Saturday, April 25, 2020

No Looking Back

By Hannah McKnight

I hate hearing about how we are all on a journey.  It gives the impression that we are forever wandering and looking to find something, or to arrive somewhere.  That discovering ourselves is something that is never finished and we are looking for a destination where we will never arrive.  When I hear about other t-girls and their journey, I tell myself my journey is over.  I have arrived, and I have arrived fabulously.  I am not looking for who I am, I am not trying to find myself.  I am finished.  I am complete.  If I was on a journey it started when I was four when I tried on my mother's high heels.  It ended the day I completed my look with my first real wig and dressed en femme from head to pink nail polished toes for the first time.

I think what bothers me the most about the idea of being on a journey is that it's probably the most accurate description of who we are and what we are doing.  Like many journeys, this path to discovering our identity is fraught with setbacks, false starts, beautiful experiences, and frightening moments.  Over the years I have experienced many moments of pure joy such as owning my first matching bra and panty, the first time I woke up in a nightie, and seeing myself after a makeover.  There's been so many thrilling moments including mastering walking in stilettos or applying liquid eyeliner flawlessly for the first time.  There has been terrifying moments such as those nights where I would lie in bed and thinking what would happen if I someone saw the pink lace of my panties peeking out from under my jeans or the time I literally ran into my mom when I was out en femme.

Our gender identities (and let's face it, our journeys) are never straightforward or a straight line.  There are obstacles, unintentionally getting lost, backtracking, and times where we take a break.  If we are on a journey with our gender identity, that adventure starts at the very same time we realize that... well, we are not MEN in the common thinking.  There's just something about high heels, lipstick, lingerie, and dresses that just... speaks to us.  We're not sure what that little black dress is saying, but God, we are paying attention to it.  And so begins this adventure.

I know a lot of t-girls and although we are all at different stages of our lives, whether we are ten years into retirement or still in college, we all have very similar stories.  We were young, we were curious, the magnetic-like pull of a pencil skirt or a bra was irresistible.  We try on that dress, play with mascara, and... we stop.  We suppress these desires, we deny our feelings, and we give in blissfully and willingly soon enough.  Over time we buy our first pair of panties, our first dress, and regardless of how small and humble it is, our wardrobe is starting.

And then it stops.  We purge.  We toss out our beautiful lingerie, that pair of strappy black patent stilettos that we wore and practiced strutting in.  All of it, gone.  Our journey stops.  Until it starts again.  We are at the mall and we see a dress we can't resist.  We buy a new nightgown online.  Joy intensifies.  Our wardrobe is starting once more.

Perhaps this gets purged again.  Perhaps not.  We might toss it all and start over a dozen times throughout our lives.  Each time we begin again we are reminded that this is who we are.  We can't deny it.  But it's not a new beginning, not really.  It's resuming the journey that we already started.  We are just inching further along.

As our wardrobe grows, we are learning so much about ourselves.  We are learning which foundation is right for our skin tone, what our dress size is, and how to accessorize.  But we are also learning that we are who we are.  We are learning to accept ourselves.  And this revelation is akin to going miles down that path in our journey.  After acceptance comes embracing who we are.  At this point we are no longer walking down that path, we have boarded a bullet train.

Our journey was filled with starts and stops.  Buying and purging.  Denial and acceptance.  Perhaps we were looking over our shoulder and glancing back and not willing to accept who we are.  The journey may have stopped a few times, it may have slowed to a crawl.  But we never went back.  We couldn't, no matter how much we wanted to.

Once we have accepted and embraced who we are, then the road becomes... well, not easier, but different.  Perhaps the road was winding but the road is little more straightish.  The road probably has more peaks and valleys just as our lives have more highs and lows.  We are strutting forward with the wind of denial and self-torment at our backs.  We have made the biggest change of our lives by deciding to no longer deny who we are, what we want to wear.  Purging is a thing of the past.

We make room in our wardrobes for our dresses, we might tell others in our lives who we are.  Our lives begin to change.  We may still be in the closet to most of the world, but the important thing is we are no longer trying to deny this, we are no longer trying to suppress this side of us.  We are who we are and hopefully we love this side of us.  I think we do.  I know I do.  Acceptance can also lead to other changes besides just a growing and unstoppable collection of high heels.  It can lead to other physical changes.  I am not talking about hormones or surgery, but there are other things we do.  We are often bolstered by accepting ourselves and this can lead to expanding our wardrobe or going out en femme or coming out to others in our lives.  But we might start thinking about changes to our male appearance for the... ah, benefit of our femme selves.

Years of cardio, biking, and the Stairmaster has given me a fabulous pair of legs in my opinion.  Besides all those steps, my legs look amazing thanks to nice, smooth skin.  I loved my legs but I was always afraid to shave them. I was worried about what others would think.  Would they figure it out?  But as I accepted myself, I started to care less about what others thought.  Besides, who really sees my legs?  I can wear pants instead of shorts if I needed to.  Once I shave my legs, there was no going back.  Nothing feels better or looks better than a shaven, smooth leg.  Shaving my legs represented me accepting and embracing who I am, and what I want to look like.  Yes, people likely noticed, but I didn't care.  I also realized that most people probably wouldn't care or even bother speculating why my legs were shaven.

Soon my arms were smooth.  I could finally wear sleeveless tops and dresses.  But the defining moment was my eyebrows.  Some of us wax them, I have mine threaded.  En femme they look fabulous.  In male mode, well, they also look fabulous, but I don't think they are overly femme.  Yes, they are thinner and have a bit of a shaped arch, but I think they suit my face.

These are some of the physical changes I made when I fully accepted and embraced who I am.  There's no going back, physically, or emotionally.

Love, Hannah

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