's always said! Obviously!"

 

So, to find so many transwomen here who are already further along in their journey than me (I'm pre-everything, even pre-councelling), but who also still struggle with the "I feel I am a woman" part...as awful as I worry it might sound, I find that so very comforting, validating, and encouraging. It helps show me that my lack of a strong conscious female self-identity makes me no less of a woman than anyone else here.

 

I feel kind of guilty for that, but I sincerely hope I'm not the only one here who can find comfort and validation in the apparent fact that "I feel I am XYZ gender" doesn't seem to be the meaningful distinction it would appear to be.

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