I've come to learn yet another facet of myself this past week. It's been both affirming yet so very starkly frightening, altogether at once. It is not something that anyone told me to expect nor is it something I would have suspected. Even if I did suspect what I saw and what I have come to learn of myself, it would have been denied, like I did for much of my life; denied, ignored and placed in a box like so many of the other piece of my life had been hidden.
It was a crisp winter's day this week and the snow, brightly shining under a warming late January Sun beckoned for a bit of playtime. I grabbed my cross country skis and headed out into the backyard to do some laps. I was not dressed or made up as Christen, save for a set of small earrings I often wear at home in my male mode. After a couple of laps around the yard, I stopped and decided, in the stunning sunlight and with a contrast of green trees and blue sky, that a picture was warranted. Planting my ski poles firmly into the crusty snow, I fumbled for the digital camera in my pocket, flicked it on and snapped off a couple of self portraits with the beautiful snow covered woods for a background. Owing to the bright sunny day, I could not really see the picture in the viewfinder and, after a glancing but unnoticed look at the display, simply shrugged a "whatever" to myself and stowed the camera safely back within my ski jacket's pocket and continued on with my mini ski adventure.
Later, back at the house, I put my skis away, sauntered past the wood stove where I added another log to the glowing orange embers of a dieing fire and sat down at my desk. Taking the camera out of the pocket of my coat, I took a closer look at the pictures I just took. What I saw completely floored me. "I don't know how I could have missed this before", I said silently to myself. "I really don't know". For some reason, in that picture, was a woman looking back at me and with a smile on her face. It was uncanny. It was unnerving. What I thought I saw of me was truly and honestly not the person that was looking back at me in that picture.
Up until now, I was pretty sure there was still a guy mode going on for me. I was sure. Joanne was sure. Yet in recent times, and increasing in frequency, there were hints that perhaps this was not truly the case. Still, we shrugged each incident off as they happened.... the odd and quizzical looks I might receive in a store, or at a restaurant; the hesitancy in the voices of others, seemingly waiting to hear me speak first before they did. I thought that it was coincidental, yet it happened enough times that it begged to perhaps be questionable.
Now I had, for the first time, a picture which held the answers; ...which explained why. What was it that I could not see in the mirror; that I could not see of myself; that Joanne did not see in me...yet which in one random picture, depicted of a completely different story? I showed the picture to my electrologist, just to see what she thought. She had seen many pictures of Christen but had only seen my guy mode when I went in to see her for my sessions. Even she had been with me on the slow transition of hair removal. It was a transition that was slow enough for even her to not have noticed the gradual and unceasing changes occurring within and to myself.
She looked the picture and stared at it. She stared at it silently for what seemed to me to be an eternity. She stared with greater care than in any other picture I had shown to her in the past. I was getting a bit tense at that point, for I knew then that she was having exactly the same reaction that I had had as well. It was the realization that my reaction was not of my own mind's eye but was a thing of truth. I crossed my arms together across my chest, pulling myself in towards my self in a bit of an anxious stnace and watched her as she looked. And then she spoke.
"Is that really you?", she asked. "Are you wearing any makeup here at all?"
"No", I quietly said. "I had some colorless sunscreen lip gloss on, and my earrings, but that's it"
"And that is your hair!", she asked half incredulously, half with conviction.
"Yes", I quietly stated.
"That is amazing!", she replied. She looked up at me and then back at the picture and then at me again. "This is what you have been working towards these past years", she said proudly. "You look great. I mean the wig is fine, but it's still a wig. This is YOU. If this is your guy mode, then all I am seeing is an attractive woman."
I felt both a sense of congruity and, at the same time, of tension which I had never felt before and could not explain.
"This is freaking me out just a bit", I said to her. "It feels both good and it feels like I am me, but it is also scary too at the same time".
After leaving the office, I had the time to think about the reactions I had had and to reflect. I realized what it was that was causing the conflicting feelings. At the same time, I realized and admitted to myself, the very answers to the things which others had wondered of me. The answers were all quite clear. They were affirming and revealing both.
Others have asked me in the past.... asked me why I seem to spend so much time working with makeup and hair to create my look. Why was I so obsessed seemingly with my own appearance when out as Christen? Why was I constantly checking and rechecking my makeup all of the time when I was out? Was I that vain? Was I that concerned with the makeup and the visual aspects of being a woman, so much so that it seemed to others as if it was a character game I was playing as her?
No.... That was not it at all. In one fell swoop, I knew why. I understood.
There was Christen... and there was the male persona. This is as how it had been. They were two artificially separated entities which, in my mind, I used to try to keep separate each from the other. It has been well noted by others that whether I am out as Christen or whether I am out as my male self makes no difference. I am the same person either way. I act the same. I behave the same. My girl persona is always a girl persona, thus, it was that my guy persona was really just a girl persona. Others saw this yet I tried to dismiss their assertions as naive and tried to separate two entities which were in essence always the same. I sloughed off what others told me of myself. "Who better to know themselves of course, than myself!", I maintained.
Those two entities... both the male persona and female persona had been kept as separate. They were kept separate so that I could live my life as the guy when I needed to. But that guy was not really there. He never was, and never had been. Yet now, as I took these seemingly small steps to add more to the feminine realm which felt so natural to me, those degrees of separation between the perceived male and the underlying and real female were diminishing; collapsing into each other and into one and the same person.
I recall spending so much time when I was out, checking my makeup constantly. I knew why now. I was afraid that perhaps remnants of my mustache might perhaps be showing through my makeup for others to see my guy self or that I did not have enough makeup on to hide my guy self from the woman I needed to see in the mirror as Christen. I was, in effect, checking to make sure I always saw the girl in that mirror and checking to make sure that the guy was not there to stare back at me.
Now I looked at that picture of myself with no makeup and I saw, plainly and for the first time, the woman no longer within. Rather, she looked back in that picture with a smile on her face and it was plain to see where in clear view what I had not allowed myself to see before.
I didn't need the makeup any longer to see that woman and to separate that woman from the man. The two, in an instant, were merged. They were the same person. It was a surreal moment, and so telling of who I am and who I am yet to become. It was at once both a revelation and a sheer terror. It was as if I was a passenger on a ride of my own life, yet somehow, had also been the captain such that I was able to come to this point in life as well.
It is not the makeup. It is not the clothes. It is not the act. It is not what I do. It is who I am.
I'm not looking much in the mirror when I go out these days. I don't worry about the mustache or beard shadow being seen and with fear of being outted as a man. I don't look in the mirror much to worry that I can still see, without enough makeup, the guy staring back at me. Now I just see the one and only me and others see that same me as well.
The degrees of separation between the guy and the girl are blending, fading, and reemerging into one and the same person.
It is both a liberation and a calmness which I feel within, yet it is also with trepidation and anxiety for what unknowns are to come.
I may, at times seems like the passenger on my own ship of discovery and destiny of self, but I am also it's captain too. I am at the helm with my spouse and we are sailing into these new and uncharted waters together. The horizon will always be too far to see beyond, but if the course is carefully maintained, one day perhaps, at a place yet to be known to either of us, we shall arrive together.