Welcome to Trans-Scription

Hello blog-trotter, and welcome to my transition blog :))

Even though a multitude of blogs exist out there that deal with FTM transition, I write as an Indian, transitioning in India and dealing with Indian society, which can sometimes be very comforting, sometimes agonizingly interfering.

If this is your first visit, I suggest you start with the oldest post first - the walk-through I have slipped into the posts goes in that order and takes you through my life from toddlerhood to transition.

I also plan to include tutorials and discussions. I look to you, reader, for your opinion. If there is something you would like to share, questions you want answered or a comparison of situations, please let me know via the comments. I ask only that you do so with the understanding that I may choose not to answer - if I do so, it will certainly be for a good reason.

-bizarro

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Personal transition & learning to pass

Let's pick up the thread at age 15 from my previous post - I had just understood myself to be a heterosexual transman. I had still not begun attending Jr. College (plus two/higher secondary school) and the only 'dress' I wore any more was my school uniform - it was a skirt and blouse but, somehow, it just didn't count. Now that I think back, I had probably blocked it out; like I block out a lot of other things. All of my non-uniform clothing was unisex or 'tomboyish' but nothing overtly masculine. I also sporadically cropped my hair or grew it out a few inches, depending upon whether my mother or I had won the battle of wills. So, you ask, how did I go from being perceived as & called 'tomboy' all the time (HOW I hated it!) to passing almost all the time? Read on, dear reader, read on.

Yours truly began reading about medical transition all in the wrong order - the order that information was available in, in search results. The first procedure I read about was genital reconstruction - phalloplasties or metoidioplasties of various kinds. Ill-informed and naive as I was, I was obsessed with the idea of being a guy 'down there'. I would voraciously scour the internet for information and, more importantly, photographs for hours on end, fantasizing about the new organ I would have. I also came across information about androgen therapy & the various kinds of mastectomies. I owe transster.com and it's then members an immense debt of gratitude for making available post-surgery pictures that gave me hope and an understanding of possible and impending changes to my own body that only 'after' photographs can provide. The same goes for guys who have shared their 'series of changes' photographs while changes brought about by androgen therapy were manifesting, something I intend to do as well. Unfortunately transster.com no longer is, but there is another resource that has been growing - TransBucket.

So, there I was, a tomboy for all anybody cared, with big ideas in my head but no outlet to express or implement them and no way of knowing what resources I would require or ever be able to access in order to achieve my dreams. Classes began.

I had done poorly in the Secondary School Certificate exams and was unable to get into the college of my choice in the Science stream - I had to settle for one in a remote area on the outskirts of Mumbai. In hindsight, I think it was for the best - I was able to satisfactorily integrate into my peer group to some extent but was the oddball, which is true today, too, except I am now proud of it ;) It also gave me an opportunity to ease into male-domain dressing. A college uniform that started out as blouse-shirts & gents' trousers (I still shudder) evolved over the course of two years to gents' formal shirts and trousers or jeans. All this in a social circle so far removed from my own that I am constantly grateful I don't have to face any unpleasant reminders of another horrendous period in my life. I had not yet started living as male full-time. In trains, I still travelled by the ladies' second class or the ladies' luggage compartments (in the latter, school-age boys are permitted) but I avoided using public bathrooms - in the two years I was at that institution never once did I use the facilities. Time passed. I did too.

Degree college. A new set of people to establish an identity with. I resolved to not use my birth name - I picked what I thought was a unisex nickname - it turned out to be a girls name also, but not as obvious. In time, even my professors learned to call me by no other name. No one asked me why exactly, but they all seemed to understand that my birth name offended me in some way. I had not started binding yet so even though I dressed male all the time and had started using only the gents' compartments in trains, my identity was constantly under the scanner; no one asked me to my face - I was known to have a temper, an acid tongue and no qualms whatsoever in unleashing either - they didn't dare. I was still using female pronouns - even though I had figured out my identity, I still hadn't the nerve to come out. Someone cracked a hermaphrodite joke on me during a lecture once - my professor countered with a relevant quip about so-called supermales (males with an abnormal number of sex chromosomes) and shut the person up. A friend once told me he thought I was transvestite - I told him I wasn't and explained the difference. It didn't matter - most people had accepted me as is. One or two even spontaneously used male pronouns with me but it never caught on with the others. Another friend, while explaining some Political Science terms to a classmate, used me as an example for 'non-conformist'. It was a unique way to put it and I had a really good laugh about it. Time passed. I did too.

I had a month's vacation before I could enrol for a Graduate degree course. I had decided long since that I would take a break at this juncture, work, save, transition medically and then resume my studies. BOY was I wrong!

I found work at an outsourcing firm. By the end of the first week at work, I could not stand being perceived as female/gender-unknown any more. Luckily for me, week 1 was voice training and most of the candidates simply dropped out, leaving me as good as anonymous. I started binding in one of the worst manners possible - with crepe (Ace) bandage (more about this later). I introduced myself to everyone with my chosen name - the one I plan to adopt officially - and they instinctively used male pronouns with me. I had mastered the art of getting just the right haircut in order to appear male (as opposed to as a short-haired woman). The only give-aways were my voice, which I then began to modulate, and my chest, which, of course, I had started to bind. By the time my 'physical reality' became apparent to the others, it was too late to change over to treating me as female. Thus followed the three best years of my life yet - being addressed & treated as male and, more importantly, viewed so. Time passed. I did too.

I left the company for my own reasons. I had spent 3 years and achieved nothing. Other than an unsatisfactory visit to someone who made made-to-order pressure garments (in the hope that I could bind more comfortably), the occasional psychiatrist visits and a consultation or two, I took no steps to change my life. Whether this was due to inertia or latent depression or both, I don't know. I had put on more weight over the years and binding had become more difficult and less effective than it originally was & it didn't go unnoticed that I hadn't any facial hair growth or a manly (or even boyish) voice, but I was still passing almost all the time, and that was a huge consolation in itself. So what if random strangers in the train asked me what school I went to? I was still addressed in public variously as bhaiyya*, beta*, uncle*, dost*, etc. At least my friends and family were now cognizant and supportive of my identity. To my niece, I was her uncle, to my sister, her brother, to my parents, their son. I had the confidence to speak of myself with male pronouns (in Hindi and Marathi), something I always avoided by using incorrect grammar when speaking these languages. However, it was time for some concrete action; I was ready for the next step & began rethinking my strategies.

(*bhaiyya = brother; *beta = son; *uncle - in India, one always addresses someone significantly older, whether related or not, as 'uncle' or 'aunty' as a mark of respect; *dost = buddy)

In my next posts, I talk about how I went about investigating my options for medical transition, the ups and downs, and I bring you up to date almost to the present.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Ancient History' or 'Childhood and Coming out'

Let me start at the very beginning. The reason I do this is that some readers may identify with similar events, ideas or emotions while others may feel the converse about them, and I hope that this may help each reader in the understanding of their own identity. Also, to help you understand yourself, I recommend reading as much queer literature as you possibly can. Those reading my blog to better understand a friend or family member, please understand that just because I feel a certain way does not mean every FTM feels the same way. For example, I don't identify as gay but there are many FTMs who do. I will not expand on definitions or the various identities that exist. There is enough literature dedicated to that subject that does much better justice to it than I could ever hope to.

The beginning, then.

As a child, I had always played with boys, dressed as a boy; I remember even at the age of 2-3 running around in a singlet (baniyan) and shorts, not because my parents bought me those clothes but because I insisted on dressing like that. Isn't it astonishing how aware of self we are at that age? Throughout childhood I had wanted to be a boy & wear boys' clothes. I only ever played with the boys - I remember my father telling me to play with the girls and me blatantly refusing.

Age 6 - my first crush. Her name was Priya-something, she had light eyes, gold-brown short curls and she hated my guts. Since we were in the same class at (a girls') school, if instructed to queue up in twos, I always picked her - she resented it. This kept happening to me until I learnt to keep my feelings well hidden so that no one would ever reject me again.

Age 6 again - my first conscious memory of wishing I was a boy - standing in front of a mirror, wearing an old school blouse/shirt with pants I'd wear to play and wishing I could wear that to school as well.

Skipping ahead to pre-puberty & puberty: changes began to manifest – changes that made me shudder. I remember layering clothes under my school uniform to continue to appear flat-chested - to say that I abhorred the new aspects of my physicality would be gross understatement. At around this time, I also faced a major rejection: my friends, the boys I grew up with, stopped playing with me. I do not remember a confrontation, but I do remember one of the boys awkwardly telling me that it was weird for us to hang together because I was a girl. In retrospect, I see that it hit me very hard. These were the kids I had made toy weapons and stashed them in our ‘secret hideout’ with when we were playing at being daakus*! (*daaku = bandit)

It was around that time that I started slowly but steadily putting on weight, getting introverted and becoming socially awkward. I avoided weddings and social functions like the plague. My dress sense & social graces, suffering from an in-betweenness that only someone with gender incongruence will understand, were completely from outer space. My mother had always insisted that I wear dresses to church, if no where else, because one always wore their 'sunday best' to church. By 14, I broke out of this enforcement in a very embarrassing way. Since my parents would not stitch me men’s formal clothing & since I refused to wear or even stitch a dress, I resorted to wearing a pair of jeans to church and alternating between two t-shirts every Sunday because my mother would buy me no more of them either. To this day, I am ashamed of my teenage years.

I had once overheard my mother ask my father something about the term ‘sex change’ when I was in primary school and it was such a unique idea that it just stuck in my memory somewhere, hidden beneath the surface. All the conflicting emotions, the hatred of self, the obdurate desire to appear male in-spite of my mother's many objections and attempts to veto me, the secret attractions to women that I guarded with my life, finally served to jog my memory and I almost literally spat up 'sex change' into a google search page. What I saw, changed my life for ever. I discovered, to my elation, that it was indeed possible to change one's physical sex - to an extent. I began reading and subsequently understood the differences between gender identity and sexuality. It was then that I understood myself to be a heterosexual male born in a woman’s body and understood that that was different from being lesbian. This was at age 15.

I had also begun getting attracted to my then best-friend; let’s call her Cecilia. 'Cecilia' was the first person I confided my new understanding of self to and my only support for a number of years. We eventually became involved in a romantic relationship that would last 5 years. Although we grew apart, as most teen-aged lovers do, we remain good friends to this day.

My mother began suspecting our 'friendship' to be something more and all the years of knowing her child intimately as only a mother can fuelled her suspicions until, one day, she forced me to wear ladies' trousers, a flowery blouse, ladies' sandals, and make-up, complete with lip-stick, and dragged me to church. I was furious and resentful and it showed. I was fuming all through mass, twitching and grinding my teeth, till we got back home. My mother did not give me a chance to change, though, but barged directly into my room and had a confrontation with me, during which I finally came out to her and broke down weeping. Having thus wheedled the truth out of me, she comforted me and told me that I was her child and she accepted me as I was. That comfort was to be short-lived, however, for by the next week I was taken for brainwashing to a priest-counsellor who, among other things, asked me to actually hold imaginary dialogue with body parts I couldn’t even stand to acknowledge the presence of. I was barred me from ever seeing 'Cecilia' again - you see, my mother (I keep saying 'mother' because all of this was hidden from my father) refused to believe that these feelings were originating from within me and attributed them to her (Cecilia's) 'control over me'. We did still meet and I think that is the one thing that kept me sane and kept me going. I have never attempted or even considered suicide (even though I had felt like it many a time) simply because 'Cecilia' had once slapped me across the face for joking about it - "Any time you think about suicide, remember this slap", she said, "there are people who love you, who would be devastated if you just left like that".

If you are (or know someone who is) feeling frustrated with a situation in life, depressed, withdrawn, listless, not concerned with surroundings or have thought about (has mentioned) suicide even once in the past year, please follow this link.

After a 2-3 year intense struggle with my parents, who were trying to quell my gender expression, they were (thankfully for me) introduced to another priest, this time someone who recognized and understood what was going on. He explained to my parents that 'different people' do exist and that there is really nothing that can be done to change them, that they must be accepted for who they are. After this, life changed for the better. My parents slowly began to accept my way of life; initially, opposition turned to indifference but, later, to support. And today, my mother is probably my #1 supporter!

Wow! This has turned out to be a LONG POST! For the convenience of my readers, I will stop here. My next post will detail all the steps I took towards personal transition after I learned about being trans. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First things first!

Who I am...

I'm a 25-yr-old transguy from Mumbai, India.

Why I decided to start this blog...

Following other transguys' blogs helped me in my journey of self-discovery - it gave me unfathomable hope to witness tangible changes occur. It was the aggregate of all those selfless testimonials that convinced me my transition was achievable. I swore to myself back then that, in time to come, I would leave my own trail in the hopes that I could somehow pay it forward. This is me attempting to keep that promise.

Why it is named what it is...

I am transcribing (making a record of) my journey through medical transition. "To transcribe" also means "to rewrite in a different script". I intend to have the posts translated into other languages so that the experiences can be accessed by transguys who do not follow English (not an original idea - it was inspired by Satya from Sampoorna)

Where I am in my transition...

I'm pretty much pre- everything medical. I pass well enough 95% of the time but ask me to shout across a crowded hall and my cover's blown :(

More about me...

I will slip stuff in by and by

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