I have remarked here that my transition has proceeded from the inside out, meaning hormones, therapy, and talk with Mary Jo and others. There’s not much to show to the world for all this work right now, except perhaps a happier countenance that reveals an inner peace. One of my friends was observing that this lack of wardrobe (or any external presentation) brings up an interesting question of whether my sense of style will change (or has changed).

If you think about it, it’s awfully interesting to have nothing in my closet, isn’t it? (I mean, considering how full it’s gotten through all my disclosures, I guess it makes sense there’s no room for clothes, but that’s all about to change.)

I think the first thing to ponder is whether a person’s sense of style about their profession and their general relationship to the world is something that changes in a transsexual transition or whether it stays stable (but just shifts gender expression). By “stable,” I mean that a preppy man’s style would transition into a preppy woman’s style; and a “change” style would see that preppy man’s style transition into a goth woman’s style (just to pick something really different). In reading newsgroups and support lists and blogs and memoirs, I really can’t get any general sense of a trend. Some transsexuals make changes to their sense of style and others don’t.

If the transitioner feels that his/her old, repressed person had a style that was similarly repressed or stunted, then I can see where they might feel like overthrowing that style, especially if they aren’t in a field with definable uniforms and dress norms. For my own part, being an academic, I think there is a moderate range of styles of expression, probably more free than other white collar jobs, but not nearly so free as actors, artists, and musicians realize.

What I know about myself is that I’ve never been showy, and can’t possibly imagine becoming that way even through a transsexual transition. I’ve always been drawn to conservative, but stylish, suits, and I suspect that I will still be drawn to conservative, classic looks for professional wear in women’s wear. My favorite suits have been Armani and without having a lot of experience in women’s suits, I would imagine you could do worse than Italian.


For casual, I also feel like I’m going to be pretty stable, going from jeans and shirts for men to jeans and shirts for women. The other day when I went out to dinner with Miles and Khloe I wore jeans and boots, a cream-colored stretchy t-shirt with medium-length sleeves, and a bronze-patterned jacket that Mary Jo bought from Coldwater Creek. I liked the look, and could see doing a lot of it for casual settings.

But where I’m a lot less sure (and even downright confused) is in leisure-wear and business-casual styles. I could do dresses, skirts, pants, or all manner of separates. I do think a few classic and simple dresses (including the basic black dress) would be nice to have for times when I don’t want to wear a suit or pants, but I don’t think they’re essential right now. At this point, that’s about all I know, which is awfully vague, I realize, but it’s all I’ve got.

Perhaps more interesting than simply choosing what I want to look like is the question of balancing my stunted senses and feelings with those more sophisticated and refined around me. I’m trying to be mindful of these differences between my own sense of style wants to be (even if it’s ill-formed at this point) versus what Mary Jo and my friends think it should be. I already know I’m going to bristle if I want to get dangling earrings (for example) and Mary Jo tells me it’s too young (or something like that), and then I’ll be in a state of confusion as to which of the following is in operation:

  1. Mary Jo is all knowing and has the final say over my choices,
  2. I am right by virtue of some inner voice who, even if she’s eventually going to mellow out, knows what she needs now, or
  3. We’re both wrong and are commenting on my feminine choices with so much other mixed-in baggage that neither one of us is to be trusted.


You see, clothing (as with other aspects of expression) isn’t really a blank slate upon which you can completely re-craft yourself during a transsexual transition unless you’re truly dropping out of all of society and reemerging somewhere else in your new identity (and even then, I’d be really curious as to how many ingrained norms of behavior and style are retained). Rather, the dynamics of crafting a new identity occur within the context of an existing set of family and friends who are mature, smart, and professional–and while this provides a great deal of support and continuity, it’s it also fairly daunting, and I think it tests one’s self-confidence (assuming one’s new self is formed enough to have confidence at this relatively fragile time).

I don’t think this little essay is an plea for my friends and family to let me wear whatever I damned well please, or to argue that you should support me uncritically in all my makeup, fashion, and behavior choices. But I do think I would ask you, dear reader and dear friend, to put yourself in my shoes (10 or 10.5 US women’s, by the way) if you find my choices unappealing or questionable.

Good Morning America did a segment about Megan Wallent, the Microsoft executive who recently transitioned from male to female. The comments on the story are pretty harsh, as is the commentary on the story by Newsbuster’s website, among others.

I myself am reminded of how blessed I am to have friends and family who are supportive, but I’m also curious, in light of these nasty letters and similar ones trashing Susan Stanton a year ago, whether my choices reveal me to be as egocentric and monstrous as the letter writers believe Wallent and Stanton to be.

I don’t know if it’s taking hormones, or feeling feminine, or being trans*, or being in therapy, or being in the middle of a long run of disclosures, or preparing to get to the hardest disclosures of all, but I am aware of a new fear.

I’m afraid of not being loved. It’s a feeling that’s slowly crept up on me, but I feel it more intensely these days.

I’m afraid my physical, social, and mental changes, while exciting and transformative for me personally, will drive away those who loved me as I was before. They will discover that their love was tied more strongly than they realized to a bundle of characteristics that was George and that while they’re happy for Joyce’s emergence, she’s not the person they liked or loved initially. The love and friendship will cool and die as the excitement about a transsexual transition becomes old news.

What initially seems an interesting evolution of physical characteristics will increasingly be felt as weird, and that weirdness will become a wedge driven between us. The weirdness will creep from the physical to the emotional and the social until everything has cooled like a meteor sitting alone on the desert floor after a fiery entry through the atmosphere, my only hope being that a meteor prospector will stumble across me accidentally and know the joy that I once felt and the connections I once had when I was a heavenly body.

I don’t want to be like that, unloved, unknown, alone. I want to be wanted and cared for and loved.

This is a follow-up post to my previous post on the nature of authenticity and legitimacy in any sort of transition.

I’m well aware of the tension and fear about not being a legitimate woman when my transition is complete — I think it’s often a constant fear for transsexuals, sometimes one that plagues them and other times something that’s they’re mildly aware of. I’m feeling quite authentic, but I’m anxious about being legitimate.

But what about sexual orientation? Mary Jo and I have discussed the fact that assuming I’m taken to be a woman, then we will be taken to be a lesbian couple. We talk about it from time to time and brainstorm how that social perception is going to affect both of us, but it has not sunk in for me that this identification involves belonging to a category called “same sex couple.” Having just come out to a lesbian couple who are longtime dear friends, though, I felt this morning a sudden pang of illegitimacy.

Not only do I feel illegitimate as a woman, never having been a girl or had a period or worried about being pregnant, but I also feel completely illegitimate as a lesbian. Just as I’ve enjoyed the male privilege all my life, Mary Jo and I have enjoyed the heterosexual privilege all our lives.

What rights do we have to identify as lesbians? How do you get to be lesbians? Is it a simple matter of private practice, or these days is there an expectation of a larger social identity? Helen Boyd often remarks on MyHusbandBetty.com that crossdressers would be a lot more sympathatic if they actually took the time to learn about women instead of imitating them, and I feel something similar about same-sex relationships.

As I look ahead to deeper and fuller transition (we’re only 10 weeks from May 24th, when everyone knows), I find myself anticipating challenges to legitimacy from various directions. I expect to be taken aside and be put in my place by women (you’re not a legitimate woman), men (everything we did together in the guise of a masculine bond was illegitimate), and lesbians (you’re just a straight couple who got thrown an interesting curveball, but you’re not legitimate lesbians).

I don’t know what to to with these feelings except to acknowledge their legitimacy and to engage my friends and colleagues authentically and humbly. I may not have been a woman, or a lesbian, or an activist, or a queer-studies theorist, or any number of categories into which I may transition, but I have an authentic desire to learn.

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