We all laugh when a sitcom features some daring man braving the pharmacy to pick up tampons for his girlfriend. The man is so completely bashful and embarrassed, ensuring hilarious antics as he tries to nonchalantly check out, but fails miserably. But why is that the situation? Why are men so embarrassed by a normal part of a woman’s life?

Before I transitioned, I was treated just like any other boy. Sure, my hair was long, and I wasn’t really a “manly” boy. Still, I was, as most boys are, completely sheltered from the process of menstruation. I knew vaguely about it from an 8th grade sex ed course, but even then it was only very briefly touched about, and by then, I was already uncomfortable with the topic. It’s not that I thought it was a terrible thing, it just simply was never talked about in my life. I had no sisters; my mother never talked about it; older women felt it was inappropriate to tell a young boy about it; and women my age were all too embarrassed to talk about it. Not to mention, most boys became more and more uncomfortable with the topic as it was made to seem like a big scary unknown thing.

I remember when I was in middle school, there was a girl I liked, whose naI’m not going to mention, but I hope she one day reads this. Since I had a crush on her and I was a young teenager, I thought it would be perfectly appropriate to snatch her purse and look at whats inside of it. I grabbed her purse and ran down the hall, she chased after me, but I opened the purse first. And there, on top of the mess in her bag, was a pad. I turned bright red, she grabbed the purse without a word, and we never discussed the incident again. It was almost a decade before I ever laid eyes on a pad or tampon again. That was also the last time I went digging in a girl’s purse without their permission too. I was taught, by experiences like this, that menstruation was something to be embarrassed about, that shouldn’t be talked about, and was extremely private. I, as a boy, was never to talk or ask about the issue, despite the fact I couldn’t comprehend why someone would bleed once a month unless they were hurt.

After I transitioned, all the secrecy and shame vanished in an instant. Women, when in the company of other women, are usually totally comfortable talking about their periods. It’s not something taboo; its just a part of the experience of being a woman. Sure, there are times it is inappropriate to discuss, but chit chatting around the office, after class, when going shopping is totally normal. While I am mostly out, it’s not always appropriate to out myself in every conversation, so I often find myself in conversations where other women assume I get my period as well, so I am welcomed into the conversation. A year ago, I was still bashful about the topic, but as it became more and more discussed, more and more normal, I found there really wasn’t a reason to be uncomfortable.

Periods, by in large, are not fun. They usually involve cramping, pain, bloating, having to change tampons or pads frequently, hormone changes, and dozens of other potential symptoms. Most women who know that I am transgender always tell me “Ashe, you’re so lucky you’ll never have to go through menstruation!” While I understand why being able to be a woman and totally skip out on the whole period thing seems very ‘lucky,’ but a period isn’t just a pain. It is a sign that a girl is becoming a woman; it means fertility, the ability to have children. While I’m sure being able to skip the monthly bleeding sounds appealing, I want to remind the cisgender women reading this that it also means not being able to get pregnant, to be a mother by blood. It’s one of the only parts of being a woman that cannot be replicated via hormones, surgery, time, patience, diligence, or anything. It’s an absolute barrier a trans woman can never pass. It’s convenient, but it isn’t lucky.


Pre VS Post Transition: Clothes

I think we have all heard stereotypes about women loving clothes, or love shopping for clothes. While I am against stereotypes, I really do feel far more passionate about clothes and clothes shopping post transition than I did before.

When I was presenting as male, I saw clothing as a tool. I could use my clothing to broadcast a message: “I like anime!” or “Linkin Park is awesome!” Heavy clothes could keep me warm in the winter, and dark clothing obscured my body, which I was very self conscious about. I knew, when I needed to, how to dress what was considered nice, but it wasn’t comfortable and I rarely enjoyed it. I have found, upon asking several guys, that they view clothing in a utilitarian sense like I once did. I can’t speak for all men, but I can speak of my experience and what I have learned from guys around my age.

Now, after hormones, clothing has an entirely different meaning to me. Now, clothing are a device to express myself, rather than express some message. I can dress to fit my mood or the situation. If I am going to go see a bunch of my close friends (or friends I want to impress) I dress in nice, trendy clothing and do my makeup very well. If I’m going to the bar, I can dress to impress and draw attention, or I can dress conservatively and blend into the background. If I am sad, I can wear something black and thick eyeliner with eyeshadow. I can wear a skirt and appear more feminine, or wear some of my old jeans and look more androgynous. Women simply have far more options as to what they can wear. Not only are there far more clothing styles for women, but they are also allowed to wear men’s clothing whenever they want. Men simply don’t have as many options.

For me post hormones, clothing is about freedom and expression. When I was still presenting as male, clothes were just utilitarian. Of course, I always was transgender, even before I came out to myself, so I may not be the best judge. I always remember hating my limited options of clothing, and hating everything I could wear. At some point in high school, a close friend named Andi told me (in a very nice way) I would look nicer if I dressed more appropriately. I have no idea what I was wearing, but I remember the beautiful sweater she was wearing, warm colors with stripes. At the time I couldn’t admit it, but all I wanted was to wear clothing like she had, and I didn’t like any of the options I had for clothing. Now though, I absolutely love spending a half hour picking out my outfit before I go out (even if it annoys my girlfriend sometimes…)

Pre-Transition VS Now – Interests

I seem to be in the trend of making personal posts lately. I’m going to try adding some images to my blog this post 🙂

This post is going to address an issue I have been dealing with a lot lately. Over the past few months, I feel like I have truly begun living as a woman, not as a transgender woman, just as an ordinary woman. I addressed this issue briefly in my last post, but I wanted to expand upon the idea a bit more.

I liked a huge range of things when I was younger; I loved anime, some music bands, and especially video games. During this period of.. what I playfully will refer to as intense transformation, a lot of my priorities shifted. Some people claim it is entirely hormones or entirely situation, but I think it is a mix. I’ve been in my first committed, living together relationship, with new priorities like activism and education, rather than my previous goals of video game design. However, I do feel like estrogen has played a major roll in my tastes and interests.

This whole train of thought began a week or so ago when I was watching one of my all time favorite animes again (For any otakus reading, I was watching Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket). There is a still frame in the anime of a boy from behind, with a bunch of ‘toys’ shoved in his back pocket; a swiss army knife, a razor blade, and a toy missile.

Gundam 0080

The still frame from Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (Excuse the art, it was drawn in the early 80's in Japan!)

As a teenager on testosterone, this image barely phased me. When I first saw this last week though, I felt sick. I stared at this image for several minutes, unraveling why it disturbed me so much. This image is of the main character, a ten year old boy caught up in vicious war. This kid gets sucked into the war, and ends up witnessing the people he viewed as a brother and a sister killing each other. Knowing how this kid would have suffered, how his innocent little games of playing war became twisted and all too real. Part of it might be that I am older, that I understand more what it is like to lose, but I feel that estrogen played a huge part in how this affected me.

This change in perception has been obvious in my tastes in entertainment in general. When I was younger, bloody, violent movies didn’t phase me very much. Seeing people suffering was uncomfortable, but I mostly ignored it. Now, the blood, the hatred, the violence in some of the movies I used to enjoy can make me nauseous. However, the romance that before was just a side story (though an important part) is now the main attraction to me. I love romance movies, and even in action films, I feel like romance can be such a powerful driving force. And when there is a sad part of a movie, I cry almost all the time.

When I first watched Rent, I thought the ending was very sad. I watched this movie several times during transition. Each time, the ending made me more and more emotional. Now, I cry absolutely every time I watch this part of the movie.

When I was living male, I listened to a lot of angry music. I loved screaming to Rise Against, crying out My Chemical Romance, AFI, very dramatic music. I listen to them now, the anger and emotion is sometimes too much to deal with. Now I like music that tends to be softer; I like Two Tongues more than Say Anything now (Two bands that have the same singer), because the songs are more about relationships and share complex harmonies, rather than shouting and anger. I like more relaxing music now, but sometimes I do like going back and listening to my old music.

There are even more subtle differences I have noticed in my tastes. Walking through a beautiful meadow now makes me feel things I never did before, the beauty of something can have a deep emotional impact on me now. I never thought I would understand the sensation of seeing something so beautiful you have an urge to cry. There have been several times where the scenery will be so beautiful I will have to stop just to admire it. Before hormones, I knew these things were beautiful, but they seemed to be more in the background. It felt like there was a driving force to move forward, so much so that I couldn’t stop to enjoy things like flowers and landscapes. Now, I can enjoy these simple things, see the beauty in things I missed before.

I wish I could stumble into a place like this.

In a lot of ways, I have become more and more stereotypically feminine. I can’t say for sure whether it is because of hormones or developmental changes, but I feel like it must be some mixture. I feel like estrogen has brought me down to a more rational level. Before I felt a constant urge to do something, a drive to struggle and achieve, to compete and be the best. Now, I feel like I am in control of myself, I can express myself freely without having to think about whether my reactions will be judged or ridiculed.

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