An appointment with my fears

I’ve recently purchased the book “You and Your Gender Identity” by Dara Hoffman-Fox. My hope with the book is to be able to work through my feelings about gender in a more constructive way. So far, I’ve liked that it starts not with questions about identity, but with a mental preparation for the journey ahead, equipping me with tools that will help me manage this journey that I know all too well is incredibly taxing.

One concept introduced in the book is setting an appointment for your fears. This sets boundaries around your fears and lets them not control your whole life. When a fear arises, it can be noted and set aside for an appointment that be approached with greater self-care and understanding. The fears can be personified by a bodyguard who is fiercely trying to protect me from any harm, however misguided their methods may be. This is my first attempt at such an appointment. Let’s see what my fears said to me today.

I’m setting myself up to hate my body.

As I’ve written about before, I was never aware of dysphoria in my life, certainly not about my body. I was insecure about a thing or two, but it doesn’t take control of my life. I mostly don’t think about my body. But when I start to connect with myself as something other than a man, I begin to feel like everything is wrong, and incredibly distressing. My inner bodyguard tells me that if I open up this Pandora’s Box, I will turn something that hasn’t been a major conscious concern into something disgusting, revolting, something that is a pain to live with on a day-to-day basis. It’s not worth it, my bodyguard tells me. I have to shut out these feelings to survive with the body I have.

You will never really be a woman, you don’t deserve it.

I don’t even know if I am a woman, but this fear pushes me away from that direction. A woman is something fantastic, so natural and clear. And trans women? Pure goddesses who decoded the Matrix and broke free of the shackles of the world. I don’t feel like that. I’m a sad, hairy mess who is lucky enough to be able to be a human in the world. I can’t connect with such a powerful energy.

I’m just going to make myself uglier.

I’m not a bad looking person. When I have a nice haircut and a well-trimmed beard, I see in the mirror a man that is respectable, with a faint millennial hipster charm. As I sit here with hair (finally!) below my ears, stubble, and lipstick on, I may feel good about it, but I don’t look good. If I want acceptance from the world, I’m going in the wrong direction. Who would want to see a femme person with a giant masculine head, shoulders that are too wide and a beard shadow that won’t go away?

I’m scared I wouldn’t end up liking changes to my body.

Ah, hormones, the Big H. Despite the idea of hormones being ten steps ahead of where I should be focusing, I can’t stop considering what they would feel like. But would I even like it? Sure, I’d like less hair, fat distributed less around my belly, maybe more hips. But breasts? I don’t know. The concept seems so alien to me. Sometimes I can connect with a feeling of what they might be like and don’t hate it, but it’s not a focal point of anxiety about my body. Sometimes the idea feels very wrong, like they wouldn’t be right on my body. And what if I’m wrong about other changes? My bodyguard tells me it’s not worth it to even consider, I should stop before I create more problems for myself.

People won’t believe me.

People know me as a guy. Most people like me as a guy. Most people in my life haven’t met a trans person. How could they conceive of me as anything but the guy they know? I’ll just be their crazy friend, or relative who thinks he’s something other than he is. I need people to accept me at any cost, my bodyguard tells me, and I usually believe them.

I’ll never be able to learn makeup or feminine things.

I wish I could make my face look beautiful. But here I am with shaky hands and no sense of what makeup is even supposed to look like. I’ve never paid attention to it, toxic masculinity and my aversion to any thoughts of personal embodiment pushed me away from even considering makeup as something worth paying attention to. Same with fashion, be it male or female. I have no idea how I would even start to build an eye or personal preferences. I get so nervous and overwhelmed when approaching new skills that I might suck at initially. Better to not even try, it’ll hurt me so much.

I won’t be able to just be myself, I’ll have to focus on voice and body language, etc. too much.

I love spending time with close friends. It doesn’t matter too much that they perceive me as male, it feels like we’re connecting on a level deeper than the superficial base layer of gender. Sure, I might feel awkward if gender dynamics start to play a role in the conversation, but I can roll with it and get back to what feels good. It feels natural. I feel like I’m going to throw that away. Gender identity might be about how you feel inside, but there are a lot of elements of gender presentation that are tied up in knots with it, and those can take work. Even if my friends were to be accepting, how can I get into a state of connection and flow if I’m focused on maintaining a changed voice or different body language? Will new gender dynamics change my relationships in ways I don’t want? If I slip into old habits while in that connection, then what is this all even for? I may be uncomfortable with some of them, but these social habits I’ve formed have been hard for me to develop, and my bodyguard tells me that if I throw them away, I’ll be left without connection, alone and afraid.

As the book tells me, I want to thank my bodyguard for being here. They really try their best to look out for me. They were there for me growing up and grew strong as I made my way in the world. I think that I can start to confront these fears though. I know this is something that I want. My bodyguard will still be here looking out for me, and I’ll know that I’ll listen, we can get through this together.

Pseudonymous Canadian under the trans* umbrella. They/them