A night out – girl’s party at a familiar place

Last night I got a late call from one of my friends on her way to a party downtown Stockholm. She had came to think of me and wondered if I could join them at the party. I think most people feel they need some sort of mental preparing before going out dancing and for me that is probably even more so. So here I was watching Mythbusters on the TV and wondered what I should do. I thought I better say yes. Partly because a need to come out a bit and I like to dance but I guess also to avoid feeling left out. I am very sensitive for being left out and I think I go out of the way to not intrude or bother people who want to be left alone. Too much of course, probably because I left my childhood home with a bit of anxiety for parties and also of course my coming out process where I was almost surprised when people wanted to hang out with me “although” I was a transsexual girl. I am working on that but it still comes back sometimes in the club environment. This summer at a Pride party I also experienced that feeling of almost being in the way for my company (right or not). I felt like I was the boring girl hanging along. Some serious self-confidence issues here…

So after I while I stood in the wardrobe line and felt almost shaky. Partly from walking alone from my car in the dark night of Stockholm but also a bit scared of how I would handle myself at this party. Of course looking forward to see my friends but also nervous. Luckily my friend spotted me in the line and gave me a hug and some company while waiting. I had been to this place a few times before but that was 8-9 years ago or so. The very first time almost not being let in because they wanted proof of me being a transsexual woman. That time scared because of passing but this time not as much to my surprise. I felt cute in my greenish shirt with a lace top under and my own hair flowing over my shoulders. It seemed I passed well because I got almost no looks at all. Being not looked at is somewhat comforting I guess but also not the best approach to meet someone.

Walking towards the bar I realised that one of the things I have trouble to handle is that the whole experience is a strange mix of people in a party mood which means that they are happy towards certain people but also a bit impolite towards others. You are being pushed or even spilled drinks on and have to fight your way towards the bar. When you meet someone there is almost often not enough room and it is easy to feel pushed away because people need to scream in each other’s ears to get some attention. I guess a have a tendency to back off when being pushed in different ways. The music was load and it was really hard to hear what people where saying which is my next issue.

My voice is something I have written about before. I am proud of the work I have done with it over the years and today I feel more confident than ever. I mean people have several time told me I have a nice female voice or even a “chick-voice”. I found myself thinking about how I sound less and less. However, in the loud club environment I find that I have to muster all my energy down to the stomach to say something. Then what comes out sound very coarse and not feminine to me. However, what is worst is that all that makes almost avoid talking to people because I feel I lose all spontaneity and everything I say feels a bit corny. This strange because in other situations I like to talk to people and think I am quite good at creating a good conversation with most people.

So I ended up around a table with my friends drinking a coke. A little bit surprise that the crowd was reasonably varied (compared to last time!) with different looks and a wider age spread than usual. A flow of lesbian women around me to and from the dance floor pumping out music. Everybody occupied with there own look and checking other people out. I wondered how people see each other and how this instant attraction really works. Of course I am wondering if I am passing and I guess me being not in my best element is visible to people. But I almost felt invisible in that flow of women. Seeing my friends socialising, talking and even kissing people around me makes the contrast bigger.

I know everybody is not up for that but of course I can’t help thinking about Sara Löwestams column in the LGBT Magazine QX where she reminds people that transsexual people sometimes have missed out of all these teenage things. The school parties with the first kiss and the first love. Getting experiences but of course also making mistakes. I did not have these experiences and that can bring insecurity in unfamiliar situations like this. After a while I ended up being there at the table alone because some have went to the restrooms and the other’s I have no clue. The feeling of being lonely or maybe even worse thinking that other people think I am lonely. Especially if they “read me” as a transsexual woman. I did not panic or so but I decided that if my friends or some other that I know showed up in 15 minutes or so I just had to leave. Luckily I got some company just before my mental deadline.

After a while we ended up dancing and I had a great time for the first time that evening. The music were better than earlier that night and it felt nice being in the sea of women dancing. Around 2.20 most of my friends have went in different directions again and it was me and a friend of mine left at the very same table. When she said she was going home I tagged along. Mostly of fear of standing there alone again but also to keep and get some company on our way home.

In the end I think I hope I can master all situations but have to realize that I am more comfortable in some than others. I should therefore accept that I prefer maybe a nice dinner rather than a night out at loud bars. However, I like to dance and it is fun to look at people so I also don’t want to feel like I am not the girl to bring along for these things. Again fear of feeling left out. I wonder how people do it. Maybe alcohol have something to do with it…

Wondering about what is good for me…

Over the years I have given quite a few interviews some of which can be accessed here. I did not accept doing these right away but gave it some serious thinking. The main factor I believe was whether or not the journalist seemed genuinely interested in portraying me in a nice way without any sensation in mind. Doing these interviews have been very nice experiences and I feel fortunate to have these short snapshots of my life. Spending a few hours with a complete stranger and talking about rather personal things is often rather therapeutic and I guess it is also nice to be the center of attention for that time. When I started to come out internet was just starting to exist as we know it today and I remember how hard it was to get information about what it was like to be a transsexual woman. I remember reading the few articles I found in secret and with deep fascination. Knowing that you are not alone in this situation is so important. With that in mind I accepted doing the interviews also to maybe make a difference for other people in my situation and their close ones. Spreading information to the general public is of course also important since it is usually a good way to make things less strange. Misconceptions often come from lack of information.

Lately another aspect of how to deal with interview requests have been surfacing in my mind. Whether or not it is good for me as a person to keep reaffirming my status as a transsexual woman. It does not have to do with denying my past or anything like that but just what is will do for my self-confidence and self-image to have someone look at me as being different. Not that journalists have been negative towards me in any way but maybe the fact that I am special or courageous just because I have made this journey. Maybe also reminding people around me that I am not just another woman. My idealistic heart of course wants to keep changing the world by being out there on the barricades but maybe I have done my part for a while. On the other hand I strongly believe that we need to normalise our situation by also promoting people who actually make it as business leaders or in public office while being open with their transsexual background. When President Obama recently assigned a transsexual woman as the technical advisor to the US Commerce Department that was a big thing for all of us. My own situation is also quite cool when I think about it. I feel rather successful in my line of work and it feels great to be able to do that “despite” my background for lack of better words. It actually is quite nice to just be a skilled woman without having to talk about my personal life as well.

So as you see this is not an easy thing to handle. Lately I have started to hesitate when journalists call me and it has often ended in not doing the interview because the deadline had passed. I am finding myself confused and my “save-the-world”-gene prevents me from saying “no” so instead I have become hesitant. I have also found myself a little bit prudish for the first time in life. I have been asked to particpate in an art project around femininity which includes doing a photo shoot without any clothes but I can use props to cover selected parts if I like. On one hand I really would like to do that and use it as an exercise to feel confident as a woman in the nude and possibly get some well needed affirmations. However, unlike all other media related things I have done I don’t regret any of them and would gladly make most of that public at work for instance. It is not the same if I do this painting I think. I know there is a common fascination around the results of the transition process and the surgeries. Can I handle the fact that people around me will look at that painting to “judge” the results and look for any traces of my old self? I don’t know…

What I think all of this boils down to is how my self-image really is affected in the long run. I need to be able to settle down as a woman and to be able to think positively about how I am perceived or actually not thinking about it at all. The difference in how much time a day I spend worrying about how people would see me between now and ten years ago is just huge. Today it can happen but back then it was the normal state of mind. Moving away from that is not easy and what I am fearing is that recurring affirmations of that by doing interviews could make that process slower. On the other hand these thoughts will come anyway without any journalist in sight. Maybe when I am entering immigration in the US, walking into a store full of teenage girls or meeting officers from other nations. And of course when I am attracted to that cute lesbian woman…

Maybe I am also a bit new to the feeling of not being that sure about what to do about this anymore…

Relating to my own history

This is probably one of the more difficult aspects of my life I think – to relate to my own history. From the very beginning I have been very open with everything with life hoping that it would make everything easier since there are a lot of misconceptions and lack of information regarding transgender issues in general. It seem to really have helped since I have had hardly any negative experiences in my process. Of course it took me a lot of courage to start being open and “come out of the closet” so to say. That was not an easy process – and a lonely one.

So today I am almost facing the opposite. My dream have come true and I am my true self in terms of gender and sex but as I am probably passing sometimes it brings up the opposite question. When do I tell someone about my background? Some would argue that there is no reason to tell since I am a woman today and it is nobody’s business. However, no matter how you put the whole process have been such an important part of my life, my experience and who I am today. I believe that all people change and evolve over time and this was my experience – maybe more than most people experience but still. So in order to get personal with someone it is very difficult to not feeling the need to relate to my own experiences. Also have experienced the anxiety of waiting for the “right moment” to tell someone and that is not something I want to experience again. So this leads to the obvious Catch 22 when I so like being “just a woman” and also feel that I can’t deny my past.

A couple of months ago I was cleaning out my old office in Uppsala and taking care of the paper piles turned into a travel in time. The closer I got to the bottom I got closer to stuff from the 1990-ies when my situation was different. Seeing my old name is still a bit annoying but not as complicated as it was just one or two years ago. The real shock came when old pictures of me turned up in the piles and in binders from military schools and stuff. There I saw another person that was still me. Things like that of course remind me of my past in a negative way. Brings back memories of how scared I was to talk to anyone about my situation but also a very visible proof of the fact that I was not a woman back then. In my head of course but nothing that people actually saw and knew. I know that it shouldn’t but that of course affects my self image today.

This week a friend of mine suddenly looked at me and said that she just could not imagine me as a man. That was of course very sweet and just that kind of compliment that my still rather week self-image needs to be fueled with. For some reason it means more when a woman says it to me. However, later in the evening she said that she wasn’t sure about what she would feel about seeing pictures of me from before my transition. Not that I ever show people that but it made me start thinking. It put yet another aspect of my past. She said she was scared that these old images would get stuck in her head and I think that was a scary thought for both of us. However, since I do have a fear which is a bit like Cinderella – for lack of better words that the image of me as woman would fall just like Cinderella turns back from princess to an ordinary maid. I realized that things from my past then can be somewhat of a threat to me and my life today. Again, just like me passing or not, something I actually don’t have any control of. That made me a bit scared. I mean how should I know when these images can pop up – hopefully there weren’t many digital cameras back then.

Looking back at 2009

I know, this blog has not been updated in a couple of months now. I think it mainly has to do with the fact that I use FaceBook a lot nowadays and some of these updates are also posted in the column to the right. I also think it had a little bit to do with my last tiny experience with love that took a couple of weeks to process and then intense work made me forget to write here. However, I do like to write and I believe it is really good to do that for me. It is a very good way to process feelings and experiences. Maybe what I write here also means something to other people reading it and that is of course also very nice to know.

So as we enter a new year I realize that each year seem to be even more important than the last one. When I look back I think that has been true for the last 10-15 years of my life and some years brought big experiences and sometimes also big changes as the result of that. The past year started in a rather sad way being sad for lost love. Actually it was not lost love for me but rather my own sense of losing a chance for love. Something like “how would I find someone like her again”. I took it rather hard when I later learned that she had found love and for some reason it felt worse that it was love for a man as well. What I learned from that was that there is no point of trying to be nice in that crucial moment when you declare that you have no romantic/sexual interest in a person. Instead of being nice and try wrap it in by saying “it’s not You that there is anything wrong with, it is me who are not ready”. Usually the somewhat crual but honest fact is that “she wasn’t attracted to me” and I now think it is better to say that to remove any hope and to make the experience of finding out that she have found another person much easier.

Another experience at the beginning of the year was how to deal with not passing and how to react to people saying not so nice things to our about me. I learned to raise my voice but also that it can sometimes feel like being the “touchy” one which is easily hurt. However, it feels much better to voice my reactions than sitting there with a hurting stomach being more and more sad. Partly because it feels good to get the very real feelings out of the system but also getting it out on the table and get some other reactions to it. That can in most cases be a good way to see what others think of the very same situation.

Summer vactions started late for me and I felt a bit low and lonely. Working hard sometimes makes me lose a little bit of the close contact with my friends and during summer time it is easy to feel a bit behind. It takes a while to catch up. Also realised that I needed some therapy to coach me through the daily experiences I have as well as my self-esteem as a woman – a woman that another woman can be attracted to. Found a good woman who gave me support and coaching about my own reactions but not the least to conquer some of these small fears. I think she had an important part in me being a lot more brave about my feelings for a woman I had a crush on. Actually felt a little bit proud that I actually managed to say what I felt for her without waiting for more than a couple of weeks.

Yes, my little love candle was lit in August which seem to confirm that it only happens once a year or so. I had some great summer evenings with her and it felt just wonderful to have these butterflies in my stomach for a while. In the end I learned that she was not attracted to me and in the light of past experiences that was just the words that is best to use in the long run. After processing that for a couple of weeks we started seeing each other again and I now consider her a dear friend and really think that was the best choice for both of us. Sure it hurts to be rejected – especially when I really need some affirmations as an attractive woman. However, another important thing I learned is that sometimes that rejected is also the sweetest thing. It actually means that someone thinks I am a fine person that she does not want to “waste” on a one-night-stand. That means that sometimes refusing to make out or have sex is a much stronger sign of love than doing it.

I also think I learned to come out as a lesbian again. You see in my situation as a lesbian woman with a transsexual background I realised that the main thing for me always has been my gender identity and being accepted as a woman, especially by other women. I have no experience of the day when I started to be attracted to woman – I have always been attracted to women. However, I now realize that my desire of being accepted (or fear of being rejected by women) made me  repress most of the feelings I had for them. A close friend of mine called that “believing in the sistershood between (lesbian) woman”. The reality is however that when lesbian women meet they sometimes experience attraction and that it is a very normal reaction. However, the key thing is how you act on it. In some sense it felt good to know that I did not necessarily “betrayed a friendship” just because I suddenly found one of my female friends attractive.

It is also easy to be way to hard on myself to be successful in every aspect of life. However, it is not always easy to match the fact that I am 35 in many respects but when it comes to relationships are more like 20. Experience the these shifts can sometimes take me with surprise. To handle that during the day I I comfortably stand on a scene in front of 150 people and speaking passionatly about Enterprise Content Management and being one of the “stars” of the conference that everybody wants to talk to. Later in the evening at the lesbian club I become the shy and quite girl who think everybody is way cooler than me and that no one can possibly want to talk to me let alone being attracted to me. Being just a woman in that setting is not that easy. However, I also need to accept that the bar environment isn’t everyones best arena and that I feel much more confident (and charming) at a more quite private party.

The hard part I guess is to relate to my own transsexual background. Feeling great as a woman nowadays and often smiling when I see myself in the mirror. At the same time a need to get some kind of positive affirmation from that cute woman that she actually sees me as the woman I am. No matter how confident I am it is still always in the end up to others to make that judgement. Especially in the rather cruel and binary attraction situation where it is either “on” or “off”. On one hand I should be a little bit more brave but that is hard when I am so adjusted to seek that sign of acceptance that makes it “a green light”.

In all going into 2010 life is actually rather good but there is of course that little love thing missing. I hope that this important year of 2009 made me a little bit more confident and that I sometime will found that woman that can see me more than a friend and thus become my princess. However, in the end I would never have come this far without so many supporting friends. Wish me luck!