Although I've come along way in my personal journey, I still experience a boat load of anxiety. I've decided to try to write about a typical day that will hopefully help some of you understand what it's like to be me. Some things about my daily routine and the clothes that I wear are a recent back step. That's because of the ways I've been gendered (no matter what I wear) lately. And harassment that followed me two blocks home last week.
In bed, behind a locked door is really the only place I feel safe. That is where my day of course begins. Although I usually sleep well behind a locked door, I always wake up in a panic. It takes me a little while to get out of bed. If I have to be somewhere early, I'll typically set my alarm an hour earlier than it would take to get ready. It takes me that long to adjust to the fact that I have to face the world yet again. Even after that extra hour, my body will still be shaking and I'll have to moderate my breathing. If I have time, I'll eat a few slices of toast and have a glass of juice. All the while, hoping I don't see one of my roommates. After that, it's back upstairs to get dressed.
Although I have a few dresses and one skirt, I quickly pass them over. I've never worn any of them in public. It doesn't feel safe doing so. A quick check of the weather on my phone and a peek outside through the blinds determines if I'm going with shorts or pants. If it's pants, it's jeans. Nothing fancy or gender defining. Again, safety. If it's shorts, I have recently gone back to longer non denim shorts that could easily be worn by either gender. It's starting to get cooler out now here in Colorado. So, it really doesn't matter what kind of shirt I wear. But, most of my normal t-shirts are plain without any graphics. And are a neutral color. I've been holding onto a sweatshirt much longer than I should. Only because it does a fairly good job hiding my breasts. But, I should replace it very soon. The sleeves are stretched out and the wrists look like a baby cougar have been chewing on them. One of the only overtly feminine things I wear are my shoes. The best fitting shoes I have right now are a pair of women's Adidas. They're super comfy. But, about half the shoe is covered in hot pink.
I've been thinking about getting my ears re-pierced lately. But, I haven't done it yet. So, no earrings. Also, no makeup. I've had people put makeup on me more than I've tried to apply it myself. I'm not a fan of makeup as a technique to look more feminine. I have a male shaped skull. There's really nothing that will change that. Facial feminization surgery. I've been thinking about doing something with my eyebrows. But, that would involve looking at a mirror.
Mirrors and I don't have a good relationship. I've become a shut in after looking at my awful male face in the mirror. I know I have to live. And leaving the house is usually involved in trying to earn a living. So, I do my best at avoiding any reflective surface. I've gotten fairly good at brushing my hair out without looking in a mirror. At least I think I have. Also, even though I've had lots of laser and electrolysis on my face, I still have to shave every day. Thankfully, I can do that by touch. I've been shaving since I was 13 years old. The pattern I follow along my jaw and around my mouth is a well worn muscle memory. And if I somehow miss something, all I have to do is run my hand along my face to catch it. After brushing my teeth and sloshing some mouth wash, I get out. The bathroom is probably my least favorite place to be.
From there, I make my bed, gather up my things, and make sure my room is presentable. I'm living in a fairly high profile transitional house for female vets. It's a showcase for both the VOA and the VA. So, we might find a tour has passed through while we were gone. Once my room is good to go, I head downstairs, fetch my water bottle and the lunch I packed the night before and throw them in my bag. As I head toward the door, my eyes scan the front of the house in the window right in front of me. There's usually not too many people walking around my neighborhood. But, I like to be prepared for any potential interactions and/or conflicts.
As I walk the two blocks to the bus stop, I'm on guard. But, as I've been here for about two months, I'm starting to get a little more comfortable. I typically don't encounter anyone. Usually it's an older person walking a dog. I usually keep my head down. I will make eye contact very briefly and maybe a courteous smile. But, if they are bigger than me, I track where they are maybe up until they are about 10ft from me, then I'll survey the geography just in case. Is there anything blocking me from crossing the street? Can I hear a car approaching from behind? I try not to let myself get inbetween a stranger and a house. That gives me fewer opportunities for escape. Once they get within that 10 foot boundary, it's all heads down. Even if someone tries to say hi, I might not hear them right away. I almost always have one earbud in. The other stays out so I can safely here for threats.
If there are more than a few people at the bus stop, I usually hang back and lean against a commercial sign nearby. Sometimes, someone will approach me asking if I want to buy a bus pass or ask if they can borrow my phone. I will make eye contact here. But, only to tell them no thanks or that I don't have a phone. It's a lie. But, I'm not about to just hand over my phone to a stranger. Even if I have unlimited minutes.
On the bus, I'd rather stand than sit next to a man. I will sit next to a woman. But, that's not always possible. Thankfully, the bus isn't too crowded when I typically take it. Usually, I use the morning commute to refresh my mind on what I'm currently studying. It's also a great time to read a book. I have quite the backlog. Oustide of biking, this is really why I don't mind not having a car. I get lots of reading done on the bus. Once the bus gets downtown, I have to take the free mall ride about four blocks. Once behind Union Station, I catch the train. Hopefully, not catching the train that stops at the Federal Center. It does that a couple times a day. And it's annoying.
When the train arrives at school, I'm devoting most of my attention to scanning my surroundings. It may sound paranoid to do so. But, I've been beaten up and harassed before. I don't want it to happen again. I'd like to think that I'm an approachable person. But, in reality, it's only when I am both comfortable with my surroundings or if I know you very well. I can't afford to get my attention diverted. It was in elementary school, that I had to look tough and not smile in order to keep the bullies away. The tendency to do so has been with me ever since. It's something I can't turn off. You know how you'll be more careful about your wallet or purse in a crowded place. Or how you'll be a little more careful at night while walking around an unfamiliar town on vacation. That's how I am 90% of my day from the moment walk out the front door to when ?”?I get home.
When I first started going back to school, I emailed my teachers asking them to call me Rebecca. My name hasn't been legally changed yet. So, my school records are in my male name. I didn't think this would be really difficult. I'm taking computer courses. And I didn't really expect to have to stand in front of classroom to make a presentation (something I've never had to do). But, I was thrown for a loop when all of my teachers conducted a get to know each other excercise on the first day. I nearly fell asleep on the train after that from all the stress. Thankfully, my teachers don't call on me much. Undoubtedly, I'll have to use the restroom at least once per day while at school. I don't like it. But, I don't have that much power over my body. When school started, I was wearing slightly more visible women's clothing. Too my surprise, I've only seen two women give me weird looks. I do the same thing I do in the men's room. Head down. Do my thing. Wash my hands. Get out. During the first week, one girl from one of my classes was washing hands next to me. She looked over and said Hi. I was kind of surprised. I managed a mild whispering hello back. One surprising thing happened in one of my classes. One girl used the word scrunchy as an example when asking the teacher a question. I don't remember the context. I just remember the look she gave me across the room as if she was looking for support when the teacher didn't know what a scrunchy was. It's little things like that that make my day.
Once a week, I go to the student services desk to get food from the food bank. I get gendered male there. Since I'm off the bike right now, I would like to find a way to be more physically active. But, I'm scared to use the workout equipment at school. So, I don't ask about it. Especially if it might involve a locker room.
Almost everything is done online at school. All the assignments are turned in through the school's online system. We can even collaborate online. But, I've stayed away from doing that since my name is male in the system. There's nothing I can do about it. I've tried. They won't change it until I officially change my name. So, I feel like I'm an island surrounding a sea of classmates helping each other out. I don't use the library or the computer lab. It's hard enough being in a classroom. I'd rather just go home and study in the safety of my bedroom on my own machine.
The trip home is a repeat of the morning commute. Except I've had to deal with more transit cops on the train in the afternoons and evenings than in the mornings. I've seen them approach me from behind gendering me as female. Only to gender me male as they talk with me. I hate my face and voice. On the train, I tend to do the same thing I do in restaurants and social situations. I find a seat where I can see people arriving. One friend thought that was more of a military way of thinking. It may be. But, for people with social anxiety, it's a daily precaution.
I'm trying to walk more. So, on nice days, I've tried to skip the bus and walk most of the way home from downtown. I even have a pedometer. My goal is to reach 10,000 steps a day. Up until this week, that wasn't a problem. A couple of days ago, I was followed and harassed by two women and two men while walking through Capitol Hill. Since then, I have been having a harder time stepping outside the front door. And I'll probably be riding the bus more often. I don't have many more pieces of male clothing left. I'll do laundry every day if I have too just to be safe.
Once I get home, I rest for a little while. That much watching of my surroundings is stressful. So, I need a couple hours of downtime in a dark bedroom. Once I'm up for it, I'll make dinner and eat it up in my room while doing my homework.
This is an example of what most of my days during the week are like. As much of a pain in the ass the week days are, I prefer them to the weekends. At least there is structure to the week. I often get invited to social situations during on weekends. And as much as I would love to push my anxiety to it's limits in an effort to get rid of it, more often than not, I'm typically beating myself up for not being able to go. I want to meet new people and participate in life. But, I find the idea of doing so extremely stressful. What would happen if I get introduced to someone I've never met as Becca? I don't exactly look or sound like a Becca. In situations where I've done so, I find myself ready to take a couple of steps back. My arms at the ready to repel an attack.
I hate it that I live this way. But, compared to the way I lived as a male, it's ten times better. The stress level is up. But, I'm no longer as depressed as much as I used to be. Some of the dysphoria is gone. Unless of course I look in the mirror. I think I need a job where I can work from home. And maybe online classes. Yeah, that will make things better. I've always wanted to be a shut in. 😦