Cadance Bell is an Aussie transgender writer and filmmaker. Her documentary film The Rainbow Passage, a co-production with Screen Australia, airs next year on Channel Ten. The film, which Cady also directed, follows her and her wiggly bottomed fiance Amanda across a year in their gender transitions. Cady loves Pokemon Go, short walks to the fridge and the swell challenges of girlifying. Except not having pockets anymore. She really misses pockets.

Six months on E

Six months on E

Six months ago, I chucked a sticker on my tummy.

This was no good homework sticker. It wasn’t glittery or holographic, it wasn’t even a scratch ‘n sniff (though that woulda been swell). It was a hormone patch – an Estradot 100mg. It was the most exciting adhesive product I’d ever used – and that’s a bold call considering I’ve used pink gaffer tape.

It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since I took the hormone plunge. It feels like I was picking up my prescription only yesterday, and it’s been a hell of a ride since.

December 2016

June 2018

 

Levels

There are only two sets of numbers you will ever check as zealously in your life as hormone levels – lottery numbers and the digits of that new boy or girl you’ve fallen for. And getting your hormone levels right as a trans person is like winning the lottery and using the bling to take that new boo out on a first date. It feels like arriving, like setting a new personal best at the gender olympics.

Sadly, my levels have been a pyramid of testicles.

In the first month, I got an early false positive. While my testosterone levels plummeted on 50mg daily of Cyproterone, an anti-androgen,  and were immediately down below female levels, my estrogen levels initially made their way to roughly half of low female levels – around 160pgmo/L. I was excited, as it seemed like the magic girl stickers were working.

As it turned out, the early levels were a side effect of the remaining finasteride in my system. Finasteride is a drug which blocks DHT – dihydrotestosterone, the bastard hormone responsible for male pattern hair loss. Fellas – if you’re goin’ bald, you’ve got DHT to blame for that. It causes thinning of hair on the fringe and the crown of the head. Think – Prince William, that poor follicularly challenged chrome dome, who was significantly balding by age 30. To a large extent, the body’s capacity to manifest DHT depends on genetics. If your dad had a shiny top, chances are you will too.

By age 30, I was just starting to go bald on the crown of my head. The first time I noticed it was at a family Christmas party at my grandparent’s house in Kandos. My brother rubbed the top of my head.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I said.
“I’m making a wish.”
“What?!”
“You’re goin’ bald up here!”
“Bullshit!”
“Nope, see -” he took his phone out and snapped a picture of the top of my head, then showed it to me.

My heart sank and my bumhole tightened. He was right! A tiny patch of naked dome was appearing on the top of my head. I was beside myself.

“You’re going bald, old man,” my brother teased.

My family joined in and a storm cloud gathered around my balding noggin’. I didn’t understand at the time why I was so defensive of my hair considering I hadn’t really shown a great deal of interest in it to that point. But this was pre-accepting I was trans, and a part of me instinctively knew that losing head hair was an accelerating doom.

Three years later, the tiny patch of naked noggin’ had grown considerably, and a helicopter landing pad had developed. It made me miserable to think about.

In the months leading up to starting HRT, my doctor prescribed finasteride, to prevent further hair loss. It was expensive – between $35 and $50 for a box of 28 tablets.  I also started using Minoxidil, an even more expensive product, which stimulates the pores of the skin to encourage hair regrowth, and is successful in up to 80% of the people who use it. I was one of those lucky 4/5ths, and my hair recovery has been significant, as I’ll explore below.

“There are side effects to finasteride,” my doctor Liz told me as she was typing the prescription.
“Such as…”
“Well, gynecomastia – you may start developing breasts.”
I swallowed, fighting hyperventilation.
“SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

As it turns out, another side effect of finasteride is that it can store in your fat cells and convert to a type of estrogen. Considering I had plenty of fat cells (I have some to spare if you need any – just ring the Cady Bell), the Fin did indeed cause an artificial bump in my estrogen levels. I had stopped taking finasteride when I started DHT, as without testosterone as a dominant hormone, there was no T to put into DHT.

By month two, without the Fin in my system, my estrogen levels plummeted to those of a six thousand year old mummy – a very dudely “less than” 69. My levels were so low they couldn’t even accurately map them.

My girl stickers weren’t working.

I was shattered.

In my next telehealth with my endocrinologist, I was on the verge of tears as she explained to me the artificial reading was caused by the finasteride, and so she doubled my dose of girl stickers – 2 stickers on my tummy, to be changed every 3 and a half days.

A month later I was re-tested, and again – my levels were shite. Two stickers produced an estrogen profile even less than the fraudulent finasteride readings, around a meagre 140 pgmo/L. I was miserable at my next check-up with my doctor.

Without female levels of estrogen, my body wouldn’t make any significant physical changes. My doctor and endo cautioned a slow approach to my prescription for two reasons. First, I’d had a blood clot 4 years earlier, and secondly – I’m a factor V leiden, a blood disorder which creates increased risk of blood clots. Yet the slow-go was agonizing as month in month out my dosage was only slightly bumped up.

Four months after starting, on triple my starting dose, my levels were finally in the low female range around 240 pgmo/L. This was still too low however, as at 240, I was considered to be at post-menopausal levels, similar to that of older women. But I was getting closer! A month later my dosage was upped again: 4 estrogen patches twice weekly and 4 sachets of estrogen gel daily. This combination represents a six fold increase in my starting dose.

I also decided to start securing the patches using waterproof band-aids. The patches often bubbled and peeled off me, a side-effect from massive amounts of weight loss. The skin around my tummy is looser and the over 3 hours daily exercise causes me to sweat more, harming the efficacy of the patches.

Then came the twist…

I received a phone call from my endocrinologist. When you get a phone call from a doctor on the weekend, you know it’s serious. I answered the phone in my girl voice, which she’d never heard before:

“Hello, is Cadance there?”
“Hi Amy!”
“Cadance?!”
“Yeah, it’s me! New voice,” I laughed.
My doc sounded serious.
“I got your latest hormone profile this morning and we’ve uuuh, kind of overshot the mark.”

At this point I expected her to say my estrogen levels may be in the 500-600 range, instead of the 350-450 we were aiming for.

“They’re over 1100,” she said.
“Oh… wow…”

A month later, my results were even higher, at 2200.

As it turns out the combination of a significantly higher dosage combined with securing the patches via waterproof band-aids had greatly increased the efficacy of the patches and gel, and moved me into a dangerous territory considering my blood disorder. I’ve had to halve my dose immediately.

On the one hand, I’m enormously relieved to finally have reached past normal female estrogen levels. After six months of dosage experimentation, it finally feels like I’ve arrived, like I’m home. However it also means the experimentation isn’t over. Until I can come back down to safe levels, the journey continues.

 

Physical Changes

Skin & Eyes

There hasn’t been a stack of physical changes to date, but my transition is certainly noticable now. My body skin is thinner and softer, the skin on my face is lighter and softer too, which is delightful. My eyes appear bigger now – which I absolutely adore as I’ve always loved my eyes. Hopefully they’ll continue to appear bigger over time.

Girl cold is colder…

One of the side effects of MtF HRT is that you become more sensitive to the cold. This is in part owing to the thinning of the skin, coupled with less body fat beneath it. However, in combination with a stack of weight loss (83kg and counting), my first winter thinner and in girl mode has been – freezing! I’d always been a person who loved the cold, however as the winter winds swept in I was stunned by how much I now felt the cold.

I once would have described my tolerance to cold as 8.5 out of 10. Now I’m down to at most 2 out of 10. I’ve noticed that this doesn’t seem to be a male vs female thing – it’s a hormone thing. Other trans girls and even a trans guy have said the same thing – while cisgendered girls get around in mini skirts, tops and sandals down by water during winter, my trans girlfriend and I freeze in thick skirts with leggings, jackets, gloves and scarves. My teeth literally chatter for the first time in my life, like a resurrected skeleton riding a washing machine.

After my friend Leigh’s birthday dinner in early May, I stood with her outside wearing a cute floral dress and sandals. It was a heavy dress, reasonably padded, and yet I felt naked to the elements. My teeth rattled and I shivered from head to toe. While other party guests, all but one women, gathered around the boot of a car to sign Leigh an additional birthday card, I made a quick exit. I couldn’t understand how they were all standing outside in the cold without developing trench foot.

Hair (of the head variety)

One of the most important aspects of passing for transgender people is hair. Trans men generally need shorter hair, and trans women longer. While I had grown my hair out before accepting myself, a comment by my best friend one day last year saw me shave it off. Thinking about it today breaks my heart, as it took 18 months of progress away from me. I have been growing my hair for slightly over a year since, and its currently down past my ears – not nearly long enough.

However the quality of my hair has also greatly changed.

For a start – it’s much wavier & curlier than it began as, which I love. I’ve also learned which products to use to accentuate this. It’s also shinier and stronger. As a man, I didn’t care too much about hair styling. For a guy, getting your head ready is as straightforward as water and/or gel, a comb and/or hands, fart on your cat’s head, and you’re out the door. As a girl – jesus™ fucking christballs™.

I have more hair products as a girl than I’d had in my entire life as a boy. And I don’t mean by brand or type – I mean by physical bottle. I have literally dozens of different bottles. Admittedly this is in part because I’m a bargain hunter, and when I find a product I like, I will bulk buy it.

My favourite products at the moment are Manuka Flower Honey shampoo, conditioners, leave-in conditioners and hair oil. I got dozens of these bottles on clearance at Chemist Warehouse for a meare $3/bottle, down from their retail $12.99 a pop! I’ve also fallen in love with John Frieda’s Dream Curls spray and the Elvive Extraordinary Clay range. I’d been buying the clay products for a few months before they became discontinued, so when my local Coles marked them down to $2/pop, I grabbed a trolley, hooked my hand to the rear of the shelf and dragged every container and bottle in.

Hair Recovery

I have managed to recover more than 80% of the hair on the top of my head, owing to a combination of:

  • Finasteride – to block DHT (which I no longer need to use)
  • Minoxidil – opens pores and encourages hair growth
  • Biotin 10,000mcg/daily – essentially a vitamin B derivative which encourages growth of hair, skin & nails
  • Hair, Skin & Nails tablets and gummies
  • Black Jamaican Castor Oil – a secret weapon I use to rub into my scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows.

Hair (of the face variety)

Nobody likes a bearded lady.

One of the most annoying things about transitioning from male to female is dealing with facial hair. While people transitioning in the opposite direction get beards for “free” (testosterone simply lets them grow them) male puberty makes beard growth a constant, even after you nuke the testosterone in your body. The only way to manage it is to shave every day, which is a depressing reminder of your old gender or to go in for expensive and painful laser hair removal or even more expensive and painful electrolysis.

I opted for laser. It is a tiny fraction of the price of electrolysis. Electro costs upwards of $100/hour and takes anywhere from 50 to 250 hours to completely eradicate facial hair. For those playing along at home, that’s $5000 – $25,000. However it is the only truly permanent hair removal option. By contrast, laser is anywhere from $40-$120/session for the face, and decent results can be achieved within 6-12 sessions, with tri-monthly maintenance sessions required to keep things smooth. It won’t completely remove facial hair but it will dramatically reduce it. You’ll still feel it there, but it becomes very difficult to see.

I chose Macquarie Medi-spa in Bathurst for my laser, as its closer to home. The ladies there are quite lovely, and the facility itself is gorgeous and well presented. However they are considerably more expensive than services in Sydney, costing me $115/session for my face in Bathurst. They also take a slowly-slowly approach to the procedure, starting the laser low and slowly turning it up with each session. To my disappointment, when I used pain relieving gel – EMLA cream – for one session, they told me for safety they needed to turn the laser level right back down, rendering the trip, the session and the expense utterly useless as I saw no results from the session at all. It was depressing to spend another month feeling bearded and unprogressive.

Laser hair removal feels like being slapped with a hot ruler, while someone sprays you in the face with a water squirter. The latter sensation is caused by the cooling pad, which takes some of the pain away from the experience. At Macquarie Medi-Spa they place serious steampunk looking metal goggles over your eyes to protect from laser shine. The goggles have little nibs over the eyes which look like anemic nipples. The beautician then uses a wand to drag over your face and each instance of the laser is met with a click and a hiss – dozens of them as the device is moved up and down your face.

It is painful. Especially around my chin and lips, where the extra hormone compounds create thicker, more stubborn hairs. After 8 full sessions, my beard hair has greatly diminished. On the sides of my face, about 95% of the stubble has disappeared. While it isn’t permanently smooth, and still requires shaving, it is a big improvement. I can go 2-3 days without shaving and have it be barely visible. My chin is another matter, where maybe only around 45-50% of the hairs have been removed. I will require at least another half dozen sessions yet, on the most painful part of my face.

I still need to shave my face every day to avoid tge feel of beard stubble, and I still have a thin & vague five o clock shadow by the end of the second day. This is depressing as a trans person, as it shows up even through foundation and concealer. I have heard of tricks to minimize it – including using orange lipstick to cancel out the blue & green cast of the beard shadow, however I’m simply too lazy to do this every day, and do not like the sensation of thick make-up upon my face.

I look forward to the day where I do not have to shave every day, as it will mean I am yet further away from being the man I never felt I truly was.

Hair (of the body variety)

Body hair during male to female transition does thin greatly over time. It becomes far more sparse and fainter, closer to the white vellus hairs cisgender females have. However this process takes a long time – realistically several years to complete.

However, I have started to notice a thinning of my body hair, especially on my back, which used to once be a vast, haunted forest. My motto for my back hair was “wherever I go – a mattress I am”. Other parts of my body have shown some thinning a well, however this is in part the result of monthly in-home IPL sessions, which I performed for a few months prior to starting hormones. IPL is like a diet version of laser. It uses focussed light pulses to kill the nerve endings of hairs, sending the light travelling down the hairs themselves into the follicles, which get heated and die. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as laser, though it still stings. It’s also nowhere near as effective as laser.

I have just recently started to book laser hair removal sessions for my body.. It was an odd sensation to have a stranger not only see but touch my boobs for the first time. I have already seen a dramatic reduction in body hair on my tummy and chest and also legs. Less pronounced results are seen on my arms, back and bum.

Boobs

Now we come to the other thing/s I was really looking forward to – breasts! Boobs were a gateway drug for me. My entire life I’ve wanted to have them, and it’s been truly exciting to finally be growing them. While I’ve had gynocomastia since my teenage years – a form of male breast development – this always felt fraudulent, and served to only remind me of what I wasn’t, as gyno boobs are still very male in shape and feel – droopy and triangular.

Throughout my life I have tried many things to grow larger breasts, including breast pumps, creams ordered from the internet and even phytoestrogenic herbs – plants rich in natural estrogens such as fenugreek and wild thistle or testosterone suppressing herbs such as saw palmetto. This was a dangerous route to take, as the amount of herbs required to achieve any effect puts tremendous strain on the kidneys and liver, and without medical supervision can encourage blood clots. In 2013, I experienced such blood clots, and it is likely that the phytoestrogens contributed to this.

Four days into hormones, my chest began to itch and hurt. It felt as though gremlins were clawing behind my skin, trying to pop out. I was amazed at how quickly things were happening. For some trans women, it can take months before they experience this. By the end of the month, my chest felt softer, my areolas larger and far more tender.

Six months later and I have definitive breast growth. They’re still small (doh!), but they’re a blast to play with. It amazes me how soft and sensitive they are. Behind my nipples feels like hard lumps, a sign of early breast tissue forming.

One of the downsides of having been a boy for so long, and a large one at that, is that it makes finding bras a nuisance, as guys have a lot of back muscle, which eventually disappears as you transition. It means I need very wide banded bras – size 24, yet small cups, size A-B. Typically I wear a size 24b bra, a very uncommon size to find, and often the cups are loose and saggy, reminding me of how far I have to go.

One day, I’d love to be C for Cady cupped. Until then, I’m happy to always have some boobs to play with, and so is my girlfriend.

P.M.S.

A not very well known fact about transgender women is that we get P.M.S. While we can’t get periods, we get many of the symptoms surrounding them including cramping, headaches, mood swings and what I describe as “herpa derp”, when it feels like your brain has folded and taken holiday.

I first noticed P.M.S. around month 3, as it crept in towards the end of the month. My moods changed like the sway of a drunken pendulum. One minute I felt like crying over nothing at all – a fly running into a window, a lovely sunset, a delicious apple. The next minute I wanted to do murder against the first person who looked sideways at me. The next, I felt over-excited and filled with love by the sight of falling leaves. Then back to murder. It felt very much like the hormonal confusion of being a teenager, when I felt things I couldn’t explain and didn’t seem in control of my emotions.

The second time, towards the end of my fourth month on hormones, I noticed it again. For about 4 days, wild mood swings, this time accompanied by headaches. At the end of my fifth month, a new symptom – herpa derp! My brain was temporarily aartarded and I found myself doing really dumb shit. Like scooping protein powder onto the kitchen bench instead of into my glass – and not just the one scoop! Or squeezing sushi ginger into a rubbish bag while placing the empty wrapper onto my sushi. I had trouble completing – the umm, the words what finish umm… the things – sentences! I had trouble completing sentences!

It wasn’t until my fifth month that I experienced cramping. It was excruciating. It felt like my kidneys were exploding and it hurt to bend, twist and lift things. The cramping lasted about four days, accompanied by a constant mild headache, mood swings and plenty of herpa derp.

I also noticed something else for the first time – despite 12klms of daily mountain hiking, resistance training and intensive dieting – I fucking gained weight during P.M.S. That’s right – your body retains water during this time, as much as 2.3kg – 2.7kg of the stuff, meaning that, simply put, one should never weigh themselves during this time least they want to boomerang depression.

Most of my trans friends are in agreement with  me – while it would be a neato thing to try a couple of times, we’re lucky that we don’t have the “m” in P.M.S. – we don’t menstruate. Yet the experience still gives me an incredible admiration for cis women who have that extra dimension to contend with. They get the P.M.S. first, and then the menstruation. Fellas – treat your girls well during this time of the month. P.M.S. fucking sucks. It’s a lot harder than you could imagine it to be, and a lot harder than I imagined it would be.

Weight Loss

Weight loss has become monumentally harder since starting H.R.T. To an extent, the more weight you lose, the harder it is to lose more. However there has been a strong, pronounced decline in my rate of weight loss these past 6 months. While still on testosterone, I was losing between 6 and 12kg a month. Since starting estrogen, I’m lucky to lose 1.5-2kg a month.

I’ve recently started intermittent fasting four days a week to accelerate weight loss – where I fast for 16 hours a day. This has seriously helped with my weight loss, in part perhaps because it addresses my greatest weakness – night time carbs! I stop eating at 4pm and don’t eat again until 8am the following day.

How effective this method is remains to be seen. However it’s a testament to the difficulty of losing weight on H.R.T. – I’ve had to more than double my daily exercise and begin fasting to achieve a fraction of the results I was achieving on testosterone.

Feet

I have monster hoofs.

I’ve alway been not just big-footed, but wide footed. A men’s size 13 at one point. This caused endless sadness when it came to buying women’s shoes, as it made it almost impossible. However, as I’ve both lost weight and the hormones have taken effect, my feet have shrunk! I am now down to a men’s 11, or a women’s size 12AU / 43EU.

I’d tried ordering large sizes via the internet. They were massively overpriced – over $100 a pair, and they felt poorly made. Worse, when they didn’t fit, I’d have to pay return postage to ship them back. I ordered a couple of pairs from Long Tall Sally, and each of them were utter rubbish. The return process seemed simple, but it took weeks to get a refund, and I became disheartened.

Then, I was standing in River’s Mudgee, walking up and down the aisles of women’s shoes. I went straight to the largest sizes. Months earlier, I’d tried dozens on, and none of them fit. I decided to try again, as I had heard that your feet can shrink on HRT.

I grabbed a pair of white flowered, open-toed flats. To my utter amazement – they fit! I started to cry. I was looking down at my own feet… in girl’s shoes. I walked up and down the aisle, fearing that at any moment that I might wake from this dream. Were they comfortable? Not really. The strap next to my big toe dug into me and caused a blister eventually, but I didn’t care.

I grabbed another pair – they fit! And another! Then I turned the aisle and discovered Rivers had started stocking wide-fit women’s shoes, and I nearly fell over my girl feet in my excitement to try them on. Boots, heels, flats and sandals – all now in a wider variant.

I piled a pyramid of she in my arms – 9 pairs – and took them to the register. As luck would have it, every pair was on sale and I walked out of the store with an army of girl shoes for a bangin’ $95. All for less than the cost of a single pair online.

Today, I simply adore looking down at my feet and hearing the clackity clack of my heels as I make my way about town.

Erections

One of the things I always hated about being boy was unscheduled erections. Men get them constantly and for any reason. A beautiful girl walks by? Zing! An ibis is drinking bin juice from a dumpster? Zing! A dropped pie? Zing! I was frequently ashamed of erections, especially when spending time with female friends. It made me reluctant to cuddle them, to compliment them. Not because I felt anything sexual towards them – the male sex drive is such that you can simply get erections, putting the cart before the horse, as it were.

Since starting H.R.T. I’ve had almost no involuntary erections. It’s amazing; a superior way to exist indeed. On only maybe 2-3 occasions have I had a random erection in the past 6 months.

However, this also means its harder to obtain one when desired. I have to focus to achieve and maintain one. Sensuality is important – as soon as I no longer feel sensual, loved and loving, it disappears. This does not phase me however, as they’re simply no longer very important in my life, and if I really, really want one – it can be done, just with a bit more effort.

It does make sex more difficult however, and my psychologist has recently recommended I give viagra a try to achieve proper penetrative sex. But honestly, sex simply isn’t that important to me – just being a girl and feeling comfortable in myself and especially cuddling – this is so much of an improvement in and of itself that I’m happy with the trade off.

Orgasms

Orgasms are different now.

They can tremendously better. However more often than not they’re not as intense as male orgasms.  As a male, orgasms were easy to achieve – all that was required was friction. They came intensely and quickly, lasting only a few seconds typically. When achieved regularly and without the feeling of love and sensuality, orgasms as a female are weaker but last longer, typically 15-45 seconds.

However, when I feel loved and sensual, orgasms go to a whole new level. Instead of feeling like a male “release” they can come as a full body experience, with every inch of my skin rippling with warmth and joy. Such orgasms can last up to a minute or more.

Better yet – I can have multiple of them! This is a rare event, and requires an intense emotional alignment. I call them super saiyan sensual orgasms, because when you blast off with one of these, it’s like your entire body and world explodes. Nothing as a male came close to this sexual experience.

If I was to summarize the shift in experience it would be this: female orgasms are better, but rarer and harder to achieve. I’d liken it to an uncommon fine dining experience over shitty nightly takeaway burgers.

 

Existential Changes

Emotions

One of the things I was most looking forward to on hormones was having a wider emotional palette. And while the experience hasn’t been quite as extraordinary as I had hoped, it’s absolutely an upgrade from boy emotions. Men only commonly have two emotions: angry and hungry. As a woman, I experience dozens of them – sometimes all at once! The best way I can describe it is as feeling like an upgrade from standard definition television to HDR 4K Ultra HD television. My emotions are in higher definition, with more colours to play with.

It feels as though my emotions are at closer to a surface level. It takes “less” for me to become emotional. More often than not I can contain them, though this is something which disappoints me. Not because I would like to be an emotional wreck, but rather because it still feels sometimes as if I’m holding back owing to societal expectations. As a male, you’re expected not to show much emotion and you learn to swallow them, and sometimes I find myself still doing this, to my shame.

I am more prone to tearing up and crying now. I am happier and sadder and more loving. The thought of holding my girlfriend is amazing, brings tears to my eyes. The thought of leaving her for a few days is intensely sad, and brings tears to my eyes.

I wouldn’t change this upgrade for anything in boy world.

Aggression

I am considerably less aggressive.

This has been an absolutely delightful side effect. It’s astonishing how capable of aggression testosterone makes you. In everyday situations I am simply less prone to become aggressive – whether it be in conversations with friends and family, or encounters with random perambulating dickheads downtown.

I don’t believe it’s exclusively down to the hormones, I think in part it derives from a feeling of inner peace and calmness. The depressed are all too often aggressive people as their fuses are shorter. With little joy to derive from their day to day lives, and with what little they do have fleeting, they are more defensive and protective of themselves. Since beginning my transition I now hate my body far less, I feel capable and possible again. It has made me more of a tolerant and kinder person, as I consume less energy on self hatered and fear of the future.

There is, however, one exception to my reduction in aggression…

Road Rage

For reasons I cannot fathom, my capacity to tolerate dickheads on the road has diminished from its starting low. Before I wrote the paragraphs above, I was exiting a car space in downtown Mudgee when a freerange bogan entered the carpark, his rusty dusty Holden commodore bouncing as he hit the gutter ramp at speed. While I was already 2/3rds out of my space, he did not stop to allow me to complete my manoeuvre. On the contrary – he maintained his stupefying speed, coming within inches of smashing into my car. As he drove past I saw the “Australia: Love it or leave!” sticker on one side of his bumper, a “Pussy Magnet” sticker on the other.

I reversed, following the arrows of the carpark which took me in a loop past the bogan. He’d parked, at an odd angle, and was getting out of his car. He was a massive balding, beer-gutted man whose grey stained shirt did not cover the entirety of his belly. His chin looked like it was beginning to form a second face, like a lardy hourglass dripping down into Face Two: The Shit Grinning™ (rated M for mature). He pulled his tracksuit pants up as he lifted himself from his bogan mobile.

I wound my window down, slowed down, gave him the finger, drove off.

Road rage is one of the rare instances where I will risk conflict with others since beginning my transition, though typically it is only from the safety of my moving vehicle.

Conflict

With the exception of road-rage induced fits of fury, I generally seek to avoid conflict these days. This is an interesting development, as I have long been a person who while not particularly enjoying conflict, was good at dealing with it. I simply had to win arguments. I am a champion debater and used to pride myself on my capacity to decimate opponents by any means. It was not beyond me to scorch the earth to win an argument – it didn’t matter how anyone walked away, it simply mattered that I walked away the victor in any exchange.

Since transitioning, while I certainly can still hold my own in argument, I find myself considering the emotions and future of others considerably more. I now tend to seek a middle ground, an outcome which benefits everyone.

I seek to avoid day to day conflict.

While walking through Burwood on my way to the Westfield recently, I heard obscene screaming coming from behind me.

“You fucking cunt! Cunt! Come here, fucking cunt!”

My heart began to race and the blood pumped faster through my body. My skin crawled. As a male, I’d have instantly sought out the source of noise, if not to take it on then to at least to prepare to defend against it. As a female, I sought to get away, to shrink and disappear. I put my head down and walked faster, not needing to know what was happening. I was terrified it was a person who had clocked me as trans and who was seeking to do me harm.

“Nigger! Nigger! Cunt nigger! You fucking c-c-cunt!”

I assessed that the voice was at least half a block behind me, and took the risk in turning to see what it was. It was easy to find as people lining the street were looking towards it to, and pedestrians were creating a forward wake to allow the man who was screaming to get through more easily.

As it turned out, he had tourette syndrome. He couldn’t help his stream of profanity. I disappeared into a side cafe, pretending to look at a menu and waited until he passed, relieved.

A similar encounter recently bought home how much more vulnerable I am. A man who was clearly in drug withdrawals on a train near Parramatta was looking angrily at my girlfriend and I as we cuddled. He was muttering under his breath, agitated. I became intensely frightened and tried not to look him in the eye. I felt vulnerable, that if shit went down, I’d be unable to properly defend myself.

Toxic masculinity owes a lot towards the safety of women. It is a cancer on society. As a trans woman, I have now to deal with it on two fronts – both being transgender, and being a woman. It is an eye opening experience and has given me perspective on how far society has to come in its treatment towards all women.

Dysphoria

Before I started my transition, I’d both read extensively on Reddit an discussed with other trans peeps that after you start your transition, any dysphoria you experience increases massively. Dysphoria is a kind of powerful discomfort bordering on hatred of your body or other aspects of your gender. I best describe dysphoria as feeling a lot like grief. It’s not dissimilar to the sensation of losing someone close to you – when it feels like your heart is falling, as if the ground may open up and swallow you.

It is grief for the person you feel you are not.

I had assumed that I would be a rare exception when it came to dysphoria. I didn’t think mine was all that bad to begin with, and rather than being specific, I felt a general sensation of hating my body. For the longest time I assumed this was mostly due to my massive size – weighing close to 200kg. However as I lost close to half my body weight, I found that it wasn’t really related to my weight at all (though that does remain a massive factor).

And, to my dismay – my dysphoria has grown over time.

The other boys and girls were right. As you transition, your dysphoria does get worse. For me, it has become more specific too – I find myself worrying about different aspects of my body. The big ones are body hair, head hair and skin. Having to shave my chin every day is a nightmare. While my facial hair has massively thinned, its stubborn remnants seek to remind of the gender I used to be. Similarly, my head hair isn’t yet long enough to be read easily as female – though it has developed cute curls to it which I love to style. While my skin feels smoother, I fear that it doesn’t yet look pale or smooth enough, especially my facial skin. It’s a joy to touch, less so to look at.

However, it is not a total loss. Some days I see a girl staring back at me in the mirror – or flashes of girl. It very much depends on the day and my mood at the time. On days when a foul cloud hangs above my head, I see a disgusting, hairy man. On bright days, I see Cady.

It is my hope that in time she is all I see.

 

Social Changes

I started wearing female clothing in public for the first time in January, slightly over a month after I began hormones. This utterly shocked me, as I had assumed for the longest time that I wouldn’t begin to do so for at least a year into hormones. However I found that as I spiritually and emotionally became Cadance, I simply didn’t want to do boy mode any longer.

The first time wearing girl clothes outside of the house was on Christmas Eve, when I went Christmas Light viewing with my family. While I never left the safety of the car that night, it was a significant step. A month later I began to wear girl clothes around to a friend’s place while we prepped a music video shoot for one of her songs, then later that month I wore them on the shoot itself. This was the first time other people – friends and strangers – had seen me in female clothing.

Soon after, I experimented by wearing girl clothes on a day trip to Bathurst. It was terrifying, and yet liberating at the same time. I enjoyed the experience so much that I began to do it around Mudgee, and before long – I was doing it full time.

I still wasn’t presenting as female, as I looked so boy. It was, essentially, cross-dressing, an unusual experience given that wearing boy clothes felt like the cross-dressing element at that point. I was under no illusions that I passed as female – I still had male hair styles, still used a male voice, didn’t wear any makeup, but the relief at finally being myself in public cannot be overstated.

It was of course a significant source of anxiety. I developed a habit of never meeting the gaze of others, staring off into the middle ground or at my feet. From my periphery, I could often see people staring at me, until we made eye contact, when they would look away. The exception is children, who keep staring. As the months have passed, as my appearance has become increasingly feminine, the staring has greatly diminished. In time, it is my hope that I will be next to invisible – not a trans person or a cross-dresser, just another girl walking the street.

I now present as female full time. I sometimes wear makeup and have longer hair which I style often. It is such a wonderful, affirming experience to present as your desired gender. It is an awakening, the highest compliment of being.

Occasionally I have to return to boy mode to deal with people who still don’t know I’m trans. It causes significant anxiety which I wear typically with a permanent scowl, as seen in the photo below.

 

No Shit… as a girl

In the six months since wearing girl clothes in public I have not copped shit from a single person. Not. One. This absolutely amazes me. I live in Mudgee, a conservative town. Before starting my transition everyone from family members to friends to my doctors and psychologist all warned me to expect significant friction. I think it speaks volumes of the progress of society that I have experienced no significant negative feedback.

While I can tell some people disapprove – especially the religious, farmers and the odd shop attendant – no-one has said anything to me or called me names. A car full of P-platers did yell something out at me in a noisy blur, though I suspect they’d  have yelled at me regardless of my presentation. A feral-looking bogan lady also muttered something under her breath in Woolworths once, but it’s difficult to take any judgement from her seriously as it appeared clearly she was moving from one meth hit to the next, and isn’t worth worrying about.

Except from that one guy… as a lesbian

I am in a lesbian relationship. This still spins me out to think about, and I’m always reminded of Scott Pilgrim versus the World (“I’m in lesbians with you”).

Recently, while on a train, a boganous mess of a man stumbled drunk into the carriage shared with my girlfriend and I. He reeked of bourbon, was drinking from a pre-mix bourbon and cola can, and carrying a carton under his arm.

He sat two seats down from as and proceeded to vent his disapproval of us, muttering to himself and glaring at us.

“Fucking freaks… never in my day… disgusting.”

It was hard to take such a piece of human filth seriously. He was a pathetic human being, drunk by 10am, filthy and tattered and shaggy. At some level, it still hurt, but I tried my best not to let him get to me, as at the end of the day – he’s not worth it.

 

Epilogue

I explore my first time presenting as fully female in another chapter here. I will also explore coming out to friends and family later.

However, the first six months of hormones have been simply amazing. Terrifying. Beautiful. Exciting. Shocking. Hilarious. Anxious. Eye-opening. Loving. Strange. Above all… validating.

I am so early into my journey. I am only just now beginning to approach the correct hormone levels and I have years ahead of me before my transition is significantly evolved, and half a lifetime yet of life as a girl.


 

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