This week, I’m meeting with the psychiatrist who oversaw my transition and the first few months of my re/de-transition. I’m not seeing her for therapy–at least, not technically–but as an update: to tell her how things are going and what the process has been like. I’m not anxious about it, or about my gender identity or presentation, but it has made me thoughtful. It feels like a job interview–no, more like a high school reunion. A performance review? I wish I were thinner. I’m excited to show off my breasts. I hope my hair will behave. I’m proud of its length and thickness. I’m glad that I suspect she’ll be impressed by how much more feminine I’ll look. I hope that I’ll seem happy and sane.
That’s a post of its own, of course, but there’s another internality that crops up as I think about checking back in:
I’m realizing how little I actually remember about the last two years.
For example, I just had a maintenance laser appointment. (Laser hair removal is a newer depilatory technique; it’s replacing electrolysis. Although it is less effective in some ways, it can be cheaper, quicker, and less painful.) At this point, I have a small number of thick dark whiskers–fewer, in fact, than I had before testosterone. I had them nuked because my clinic was offering a special recession offer, and because it will be nice not to have to pluck for the next few months. This is my sixth or seventh laser appointment. When I started laser hair removal, after two-and-a-half years on testosterone, in a body that grew an impressive amount of hair to begin with, I had a beard. Not as thick as my father’s, but enough to give me a noticeable five-o’-clock shadow, and too much to erase with daily shaving.
I remember feeling and seeing the hair that sprouted under my chin when I was about thirteen. I remember standing in front of the shaving mirror in my old house bathroom. And–now that I’ve started to think back again–I remember the way the beard felt under my fingers a week or so after my first laser appointment, when the dead hairs began to fall out of my skin. I do not remember what my beard used to feel like under my fingers, or against a razor, or what it looked like on my face. I can remember shaving right after stopping testosterone. I remember the giddy despair when I saw the best results. I have no picture of what I saw in the mirror. My beard enters my memory during the weekend it began to slough off forever.
I haven’t paid much attention to my absent recent history, but there have been other discrepancies. My memories hardly ever reflect the real length of my hair. It didn’t touch my shoulders for a year or more, but I can barely see that.
I also have a lot of difficulty remembering what I looked like–remembering residence in that body–when I was transitioning.
Some aspects of my pre-transition body have disappeared forever: I have no picture of my first genitals, or treasure trail, or eyebrows, or breasts, or voice.
I think that I had to ignore what had happened in order to change what had happened. Acknowledging the fact of transition would have meant admitting the impossibility of recovery–and I saw it as recovery. I had to do a flit, as it were, from my transitioned body. I had to leave in order to reshape it, or the enormity of the job would have been overwhelming. Like a heart that has to stop to take a knife. I believed that I was probably ruined. You couldn’t really transition; therefore, you definitely couldn’t transition twice.
None of this was true, any more than it had been true of my first crossover. Coming back involved very little effort and not much time. It felt like a fraught eternity, an endless series of decisions about what and how to change, but this body and that one are separated by a tiny physical and physiological differential. And when I was a man, I was a trans man: I should have been hearing all along that I was barely male and truly female. Still, I felt like a fallen woman. I saw my future gender as a performance crafted from cues I had never wanted to display before transition. I never thought I could present myself as more or less the same kind of woman I was beforehand, even though I do, now, look a lot like I used to look.
So I quit my situation as I knew it, and set aside my body as I saw it, and walked forward apart from my appearance and its gradual alteration. I had probably learned to do this years before: I’m not a transsexual man, and so I probably could only live in a masculinizing body by ignoring it. I know that being male began to be unbearable around the time it began to be indisputable. Right before I re-transitioned, my parents finally made an effort to introduce me as their son; my psychiatrist wrote a letter attesting to my irrevocable transition and my inability to pass as female or use female documentation; my residual top-surgery swelling dissolved.
I can remember the way those moments felt, but not what I saw.