In Group Therapy we talked of “finding the woman within” and “bringing her out”. Interesting exercise! And across the last month, I have finally found the woman within! I call her “Maaya”. It feels exhilarating! Its like a second birth almost! The woman inside, trapped for so long, is finally free!
And today, as I stand on the threshold of my transition, I would like to talk of my journey this far. I hope others who are going through a similar challenge find this helpful. I also hope therapists who work with people like us read and take some learning from this.
I have known the woman in me since I was 11. Even though it didn’t completely make sense back then. There was no congruence between my mind and my physical body. I was a man but I felt like a woman! There were things down there that I could not identify with let alone connect with. But there was jack I could do about it! And I felt I was the only one in the world who felt this “weird” way. It was like being stuck on a deserted island with no boat or plane to get out! The net result of all this was a disturbed childhood & teenage years that were much much worse.
Learnt about the word “gay” when I was 18 and for a long long time, i felt that perhaps, thats what I was. And there are others like me. But the more I learnt about that word, the less I identified with it. Was I attracted to men – both sexually & romantically? Sure! But thats where my identification with that term ended. In all the years that I have lived as “gay”, 10 of which were “out of the closet”, I have NEVER been with a gay man – or someone who identified as one. The 2 long term “relationships” I had, were with men who identified as straight. The 4/5 casual “Friend with benefits” relationships I have had in this period were also with men who identified as “straight”. Men who were with women before and who went back to women afterwards. I did have gay friends – but never identified with them. I may not have been sure of what I was. But I was very sure of what I wasn’t. I was NOT gay. I was a woman trapped in a mans body. Back then, I just didn’t know the term for it.
The 10 years between 25-35 were a mixed bag. On one hand, I had an immensely satisfying professional career. I also had a string of activities that kept me busy and fulfilled – from riding motorcycles to flying a Cessna to counting tigers! Atleast to the outside world, I was living the good life! But the confusion in the mind never fully went away. It keeps gnawing at the mind and eating you up from inside all the time! The activities that kept me busy served as useful distractions. Perhaps thats what they were – distractions.
I am not sure if all people saw the woman within me. But atleast one did! He said he had seen the woman in me by the 3rd day of the NCC camp where we first met – back in 1994! He narrated the story of Vishnu-Mohini-Shiva – and ensured that i read up on it. I will be forever thankful to him for giving me perspective on this subject. I agree with him that Western civilizations don’t understand gender & sexuality the same way Indian, Tibetan or Chinese civilizations do. Our ancient cultures probably had a better grasp on gender-fluidity & identity than Western civilizations. Reading up on the topic in our Purana’s helped me tremendously to come to terms and accept what needed to be done.
It has been nearly 4 years since I was first professionally diagnosed with “Dysphoria” back in Delhi. 4 years that I have kept procrastinating and mulling and putting off the inevitable. Going to Group Therapies, Hypno-Therapy even Past life regression! Anything to escape taking that difficult step!
To be honest, Group Therapy did help resolve many of my doubts, even though it might not have been in the way my therapist had hoped. Meeting others who were going through a similar situation was certainly reassuring. I must confess to feeling like the outsider though. I couldn’t identify with the “girls” I met – all of them seemed unduly concerned with achieving a certain “look”. Most of the discussions, both personally and on the WhatsApp Group were on dressing up, makeup and ofcourse the surgeries! I have blogged about it earlier here. I couldn’t find common ground with any of them. So while it was a learning experience, I mostly learnt on what I would not want to do in my own transition! But I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND Group Therapy to people once they have accepted the initial diagnosis. Perhaps these could be better structured by the counsellor?
I think many TG/intersex people who go to Group Therapy think they HAVE to dress feminine, sound feminine and so on. And some therapists do push this view too! One therapist even told me that “this was the law”! Really? Who made up that rule that you must dress up in a skirt/sari and put on makeup to “feel like a woman”? Am I not past that point already? The very reason I went to Therapy is because I feel like a woman! Do I really need to wear a skirt to prove that? I should be able to wear what I feel comfortable in! Anyway, I hope therapists tell patients in future that its not really necessary to look like Rekha or Jessica Rabbit! Because it isn’t!
I met “Sonu” a few months earlier who had gone through the transition 6 years back. She has now become a friend & mentor to me while I was finalising my own transition. I personally think, It is very important for someone who is contemplating transition to have a mentor who has gone through it. I dont know if I could have taken this decision to go forward without all the knowledge & guidance she gave me. While I disagree with her obsession with cosmetic surgery, I did learn a lot about the process of making the transition and the challenges we will face. She had documented in great detail her own transition and many weekends were spent watching slideshows of various steps. Especially useful was the series of pics on the effects of HRT. Helps to give an idea of the timeline. Sadly she had breast & butt surgery within 6/8 months. Sad because the actual timeline of what to expect from HRT beyond that will now remain a mystery.
I have a better understanding now of what has been troubling me all these years. And better equipped to take a decision on what i will do and wont do.
- Make up: No! Just NO! I have faced a camera and worked on stage before. Make up is the part of that job I have hated the most. Some Lacto-Calamine, sunscreen & lipbalm is enough.
- Dress in womens clothes – I have never nor will I ever have the desire to wear womens clothes. I might do it for a role on stage. But its just not practical given my lifestyle. I dont see how I could go through a day long photoshoot or ride a bike wearing a midi-skirt! 😛 I understand that some items of womens clothing will be necessary as the hormones start taking effect so those will be incorporated into the wardrobe when necessary (3 months into HRT?). But other than that, it will be Camo-Khaki’s, formal trousers with dress shirts, Madras check shirts (those look really good on me) and so on. I MIGHT consider letting go of that enormous hoodie collection I love.Overall, the Claire Underwood (House of Cards) look is what appeals to me – right from the dress pants to the button down shirts and ofcourse that hair!! I just need to get down to my target weight.
- Surgery: Have looked at the dozens of surgical procedures, and I have come to the conclusion that I need just the one big snippity-do-da: SRS. I dont need big boobs or hourglass figure or pouty lips. I will do just the big one and do it well. Ashtey! But yes I would want that the SRS be more than just a cosmetic job. As for boobies, well lets wait and see where 2 years of HRT will get me and then decide. I have Mallu genes and I come from a family where the women are on the larger side. So if genetics does play a role and i get to even 2 cup-sizes smaller than my mother or sister, I will still be a B+! Frankly, even that looks a little too big for a woman with an active lifestyle! I am considering some other cosmetic procedures though. Like Chemical Peels and skin treatments like that to deal with the years of sun damage and the uneven skin tone on the face. But thats it.
I will be starting with HRT from Mar 2018 and have the surgery before Mar 2019 – by which time I should be in Canada god willing! I am told the months 2-5 of the HRT are the most challenging emotionally speaking. So I have kept myself completely free from March to Jun 2018 and I will be working only on myself. Meditating, Gym, Running – dropping 10 kilos to get to target weight of 68kg and getting healthy. Hopefully i dont “show” too much till November when I hope to fly out.
I will be posting weekly updates from now till Mar 2019. Maya has been conceived and is getting ready to be born!