Behind the enemy lines

After three times now changing in the men’s locker room without a friend as company, I’m summing up my experiences so far. It’s much harder than I thought it would be. I feel stressed up about it, both while I’m at it and in advance, on my way to the gym. I feel vulnerable while I’m in there. Rather than being a part of a sweaty but silent brotherhood, I feel like I’m lurking behind the enemy lines, risking to be exposed at any moment. I’m afraid to be questioned. I feel like I’m breaking the rules. I guess I am, in a way.

Today there was a big guy changing just next to me and I bet he could hear my heart pounding like mad. The good thing is that at the gym I have a perfectly valid excuse for looking blushed and pumped up with adrenaline – either I’m late for my gym class or I’ve just worked out. Another guy kept a close eye on my suspiciously round, petite and rather hairless behind when I pulled my pants down and my gym shorts up. I tried to comfort myself with the idea that he probably liked what he saw.

I guess it is al right to struggle with this now for a while. I’m creating queer space for myself and in the long run for others, and I’m giving the girls their safe space back. They had started to stay on guard and looking really bothered by my presence. And they can hardly go anywhere else. I’m the one who has to leave, as it is now with our locker room-situation. It will take some time now, for me to get used to this.

My gym handed out a questionnaire the other day. It was all sorts of questions in it, designed to find out what they could improve and how happy their members and customers are.  I was so glad to find a third option to gender in it, not only “man” and “woman”, but also “other”, which I opted for. I wrote in it about my locker room troubles. Afterwards I started to think that I ought to have done something together with my gym related to IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transfobia that was last weekend. But I guess it’s never to late. Seriously, I’ll think of something.

/ E.

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Ps, I spent the weekend posing for a good friend who is a photographic artist. It resulted in lots of pictures for a queer project of hers. I got a brand new blog header and some really cool “before” (or rather “in the middle of”-) transitional photos. Thank you, E!

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Breaking up

Last Saturday I had my last sweet date with the girls locker room and sauna at the gym. While I caught my breath in the steamy sauna after working out we had a little breaking up conversation, me and her. I told the locker room gently that we’ve had a great time together but that we cant keep seeing each other like this.

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Dear girls locker room, I’m sorry, we cannot go on seeing each other like this. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve changed.

For too long I’ve felt questioned and judged when we see each other in the company of others. It hurts my feelings. I told her that I feel uncomfortable to be defined by our relationship. I told her that I need to start seeing others, just like she already is. I told her that we’ve been trough a lot together and that I’ve truly enjoyed it, so much fun, sweat and tears. It’s not you, I told her. It’s me. I’ve changed. Our relationship has made me grow in so many ways. But the time has come for me to move on.

The locker room-dilemma has troubled me ever since I came out as transgender. Initially I hoped to be able to change the world or at the least the situation at my local gym instead of adapting to a fucked up binary gender-system myself. So much for those noble intentions, so far. But now when I pass better I have the possibility to do some serious trans activism and claim my space anyway. My time has come.

I had decided to change locker room once I was introduced to the transgender team. It would be a suitable way of expressing determination, demonstrating my commitment to transitioning. Exactly the sort of thing I’ve been told that the “Real Life Experience”-phase is about. So after my meeting with the team psychiatrist, I launched my plan.

A trusted friend followed me to the gym yesterday and joined me in my workout. I usually enjoy working out alone but this time his company was of the essence. He was my escort to this point of rites de passage, finally breaking the taboo of entering the guys locker room. I was really nervous but his unconcerned company was of tremendous help in making me feel safe and in my full right to do what I had to do.

My plan worked out perfectly! It was Wednesday, which usually is a rather quiet day at the gym. We where there half an hour early, so there was no stress and locker room even happened to be empty to begin with. I had prepared myself by putting on my sports bra and a loose-fitting men’s sports top at home so I only had to pull my jeans of and slip in to my shorts and shoes. After our work out I just reversed the process, keeping my eyes to myself but otherwise acting confidently.

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Done changing. There is always a first time. All went well!

I was pleased to note that even if we weren’t alone in the guys locker room when changing after the workout, I received less suspicious looks from the others there than I usually do among the girls. Actually, no one even looked my way or looked awkwardly away either, for that matter. I was all stealthy and nobody gave a fuck.

Now, this was something I’ve dreaded to do for a while and I’m so happy to have friends to back me up. Things turned out so well and I feel proud of myself, doing this even thou it was scary at first, risking it. I feel totally confident about going back, even without company. Tomorrow I’ll have my first chance.

The first meeting with the transgender investigation team

Yesterday I proceeded with the plan I wrote about after my meeting with the gatekeeper psychiatrist. The plan was simple: Call the transgender teams receptionist and gently ask  when I can come and see the team. Just to say that I’ve met the gatekeeper and that he told me that I was ready to proceed with my investigation. I had expected to be turned down or to be told to be patient, just wait and see. Another nine months or so of nothing but waiting would not be out of the ordinary for this sort of thing. I had expected almost anything for an answer, anything else than “Well, how about tomorrow morning, 9 am?”

I was stunned, so, so happy!! Off course I agreed to come. So now I’ve been there again, at the hospital. I’ve met another psychiatrist. This one asked almost the same questions as the last one, but were different in every other way. Firstly, she is not a gatekeeper, she is the welcome committee. She clearly had plenty of experience working with transgenderd people. She was not overly conservative. And best of all, she’s a part of the team that’ll follow me for the next 2-4 years during my medical transition. That means that I’m finally in! 😀

The last post about my medical transition was represented with a selfie of a very nervous and lonely-looking Emil, taken outside the hospital. Today everything was different. My flatmate and best friend was with me. I was not a bit nervous and I was finally in, under the wings and care of the transgender investigation team.

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We’re in.

This time the questions about my background went deeper into my experiences and thoughts on gender identity during my childhood and teens. I told the story of me as a lonely tomboy growing up at the countryside. I was playing with my brothers and their friends, to rough for most of the girls I knew then. Me and my brothers built tree houses and defended them from the other kids in the neighbourhood, fighting each other with wooden swords, bow and arrow. I still do that, only wearing better armour. (Yes, stereotypes come easy for me.)

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I still like to play rough. Here I’m the little one to the left, covering up for my fallen comrade and fighting the enemy of with my stick/spear.

Then she asked me about my marriage. I got married when I was twenty-four years old and my husband-to-be was thirty. I was young, madly in love and struggling to find a way to deal with womanhood. It was a good and mostly sound relationship that lasted for nine years, all in all. We got divorced halfway through 2011 and are still good friends today.

During our time together I adapted into the norms of heterosexuality, but I did not feel like a grown up woman. Even thou the relationship was sound, every time I had to say that I was someone’s wife, something felt slightly wrong. I never felt like a woman, not at all comfortable with my assigned gender role. Only women become wife’s. Since I never felt like one, it was weird being someone’s wife. I felt like I a fraud. I often explained it in a humours manner: “I’m not really a woman”, not understanding the seriousness of it myself.

I tried so hard. But failing to feel comfortable as a woman, I tried to be as girly as I could ever manage instead. I was better at that, but I guess I was overcompensating. The psychiatrist got curious about this and asked if I had any pictures. I have plenty. My friend quickly found one on Facebook and showed it. To see this picture again made me smile – I’ve sure gone a long way since this was taken in the summer of 2007…

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Compare this to the pictures of me from my last post, about claiming masculinity.

Then we talked about what sort of help or medical care I’m looking for, what it was like for me to come out to my parents and about my social situation today. She was impressed to hear about the genuine support I’ve got from people around me. Especially about the fact that I’ve got so many transgenderd friends and experienced transgender allied covering my back, thoroughly supporting me every step on the way.

I think I made a good impression. After all, I mostly feel good about myself and transitioning is improving my life. Only, now when I’ve come so far, I need some help to get further.

She gave me a pile of papers to fill in, a questionnaire with tricky questions about gender identity. I’m to hand it in to the psychologist I’ll see in a month or so. That is the next step, lots of tests and paperwork. I was informed that I’ll have meetings with different specialists in the transgender team every 3 – 4 months from now on. There will be a social investigation about how my life is working, what my relationships are like, how I feel about different aspects of my life. I’ll meet psychologists and psychiatrists on a regular basis to sort out if they can offer me what I want; medical treatment, surgery and in the end recommend me to send in an application for change of legal gender.

I’ll also see a doctor and a gynaecologist to do basic medical examinations, only to see that everything is alright. And in about a year, I’ll see a endocrinologist, a doctor specialised on hormones. I was told promptly that we will not discuss hormones until then. That made me sulk a bit, but there is not much to do other than to cooperate and comply. If I’m lucky things will move on faster, but it is just as well to accept that it mostly will be out of my control.

Finally she asked me how sure I was, about going through with my transitioning, taking it further. I replied honestly that it is impossible to be entirely sure on anything, especially when it comes to committing to permanent changes in your life and body. But I’m at the least 98% sure that this is the right thing for me. At that she smiled and the meeting was over.