Long Showers and the Like
When you transition from one gender to another, your entire life is turned upside down. Initially you are just trying to survive. A little later comes the post-traumatic stress. I barely remember the six months after I was let go by the various ministries I served. It was a good two years before I became confident about my ability to survive.
For all of those reasons, it’s only been recently that I have begun to reflect on the more subtle aspects of transitioning. I started making a list. I am not suggesting all of these shifts are directly related to transitioning, but I suspect most are. In no particular order, here are a few of my observations.
First, let’s talk about the temperature in the office building – any office building. I don’t remember offices being cold, but now I would never go to the office without a sweater. Why? Because it’s 58 degrees in there! You can tell who controls the thermostat – the guys with their jackets off and shirtsleeves rolled up. Who put them in charge?
This is also true of the front of an airplane. (I did not lose my free upgrades and the accompanying perks. Thank God, the airline industry does not care if you are transgender.) There are blankets in every first class seat, and the women always have them draped over their bodies. The men never open theirs. The people in the cockpit control the cabin temperature. Yep, most are men.
When I was in college, my dorm had the world’s smallest hot water tank, but it didn’t matter because fast showers were the order of the day. All I had to do was lather up, rinse off, and I was done. Now, I can stay in the shower for days. After mountain biking this afternoon I took a 35-minute shower. It’s a good thing we have two giant hot water tanks. My body wants the feel of all those droplets.
Since I have extremely curly hair, the amount of time devoted to my hair has grown exponentially. It is the main reason I kept it short through most of my adult life. Until I found the book, The Curly Girl, I went back and forth between frizzy and frighteningly frizzy. I am finally making peace with my hair, but I am still concerned about its borderline tendencies. It turns from friend to enemy on a dime.
Women do need a lot more clothes than men – a lot more. Which is frustrating because clothes are more expensive and of lesser quality. Men’s shirts are made of cotton that could be used to make mainsails. They are sturdy. Women’s cotton shirts are about as thick as two-ply toilet paper. And don’t dare take them to the dry cleaner, because you’ll pay twice as much to have them laundered.
I wonder, who was the first dry cleaner to figure out you could fleece women with impunity? He probably thought, “Hey, we can pay them less but charge them more. How cool is that!” There’ll be a special place in purgatory for that guy. He’ll have to spend millennia ironing linen pants.
My skin is thinner now, which is probably why I’m always cold. It’s also why I bruise twice as much as I used to. And of course that is obvious to everyone, because women’s clothes show a lot more skin than men’s clothes. Thinner skin is also why women get cellulite while men don’t. I also find it ironic that while women have thinner skin, in my experience men are more thin-skinned. You know what I mean.
The biggest differences come from the loss of testosterone and the arrival of estrogen. Testosterone is a powerful drug. The number one reason transgender men are in psychotherapy is because they are struggling to deal with the arrival of testosterone. Aggression is one result. (When was the last time you saw a woman starting a brawl at a football game?) And of course, the biggest impact of testosterone is how one experiences sexuality.
As a male, sex was a problem. I never crossed a line of any kind, but I’m telling you, it wasn’t easy. You constantly had to be on guard. I mean, think about it. There are no brothels for women, and according to a Pew Research study, 80 percent of people watching porn are male. Male sexuality is about perpetuating the species, so the male is pretty much always thinking, “I’ll have that, and that, and that.” Have you ever watched bull elk during the mating season? Yeah.
I now experience sexuality far more holistically. I’m not even sure what I mean when I say that, but I know it to be true. It’s more of a being experience and less of a body experience.
I could go on. In fact, it seems I always need more words to express what I’m thinking and feeling nowadays, but I’ll have to save that observation for another day.
And so it goes.
8 thoughts on “Long Showers and the Like”
So true. How I can relate! I’ve never been as sensitive to the cold (or heat). My body temperature too is lower and fluctuates every month. Another thing is the strength of my arms. Where has it gone? Dramatic. But my brain, testosterone free, is so much more peaceful, so less driven. Ah!
G’day! How would Kathy describe her rites of passage, her road, in the years since Paul became Paula? We in your audience know about your transition and have some glimpses of Jonathan’s walk with you, but few mentions of your wife. And, that might be off-limits which is okay.
Thanks for sharing your observations from Colorado. I hope to see you in the Appalachian Mountains soon.
And so it goes . . .
That’s a fair question, Bert. I don’t comment on Cathy and the kids. They are off limits. Jonathan is telling his story through a book with Westminster John Knox Press. Cathy isn’t all that interested in telling hers.
I was hoping to get down there this fall, and was actually scheduled there last week, but had to cancel. I hope I can come in the spring.
everything you said is true. however. i do wonder, when you were a man-so to speak, sorry i just don’t know how to word that and i hope it’s not offensive, but did you control the climate? and man spreading? and mansplaining? genuine questions. it’s just suddenly you realized now that you are , like me, a 2nd class gender, it’s a surprise to you?????
Yes to controlling the climate, no to man spreading, and yes to mansplaining. Guilty as charged. 🙂
Thank you so much for your reflections here, Paula. Would love to read more of your observations on this topic. Our experience of gender, gender roles, our bodies and our sexuality are so much more nuanced than what often gets written about… and thus, the transgender journey is so much more nuanced than the topics that are typically focused on and the statistics that get reported. Thank you for bringing some of that to light here with your, as always, beautiful prose. Please let us know if you’re ever headed South (Atlanta specifically). Would love to have dinner!
Linda, I am going to be speaking on that subject at the TEDx talk in Denver this coming Saturday. Whenever I speak on transgender issues, it always gets the most questions and comments.
Awesome! There’s a TEDx talk I’m really looking forward to hearing!