I have thought a lot about what being a woman means to me.
And, after putting time, effort, and anxiety into answering this, I have come to a surprisingly simplistic conclusion.
Being a woman is being.
I thought that, as a trans woman, I needed to come up with an answer to this self-imposed question as though it would provide affirmation or proof that I hadn’t made a mistake, or that my transition is not an extreme answer to an average existential crisis.
Instead, I’ve shifted focus to the transition itself, rather than the question of my womanhood. The following thoughts are the results of this shift and readily occurred in a fevered stream of consciousness. They are not, however, polished or fine-tuned, as I rarely assume that what I believe today will remain immutable tomorrow.
My transition is like sobriety; in that, it has led me to become the person I am supposed to be. By no means has it been a savior, but I have begun the process of shedding harmful behaviors and toxic narratives while learning to operate as a healthy individual. Prior to transitioning, I was combative, self-loathing, unable to communicate without sarcasm and other defense mechanisms. I was told that I could be calloused, arrogant, isolating, and cruel. Although I do still exhibit these tendencies, I was never able to admit to them or work to change them until now.
Taking hormones truly changed my mental faculties and emotional capacity. After the initial flood of euphoria and bliss, I began settling into what I originally feared was a reversion to my old self. That fear drove me to understand what it was I feared. And I often came to the conclusion that I was fearing…me.
My transition has allowed me to be the person I was always supposed to be. Gender notwithstanding, I am a much better person than I ever could have hoped to be. I feel a variety of emotions, sometimes all at once. I am learning to listen, to accept fault without assuming inherent flaw, to allow for other points of view without needing to qualify how they necessarily affect mine.
More importantly, I have finally begun to learn that I am not worthless. This process is slower than I would like, but I no longer tie my inherent worth to monetary productivity, physical attraction, or past accomplishments. There are times that I feel the opposite of this and assume that I should never have transitioned, that this is all pointless and my existence is no better than it was before. It doesn’t take much thought, however, to remember how it felt to be me before. I used to live in darkness and accepted that I was, in fact, that darkness. Now, though I am still plagued by that darkness, I view it as an outer force, one that I am conquering rather than embodying. I have learned what it means to work for my personhood, to resist self-harmful talk, and to simply be.
This last point is one I want to clarify a bit more. When I began to transition, I thought that I was “becoming a woman.” I initially was introduced to my identity through gender fluidity, albeit superficially, by way of makeup and women’s clothing. Prior to that, I had thought of myself as an effeminate gay boy, and never considered myself a “man” in any sense of the term. It didn’t take long before I accepted that I was meant to transition, as playing with these outward pieces of gender spoke to a deeper sense of truth. It felt like I was playing dress-up but from the opposite side. Wearing makeup as a male-bodied person felt incomplete, as though I was expressing a caricature of someone I hadn’t been able to admit that I already was. And it also seemed like just one simple aspect of an identity I wanted to understand to its fullest extent.
The physical component remained a significant element throughout the first year of my medical transition. I went through a period of obsession with looking as pretty as possible during the day, only to be crushed when I had to “take off the girl” before going to bed. I still had not grasped the concept of “who” I was but was instead seeking to emulate “what” I was.
Over the last few months, I have been deriving progressively less satisfaction from my bodily presentation of femininity. Despite changing features and characteristics due to hormones, legally changing my name and government identification, and being known solely as my female self, I was wrestling with what felt like fraudulence. This then led me to the analogy of sobriety, and an embrace of womanhood as my inner essence, not my outward expression. I see this as somewhat inverse of the darkness shift I mentioned above.
I don’t do woman, I am woman. I am no less woman when I run errands with no makeup and ponytail than I am with a full face and coiffed locks. I own this right just as any “cis” woman does. My womanhood means I am letting go of doing woman, and simply just being. If my existence as a woman is sure, then consciousness that I am one is no longer forced. It no longer dictates how I operate, because everything I do is as me.