Navigating Through Life as a T-Girl

This is originally an e-mail I wrote to a new friend online.  She is also a transgender woman in the west coast of USA with much the same struggles as I have, and after writing this, I feel compelled to expand on my original message, and to clarify some of my thoughts.  I asked for her permission to post this on my blog and she gave it to me.  Here’s the final product:

Hi [A],

There is much to be thankful for when you and your wife are close, and that you two spend a lot of time together. It is something to be cherished.  I too have to be thankful for that very reason.

Being open to my wife about this whole TG issue is no easy task.  At best, I can only offer you my personal experience of dealing with it.  While many t-girl friends will disagree, I hold the view that my being TG is my very own mental affliction, and that life would be considerably less complicated if it would “just go away”.  Unfortunately it is also something I cannot change.  And I have been very honest with my wife about that.  As I mentioned in my previous e-mail, when dealing with TG issues, I often turn to my Christian faith for guidance. There is a relevant passage in the Bible that has been a great comfort to me:

Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness….To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 11:29,30, 12:7-10)

God’s grace is sufficient, especially in my weaknesses. In light of that, my wife and I have been quite honest to each other about our struggles and confusions, and we particularly want to turn this situation of mine into something that can strengthen others, instead of focusing on whether I dress or not dress. (By the way, I did grow up in a family of theologians and preachers, so it should not be a surprise that I turn to Christianity.)

In that sense, faith took away the burden of having to worry about what is the best balance between time as Kate, “boy mode” and time with my wife. Right now, I am not focused on how frequently I should be Kate vs. boy mode. The choice for me, is whatever is more loving (biblically speaking of course) at the time; and what allows me to strengthen someone else. There was a time when I didn’t have to balance time I spent as Kate vs. boy mode. It was simple: it was whatever I felt like. I was working on my PhD and a lot of work was done at home, so I can be a boy or a girl as I pleased. I chose girl mode quite a lot more often but that’s besides the point. Now that I am married, and my job requires me to be at the office everyday, it’s more boy than girl. I too have found that in the past couple of years I haven’t been as eager to go into “girl mode” as I used to, and I’m completely okay with it too. I’m not sure if the balance will shift in the future, but I’m sure that it’s not something I’m worried about now.

One of the advantage of living in Toronto is that the trans community is quite large, and a person can quite easily find acceptance here. For my part, most of my friends who know me as Kate are themselves either crossdressers or transsexuals. I find most of my crossdresser friends start gathering together when they first go down this path, but then disperse a little bit once they gain some confidence. Only 3 of my friends who know me in my “boy mode” also know me as Kate. One of them went through a tough time because her younger sibling was preparing for gender reassignment, and I felt that I can help the situation if I had made Kate known to her. (She was a hippie girl at heart, and took it well.)  I can, however, see the difficulties with telling my existing friends about Kate, especially in light of some of the prejudices that they have, mostly relating being “transgender” to being “homosexual”, which is often far from the truth. Ironically, the people that have given me the most grieve are my fellow Christians, for whom I constantly apologize…

If there is to be any advice, I say that you should seek a TG support group/club in town where people can just hang out.  You can find TG-friendly bars and clubs, but it’s the company that’s important.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Love,
Kate

Photography Enthusiast

I suppose that I have always been interested in photography.  My high school offered two photography courses, one in Grade 9/10, and another one in Grade 11/12.  I took both, and I did quite well too. But after graduating high school, the workload in the Engineering faculty in university was quite heavy, and I spent most of my free time practicing violin.  Since I was lacking in equipment to process film—and lacking money to purchase film in the first place—photography kindly disappeared from my list of hobbies. By the time I got back to the swing of things, digital SLR cameras are hot items. I had to re-learn everything photography, and also have to learn all the features of a digital camera.  Since last year, I’ve got myself some pretty good pictures. Last month, my wife and I bought a used portrait lens (“prime lens”) from Craigslist.  Wow, what a difference from the kit lens that came with the camera.

Which brings me to today.

Kate and Samantha

I went for lunch with my friend Samantha, a fellow t-girl, this afternoon on Church Street. It’s the first time I’ve been there during the midday hours in a long time.  The weather today was smoldering!  My original plan was to take a walk in the neighbourhood in the morning, then head down to Church St for lunch, but within minutes of getting out of my apartment, I was already soaked in sweat. So much sweat, that I had to go home, and change out of my clothes altogether.  I ended up with that purple t-shirt (my old favourite), and pants (and a sports bra, to absorb all the sweat). I brought my camera this time, and when we finished the meal, we took a leisurely stroll and took some pictures.  The portrait lens is really amazing.  It is so easy to get a shallow depth-of-field with the aperture wide open. I got some very nice pictures of both of us. I’ll be posting those pictures online in the very near future.

The View on Church Street
The View on Church Street is excellent

Jogging

For the past few days I had been in quite a vegetative state.  It’s not really true: I’ve been working long hours at the lab, setting up my software for my next research project.  It did mean that I haven’t been going a lot of physical activities lately.  So this morning, I decided to go out jogging.  Normally, jogging isn’t really my “thing”—I am more into cycling, and last month I logged more than 500km in one week—but I figured that jogging is more “efficient”,in that I get to burn more calories in a given time. So I went jogging at a brisk pace at a park behind a school in Markham.  May be I picked the wrong day though, as we’re in the midst of a heat wave in most of Eastern Canada, and by 8am it was already a humid 28°C.  Before the jog, I snapped a few pictures of myself in my new sports/casual clothes…from Costco.  I do agree that it’s silly that whenever I do something, I always try bring my camera to make it a fashion shoot of some sort.  Anyway, three of those pictures turned out.  Here’s one of them.  As you can all see, Kate does not have long legs afterall!  In fact, the capri shorts make my legs look even shorter.

Kate at the bleachers
Kate enjoying the morning breeze at the bleachers!

Regrets

A few weeks ago, I decided to go out to Church Street on a Saturday night after a long hiatus.  It’s not that I haven’t been out and about, but these days I prefer the quietness of the library or Toronto’s Harbourfront over the noise and craziness of Church Street. The Gay Village had always seemed to have too many temptations for all things sinful.  But since I have had very little interaction with my crossdresser and transgender friends lately, I decided to look up my old contacts and phone them up.  Most of them were busy with other obligations, but I did find someone whom I have not seen for awhile, and we agreed to meet up for dinner at a restaurant on Church.  So I got dressed, got some light make-up done (FYI: I’ve never gone with heavy make-up, even by genetic women’s standard, but I digress), and drove downtown.  Everything took too long, and I had to drive like a maniac to make up lost time.  I finally arrived at the restaurant 25 minutes late, expecting to see my friend at least somewhat mad at me.

That didn’t happen.  The restaurant was half empty, and my friend wasn’t there.  So I waited for another hour, and each minute becoming more frustrating.  Eventually I tried to call her back.  After trying repeatedly for another 10 minutes—someone kept hanging up the phone—I finally got a hold of her.  She had not left home, and wasn’t planning to.  I felt deceived, and that I had a right to raise my voice, so I yelled at her for several minutes before hanging up angrily. Continue reading “Regrets”

Madly Off in All Directions

This is yet another installment of my correspondence with a transgender friend in the US.

Hi [DELETED],

Writing to you is always an adventure, and I think sometimes the time it takes to construct a proper e-mail to [you] is in the same order as my PhD had been.  Believe it or not, I had indeed starting replying to this e-mail the minute it arrived.  (It’s actually true, but I can’t imagine why I would believe me either.)  So, first to catch up, in a more efficient point format:

  • Happy CANADIAN Thanksgiving!
  • Happy Halloween!
  • Happy American Thanksgiving!  (Hope you got some nice Black Friday purchases.)
  • Merry CANADIAN Christmas!  (Okay, that’s on the same day as you…)
  • Happy CANADIAN New Year!  (Okay, that’s also on the same day too…)
  • And (in the spirit of The Truman Show), in case I don’t write to you: Happy Easter!

Definitely more efficient.

Lot’s have happened in Katie-land over the past few months.  Like, I went to Hong Kong for a couple of weeks in December.  I didn’t bring Kate.  (I guess that trip actually didn’t happen in Katie-land…)  Every time I go back, the city looks different.  And I go there every December too!  The subway system is always expanding: this year they added 2 new stations.  I suppose with the complete lack of personal space in HK, it’s better than Kate didn’t go.  I didn’t want some guy staring at me on a crowded subway train, inches from my face, saying, “hmm, her make-up isn’t so perfect.”  Speaking of girls’ cosmetics in HK, they’re so used to wearing heavy make-up to work everyday, once they take the stuff off, they don’t even look like the same person.  I did manage to spend an evening lingerie shopping though.  I picked up some very nice pieces at a very small store and it didn’t cost me an arm!  ($240USD for 6 sets of very good quality bra+panty sets)  Remember me saying how I wasn’t able to start spending money, having been a graduate student for so long?  This was the first time I spent so much money all at once.

Another newsflash from Katie-land: my contracts are up, and now I’m looking for another job.  My old thesis supervisor wants to hire me back as a post-doc, and I’m seriously thinking about that.  In the meantime, there is a lot of time for Kate, hence my free time to write to you!  When I first starting writing this e-mail to you last fall, I was juggling 3 contracts with 3 different agencies and companies.  Free time was a bit of a premium.  So when the last contract ended, I decided to stay home for a few days, and take some pictures of myself.  Hehehe.  I posted a few them…okay, just 3, on my Flickr account too.  I think I’ll let you take a look at the pictures first before telling you more about them.  (There was actually one more, of me topless [gasp!], but I don’t think I’ll put that online…Ever!)

Back in the Tara days, I once spent a quiet Saturday as Tara in Seattle, while on holiday in Vancouver.  And it was wonderful to hang out at Pike St. Market–I love watching them toss salmon, then walking out to the harbour.  I took a tram along the harbour.  I thought, “hey, they look just like those I rode in Melbourne!”  I found out later that the trams were actually old trams that had been in service in Melbourne…. I wish I had a camera back then; I would have had got some beautiful pictures taken with my tripod!

Seeing that we have so much problem abandoning the discussion on full vs. part time, let me just say that for the next few weeks, I’ll be damn near “fulltime”…  I guess in the meantime, Kate will also be hopping onto her bike trainer, and working off those winter fat, so I can look better in that party dress…

Hugs and kisses,
Katie

“Hey there!” Part 3

This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a friend from the US.  She is a t-girl just like me.  I think enough thoughts have gone into writing this e-mail that I do not mind sharing some of them with the world.  I have, of course, deleted certain passages to protect my friend’s privacy.

Hi [deleted]!

The minute your e-mail arrived at my Inbox I was determined not to take 3 weeks to reply.  The reason I can be so certain is because I’m going though a little bit of downtime right now.  The next batch of research work will probably start next week.  This reminds me, I have better get some Kate time this week.  I think a quiet lunch on Church Street isn’t such a bad idea…

Before I forget: Happy CANADIAN Labour Day to you too!  Let’s see, we share Labour—NOT a typo—Day together, New Years Day, Christmas and Boxing Day—which I call T-girl Shopping Heaven Day.  We beat you to Thanksgiving by a month—apparently it’s because it’s colder up here in Canuckland, and we harvest earlier, as I’ve been told. We have a Civic Holiday in August, Canada Day in July, Victoria Day in May, (I think you have something different on the same day.) Easter and Good Friday and a silly “Family Day” in February, at least in Ontario.  No official May Day celebrations though, but we do get a bunch of commies marching down the streets every year.  They’re real commies, at least the Marxist variety. I saw someone waving the old Soviet flag at a street corner last year.

That said, all holidays are good days for more Kate time.

My plan to loose some fat around my death-flab, umm, love handle, has suffered a bit of setback.  Spending 2 days in NYC with my younger sister does not promote good health.  So back to trying to bike 40km each day for the next few weeks…  The new bike that my friend and I put together is really nice. I bought the bike frame (carbon!), fork (carbon!), seatpost (carbon!), handlebar (carbon!) from eBay, through a seller from China.  Now I have a “cheap-eBay-no-name-Chinese-made-masterpiece” of a bike. (My friend’s words, not mine.)  I think the boy side is too jealous to let Kate ride the bike! And the stuff you can get on eBay these days!  I used to just buy cheap prom dresses online.  I did manage to pick up a nice wedding dress on eBay too.  That was just for fun.  I took some pictures in it. 🙂

Oh, my pictures. They’re on Flickr… http://www.flickr.com/photos/tarayoung/ (I guess I haven’t completely got rid of “Tara” entirely…) I’m not sure if I have ever given you the link to that page though.  You have got to see read some of the comments people have left on some of those pictures.  I also moved my blog to Google too. Here’s the link.  http://tgirl-katie.blogspot.com/ It’s not very interesting.

Back to eBay.  I only bought clothes online back when I was way too shy to do it in person.  The problem with buying clothes online is that you never know if they’re going to fit.  Nothing beats going into a change room and trying it out.  (I never had any problems with doing that in Toronto, but some of my t-girl friends haven’t always been so lucky though.)  I don’t think I’ve ever got anything from Le Chateau.  The style just didn’t fit me.  I’m more the Suzy Shier, Smart Set and Fairweather type.

My final thoughts on going full-time before we abandon the discussion all together: I have always incorrectly assumed that going full time will require you to be at least passable in appearance and demeanor.  In the past year, I have come to realize that most of my full time t-girl friends aren’t.  They’re just…full time.  Okay. Let’s not talk about it again!

Wow. I wrote this all in one afternoon.

Kate

“Hey there!” Part 2

This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a friend from the US.  She is a t-girl just like me.  I think enough thoughts have gone into writing this e-mail that I do not mind sharing some of them with the world.  I have, of course, deleted certain passages to protect my friend’s privacy.

Hi [deleted]!!

More incoherent thoughts, 3 weeks in the making.  That’s right, I started writing this 3 weeks ago.  Then my boss wanted me to write a journal paper, then I had to travel, then I forgot about this, and when I remember I haven’t written back to [deleted] yet, my friend and I spent a day building me a new bike…

About the math that doesn’t add up: my undergraduate degree was 50% math, 50% physics and 50% engineering.  I used to tell people that if they added them together and got 150%, they would be completely right.  I recall that I didn’t skimp out on the extra-curricular activities back then either.  Speaking of those years, I worked so hard, I weighed less when I graduated from university (at a very slim and unhealthy 122lb) then when I graduated from high school (a still very slim but slightly less unhealthy 135lb).  Not a good thing.  Nowadays, I would kill to be a healthy 122lb Kate.  I’m sure my “boy side” wouldn’t mind shedding some weight either, seeing that I’m biking everywhere nowadays, and every unhealthy pound (i.e. fat in my love-handle, or umm, “death flab” as my wife calls it) I loose makes a difference in how far/fast I can ride.

I wonder if I should start riding as Kate from now on…

It’s been very hot and humid in the last few weeks in Toronto; even wearing my sundresses outside seem too warm.  No designer fashion for me though: Kate-the-Girl-Next-Door buys her clothes from the same places that the girl next door buys.  And only when it’s on sale too.  I think I’ve been in graduate school for too long that I’ve forgotten how to actually spend money on anything expensive. The rule in grad school: get your boss to pay, but I’m sure he will not respond well if I said, “I need to write off some expenses, Kate wants to be a hot chick at the cocktail party at the next conference.”  Even my wildest fantasies don’t include that. 🙂

Funny that you mention about people who think you’re full time.  (Hey, when we met 2 years ago, if I hadn’t known you already, I may have asked that same question too.)  I still get these questions almost every time I hang out with “new” girls on Church Street. [deleted]

Oh, a not-really-that-important note: I started posting new pictures online again.  It’s a good feeling to have my pictures taken!

Kaitlyn (okay, just this one time!)

“Hey there!” Part 1

This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a friend from the US. She is a t-girl just like me. I think enough thoughts have gone into writing this e-mail that I do not mind sharing some of them with the world. I have, of course, deleted certain passages to protect my friend’s privacy. Over time, I will post the rest of these messages…

Date: Mon, Feb 23, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Subject: Hey there Katie!

Hi [name deleted for privacy]!

It must be said that I’m terribly at replying e-mail; all that thinking and writing.  I’m so sick of it now, after all writing my thesis, the conference papers, and journal papers, the research proposals…. if there’s a way to directly connect my brain to the computer, and just have my incoherent thoughts and ideas nicely laid out, wouldn’t that be great?!

But first, congratulations on the new arrival! I’m not sure [deleted].

[deleted]  These days I don’t get as much “Katie Time” as I used to, although I still get some time for Katie.  What has been really interesting is that lately I haven’t felt as compelled to express Katie as I used to. I’m sure I won’t mind you calling me Kate.  (Heck, I won’t even mind if you still call me “Tara”!)  I’ve already gone from Kaitlyn to Katie before my “re-invention”—sounds a little bit like GM, perhaps?—and now I find myself signing off my e-mail with just Kate.  I’m sure before the end of the year, every one of my e-mail will end with just a “K”.

K
(see!)

Kate and the Wedding Dress

Recently, I finally have a chance to wear the wedding dress that I bought for myself awhile ago. I took a few pictures last week and posted them on Flickr. (As you can see, the link to Flickr is one of those last remaining ties to “Tara”.) Since then, activities on my Flickr account have been non-stop.

There is something to be said about the dress though. I have never worn anything that made me feel as sexy and feminine as I did in my own wedding dress. This dress is incredible; when I put it on all traces of boyish thoughts vanish, and when I look into the mirror, all I see is a girl with curves. Hmm. Interesting. Kate is the blushing bride. Kate is all woman. That’s quite a thought.

Would you join me in indulging in a fantasy then? First, I’ll need some cosmetic upgrades to my body (i.e. the proper “girl parts”) to make me perfect. Men will want to have me; and women will be jealous of me. Then a wealthy and handsome gentleman will sweep me off my feet and then propose to me. We’ll have a small wedding at an exotic locale. I’ll look perfect in every way, my make-up, jewelry, hair, the dress. And then I’ll be off to honeymoon in the arms of my lover, making passionate love as a new wife, day and night…in bed, in the shower, on the balcony, on the beach. He will treat me like a princess, and dress me in the most exquisite clothes that shows off my glorious body. He will satisfy every one of my sexual desires, and take me to new heights in the joy of womanhood. In return, I will allow my lover to enter me as he pleases, many times a day. That’s okay, because it pleases me too. I can be his perfect wife: a lady in the parlor and a whore in bed. We’ll live happily ever after.

BUT WAIT! Take another look into the mirror and we’re right back to reality!

No, life is nothing like my fantasy at all. I don’t have the proper “girl parts”, although once upon a time someone did offer to pay for my FFS and SRS and anything that may cost money, conditions attached of course. I’ve since decided that they weren’t for me. (May by I’ll write about this in the future.) I don’t have someone rich to pay for nice clothes so that I can be around town all the time getting people’s attention. I work. In a lab. Doing research that can change how engineers design airplanes. It’s much more fulfilling than being eye candy. Life isn’t all about sex with wife; but we find ourselves no less satisfied. But what is much more important is that we’re both genuinely committed to each other, not because of sexual desires–that will fade away in time–but because we’re also close friends, like we had been for many years before we even started dating. We take up the challenges of life together, and we get to share the rewards together. Both of us are accepted as the persons that we are–imperfect, but infinitely precious. Neither one of us need to put on a mask to pretend to be anything that we’re not.

Life is so much better than a fantasy.

I Love the TTC, but does it love me?

Ladies and gentle, the TTC subways.

I started writing this blog entry a couple of months ago, but then I got carried away with work and going to conferences. Almost right after coming back from the first two (out of four!) conferences, I took the trip to Vancouver for my friend’s wedding. I was so excited being about to “be myself” back in my home town, I started writing another blog entry, and that eventually got posted first. But I kept this entry, and here it is.

First, I’ve included a picture of me in my brand new dress. I picked it up from a newly renovated Suzy Shier store at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto. They had a special sale and all the dresses were only [slight gasp!] $30 each. I happened to have stumbled there by chance, and ended up picking out a few items. But my posting the picture—well, taking the picture in the first place—has nothing to do with showing off my dress, but rather to tell a story about taking the TTC.

Note to non-Torontonians: TTC=Toronto Transit Commission, as in those guys who run the ugly subway, antiquated streetcars and those expensive lemons they call hybrid buses here. But seriously, I love the TTC! It’s one of the more effective transit system in North America. Without it, I’d have to drive all over the place.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dress.

The day after I bought the dress turned out to be a rather warm day, and I wore this particular new dress for a stroll on Thursday evening. I didn’t want to drive out—still a tree-hugging gal from Vancouver at heart—and of course I took the subway instead. Have you ever notice how eager the train drivers to close the doors while people are still trying to get in? So this happened. I was at Glencairn Station, and the southbound train pulled into the station. While people were still trying to get out of the train, the chimes rang, and the doors started closing. The numerous people who wanted to get inside the train barely had time. Me? I was the last one. The door closed on me just after I squeezed through. Well, part of my dress was stuck outside the train. No wardrobe malfunctions, but I was stuck standing by the door for the next few stations…the doors opened on the other side of the train between Eglington West and Spadina. The left-side doors finally opened at St. George station, which would have been my destination anyway. So I count myself lucky.

To the management, the union, and everyone who works for the TTC: if you want people to treat your employees with respect, it doesn’t hurt to treat your customers likewise, at least once in awhile.