We are the same…

Some people seem perplexed that sometimes I talk as though transvestites and transsexuals are the same, and sometimes as though they’re different. There’s really no mystery here, though: in some ways we’re similar and in other ways we’re different. It’s like cats and dogs: they’re similar in lots of ways, and different in others.

In future posts I’ll talk a bit about ways that we’re different, but tonight I want to focus on what we have in common: feelings. In particular, the desire to be “the other” gender and unhappiness with “the current” gender. I’ve found that these two feelings are present to some degree in every trans person I’ve met, whether transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser, drag queen, two spirit, queen, genderqueer, genderfluid, non binary or anything else under the umbrella.

There have been some arguments lately about whether you have to be dysphoric to be “really trans.” Some have claimed that if you don’t hate every minute of your life as your assigned gender, you’re not part of the club. Some have argued that you need “body dysphoria” – a hatred of everything that feels like the gender you were assigned. My body dysphoria is relatively mild and mostly involves my weight, but gender dysphoria in general captures a lot of what I feel like I have in common with transitioners and other trans people.

The desire to be the other gender is not the same as dysphoria, but it is connected to dysphoria. Some people feel dysphoria but not desire, others feel desire but not dysphoria, and many feel both. There are other feelings as well, particularly gender fog, that seem pretty common; I invite you to look at my list of feelings and see which ones you feel, which ones you don’t feel, and which feelings you feel that I didn’t list.

It’s important to point out that these feelings are never constant. No feelings are. I’ve seen a lot of people post on Reddit and Tumblr that their dysphoria or desire seems to have recently increased, or diminished, or even disappeared entirely. That’s normal.

These feelings can also be connected to thoughts about the short term or the long term. Some people want to be a man for the rest of their lives, and some people want to stop being a man for the rest of their lives. Some people just want to be a woman for a day or an evening, and some people just want to stop being a woman for a year, or an hour, or long enough to get past those guys on the corner.

I said that every trans person I met has expressed one of these two feelings, but I don’t want to go from there to making universal claims about who’s trans and who isn’t. I’m open to the possibility that there are people who don’t feel these feelings, but are still trans in some meaningful way.

I also want to point out that a lot of so-called “cis” people have had these feelings at some point. In general, I have the impression that most people who would call themselves “trans” have the feelings more often, and more intensely, than others. But I regularly hear about people who have fairly intense dysphoria or desire who say that they’re not trans.

As Jamison Green said, “there is NOT one way to be transgender,” and there is not one set of actions to take in response to these feelings. In recent posts I’ve talked about transgender feelings and beliefs, and I’ll talk about transgender actions in future posts.

These feelings aren’t the only thing that trans people have in common, but they’re a major source of the things we have in common. We do have things that separate us, and I’ll talk about those in future posts as well.

Some thoughts about feelings

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.
-Walt Whitman

When I posted my transgender feelings in January, there were some interesting reactions. I want to clarify some of what I said and elaborate a bit.

Feelings and beliefs

A number of people interpreted my reports of trans feelings as evidence for “interiority” – claims that I’m really a woman inside. These interpretations are understandable given how often other trans people offer their own feelings – or simply the word “trans” – as part of such arguments. They’re inaccurate, though: as I wrote in a subsequent post, I find it hard to believe in anything as ineffable as a gender identity or an inner woman, and I don’t ask anyone else to.

Feelings are irrational

Some people were bothered by how little sense my feelings made, and how to some extent they rested on idealizations, fantasies and media images. I think it’s because when they talk about their own feelings, they expect them to make sense. I’m sorry, but I’ve long ago given up on expecting my feelings or anyone else’s to make sense. I thought I made that clear in the post. Maybe my feelings are more irrational than other people’s, but I don’t think so.

It’s normal for feelings to conflict with each other

I feel both a desire to be a woman and a desire to be a man. Some people take that as evidence that a person is “not really trans,” that they’re bigender or something. I take it as evidence that they’re human. I find it hard to believe there’s a person on this planet who hasn’t felt both of these desires. I find it harder to believe that there’s a trans person who doesn’t feel some desire for their assigned gender, or some discomfort with their target gender.

Moving toward and away from genders

When I posted about my trans feelings, I included both a desire to be a woman and a desire to not be a man. I think those feelings coexist, but they’re not the same thing, and it’s useful to be able to distinguish them. Similarly, sometimes I feel a desire to be a man, and a desire to not be a woman, which are also distinct feelings.

Identity stress

You may remember the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, where Robin Williams plays a divorced actor who can only spend time with his kids by posing as an elderly woman and getting hired as their nanny. In the climactic scene, the actor is pitching his idea for a new kids’ show to a producer over dinner in one dining room of a fancy restaurant, while in another room his kids need Mrs. Doubtfire. Amid numerous quick-changes in a single-user bathroom, hilarity ensues.

image18That scene may seem like pure comedy, but like all comedy it exaggerates a real and often painful aspect of our lives: identity stress. We all – trans people and everyone else – take on multiple roles in our lives, some gendered, some not. Sometimes you’re the teacher, sometimes the student. Sometimes you’re the artist, sometimes the subject. And often you’re nobody in particular, just a person on the street.

Each of those roles comes with different standards of behavior and the expectation of different treatment, and that can be more stressful than the different clothing that is sometimes expected. When someone who is used to being treated as a Very Important Person is confronted with the expectations of ordinary people, like getting pulled over for speeding or having to wait on line, a common response is, “Do you know who I am?”

This identity stress can be particularly acute for trans people, or anyone who takes transgender actions, whether they identify as trans or not. About eight years ago, Norah Vincent wrote a fascinating book called Self-Made Man, where she presented as a man called Ned and participated in a series of male-dominated activities such as competitive bowling and hard selling. She personally identifies as a non-trans lesbian and never had any intention to transition, but she felt what I call transgender feelings: a desire to be a man in order to escape some of the burden of her gender and partake in male privilege.

In the last section of her book, Vincent participates in a Robert Bly-style drum circle ceremony, and surprises the group leader by asking him to cut her with a knife. This feeling, relatively common among some women but so foreign to the type of man who typically takes part in drum circles, shocked and surprised the leader. Shortly after, Vincent checked herself into a mental hospital. She writes:

When I plucked out, one by one, my set of gendered characteristics, and slotted in Ned’s, unknowingly I drove the slim end of a wedge into my sense of self, and as I lived as Ned, growing into his life and conjured place in the world, a fault line opened in my mind, precipitating small and then increasingly larger seismic events in my subconscious until the stratum finally gave.

Ned had built up in my system over time. This allowed me to convey him more convincingly as the project went on, but it was also what made me buckle eventually under his weight. It was to be expected. As one rare (rare because insightful) psychiatrist would later put it to me when I declared that my breakdown would surely impeach me as a narrative, and hence impugn the whole project, “On the contrary, having done what you did, I would have thought you were crazy if you hadn’t had a breakdown.”

I’ve never had experiences like Norah Vincent’s “project,” or the restaurant scene in Mrs. Doubtfire, but I have felt similarly torn between two identities. Setting aside presentation fatigue, if you have distinct presentations with distinct voices and mannerisms it takes time and effort to do the switch, mentally and emotionally. It also takes effort to keep them separate, to avoid using the wrong voice or the wrong walk. This can actually be fun once in a while, when it’s the point of the activity, but sometimes you just want to get a cup of coffee.

If you have any significant social interaction in an identity you will make social investments that are specific to that identity and difficult to transfer. Vincent made friends in her bowling team and other activities, and on 20/20 she met some of them as Norah for the first time. It seems clear to me that part of what precipitated her emotional crisis was the realization that she couldn’t have the same relationships with these guys without continuing to interact as Ned.

I’ve heard from other “part time” trans people that they have some people who know them in one identity and some in the other, without much overlap. This might be sustainable for someone who has lots of free time and energy to manage these mini-transitions, but it goes way beyond the minor identity stress that the rest of us deal with. I think that’s one reason you see so few people who lead that kind of double life.

Skepticism and trans beliefs

Someone got angry about my post on trans feelings, but on reading between the nastiness, she seemed to be mostly angry because she assumed I was claiming an “interiority” – her word – that my feelings were evidence of “interior womanhood.” I can understand why she thought that, because so many trans people do, but I don’t make any such claim.

Personally, I practice skepticism. In general I try to minimize the number of things in the world I take on faith. I find it comforting, particularly in understanding transgender feelings and actions. But in talking about trans phenomena, my skepticism conflicts with the way a lot of other people talk about those things. The key difference is in talking about transgender beliefs, specifically the concept of gender identity. But you don’t have to espouse trans beliefs to understand trans feelings or to argue for fairness and respect.

The typical story is that “trans women are women” and “trans men are men,” supported by a number of dubious and hotly contested brain studies. On this basis, everyone is asserted to have a “gender identity,” an “innate sense of their own gender,” and that is taken as the person’s “authentic,” essential gender. Often this is invoked to argue that it is the person’s destiny to transition. Genderqueer, genderfluid and other non-binary people are declared to be a mixture of brain genders on the basis of simple analogy, and the implication is that their only true path is to express gender in the corresponding proportions.

The critical thing here is that very few trans or genderqueer people have actually undergone a brain scan. Most of the studies that people typically cite were actually performed on the cadavers of trans women. Of course, trans people typically want to stay alive; many even frame it as transition or die. The official basis for determining gender identity is thus a simple declaration: “I’m really a woman.”

You can see why a skeptical approach would have trouble with all of this. If the primary basis for determining gender identity is a belief that we are “really” a different gender from what most people think, and I try not to believe anything without sufficient evidence, how can I as have any gender identity and still maintain my skepticism?

But wait, there’s more! The typical story is that gender identity is innate and unchanging, but anyone who has spent time around non-transitioners, non-binary people and people near the edge of the “transgender umbrella” like cross-dressers, drag queens, and people exploring gender, has seen things that give the lie to this idea. I’ve seen all manner of people who one day explain that they’re “just” men who feel a little feminine, and the next swear up and down that they’ve always felt like women.

In individual practice, one person’s determination of another’s gender identity is even more subjective than that. Typically, a simple claim of belief is not accepted without at least a declaration of intent to transition, but some people will overrule that based on their impressions of the other’s masculinity. Often, a person will accept another as trans (and thus as their desired gender) based on a declaration, but then question that gender if they do not demonstrate satisfactory progress in transitioning. Frequently, a trans or genderqueer person will make no profession of belief, but another person will make claims about that person’s gender identity based on evidence of transition, passability or impressions of femininity.

From a skeptical perspective, this evidence is unsatisfactory on three levels. First, we’re expected to accept gender identity on the basis of professed belief, which is inherently untrustworthy. Second, we’re asked to accept these beliefs as evidence of an innate, eternal state, even when they have changed. Third, we’re asked to accept beliefs, reported second or thirdhand, that are sometimes invented or assumed by the people reporting them.

Sorry, I can’t do it. I’m not going to spend years of my life resisting a belief in Satan or Pachamama, and then turn around and accept the Authentic Self without question. I don’t even really believe I have a pancreas, let alone an “interiority.” I accept that I probably do have a pancreas because the biologists seem to be right about fingers and sinuses and stuff, but claims of interior womanhood are a lot less reliable. So I don’t claim a gender identity for myself or anyone else.

The challenge is that I also want to be respectful and to fight for fair treatment for myself and other trans people. I can do that, because I don’t need to believe people’s beliefs to believe and honor their feelings, to treat people fairly and with respect. I just need to believe in their essential humanity. It works for me with Mormons and Buddhists, and it works with people who believe in gender identity. I wish more people would try it!

The feelings we don’t all feel

I used to think I didn’t have body dysphoria. I definitely don’t have it the way some people report it. For example, here’s a famous description from Lydia K.:

So you run your internal gender_check and get nothing as a response:

you@body# gender_check
you@body#

Return code is zero, nothing is printed out, everything is all good, and you think “I have no idea what these people are talking about, there isn’t anything here.”. When a trans person runs their gender_check they get a slew of errors, a spewage of various issues that need to be addressed

IMG_2772No, my nervous system doesn’t randomly run a “gender check” and come back with an error. By and large, I’m satisfied with my genitals. It can be a pain (literally!) to tuck them out of sight when I’m presenting as a woman, but they fit my usual male presentation. I think they’re pretty nice looking, and fun to play with, and chicks dig ’em (okay, my wife digs ’em). If I woke up without them one day I’d make do, but otherwise they’re not going anywhere and I’m fine with that too.

I do actually feel dissatisfied with my body. Primarily it’s a weight issue, because for most of my life so far I was on the slim side. Then in my late twenties I got the “middle-aged spread.” I felt fine through all the childhood growth changes and a full male puberty, but it was the weight that felt foreign. Ever since I was about 27 I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, “that’s not me, that doesn’t belong there.” I’ve lost a little weight over the past few years, but a lot of it has come off my legs. I look great from the waist down, but sometimes my shoulder-to-hip ratio really jumps out at me in the mirror and in pictures, and I feel frustrated and discouraged.

The part that bothers me most is my belly. My shoulders and ribcage have also grown since then, which is perfectly normal for adult men, but I miss the time when my shoulders weren’t much broader than those of the average woman my height. And yes, I know that there are XX, women-raised-women with my shape, but most of them don’t have deep voices and big hands and thick facial hair to deal with too.

So yes, sometimes I do feel uncomfortable having broad shoulders and a penis, but only when I’m actively thinking about presenting as a woman. Otherwise I have the same body dysphoria that a lot of formerly thin people have.

Does that mean I’m not trans? Far from it. I still periodically feel a desire to be a woman, and sometimes I feel sad when I’m not seen as a woman. There are lots of trans people like me who don’t have heavy body dysphoria, and many of us have quite satisfactory transitions.

So in addition to the feelings I have, which I described in this post, we can add that some people have this “gender check” type of body dysphoria. Just not all of us.

You’ll notice that in my last post I used “I statements,” talking about the feelings that I personally feel or have felt. I don’t claim to know what “a trans person” feels, unless that trans person is me. Lydia K. doesn’t know what “a trans person” feels either unless that trans person is her, and I wish she’d stop pretending she does.

The feelings we feel

I’ve talked before about how counterproductive it is to talk about the trans (or anything) in terms of categorizing people, and recommended instead that we talk about our transgender feelings and beliefs, and the actions we take in response to those.

Here, then, is a first attempt at cataloging transgender feelings. Essentially I’m writing down feelings associated with transgender events or thoughts, or with trans people. If I’ve written about that feeling before, I’ve tried to link to that post. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, just a starting point. Please feel free to point out any that you think I’ve missed.

I recently wrote that everyone’s actions are non binary in that they cross somebody’s line between men and women. Trans feelings are similar: as I write down the feelings I’ve felt and heard and read about, I realize how many of my friends and family have had similar feelings. Not all trans people have all these feelings.

It’s important to remember that feelings aren’t always logical. They’re responses to things that happen to us. Sometimes they’re rational, and sometimes they aren’t. That’s okay.

A lot of these feelings are superficial. That’s in part because I’ve focused on specifically transgender feelings, and some of them are superficial. It’s not that I don’t have deeper feelings, it’s just that those feelings are more universal and less trans-specific.

  • Sometimes I feel sad. I feel sad that when I’m naked and I look in the mirror I don’t see a beautiful woman. I feel sad that I don’t always see a beautiful woman when I’m wearing women’s clothes, and sometimes I don’t even see someone who looks like a woman. I feel sad when I hear women admiring each other’s clothing or grooming, but I’m afraid to tell them about my own women’s clothing or grooming, let alone show them. I feel sad when I see women being admired, but I don’t see any reason for anyone to admire me.
  • Sometimes I feel frustrated. I feel frustrated when I spend an hour on my makeup and am told to try on clothes in the men’s changing room. I feel frustrated when I’m in a room full of women who are attracted to women, and none of them show an interest in me. I feel frustrated that I have to spend an hour on makeup before I can look in the mirror and see a woman.
  • Sometimes I feel anxious. I feel anxious about being a man, because men are the dangerous ones. I feel anxious about being perceived as a man in a dress, because people are rude to men in dresses, and often hurt or even kill us. I feel anxious about attracting people that I’m not attracted to. Sometimes I feel anxious about just plain being noticed.
  • Sometimes I feel longing. I long to be sexy, to be attractive, to be stylish. I long to be admired, to be loved, to be accepted.
  • Sometimes I feel desire. I want to be a woman. I want to wear women’s clothes, to be seen as a woman. I want to be accepted in women’s roles, with the status of woman. I want someone to tell me I look pretty, or sexy. As Rick Nielsen said, I want someone to want me.
  • Sometimes I feel sexually aroused. I feel aroused when a sexy person desires me. I feel aroused when I look in the mirror or at a picture of me, and see someone who looks sexy. I feel aroused when I wear sexy clothes. I feel aroused when I imagine myself looking sexy.
  • Sometimes I feel excited. I feel excited about people seeing me as a woman. I feel excited about people admiring me. I feel excited about trying on new clothes. I feel excited about losing weight.
  • Sometimes I feel happy. I feel happy when my gender presentation looks good. I feel happy when I get comments on my looks.

I would be very surprised if any of you reading this feel the exact same mix of feelings I do. That’s normal. We’re all snowflakes. There is no one way to be trans. But from conversations I’ve had and descriptions I’ve read, I know that a lot of you have similar feelings. Please do let me know if there are feelings you’ve had that I haven’t covered.

The Power of Glamour and transgender feelings

Seven years ago I talked about the notion of glamour as described by Virginia Postrel. Virginia has been working on a book about glamour, and it was published on Monday. Here’s the definition from the book (as of last year):

Glamour is not the same as beauty, stylishness, luxury, sex appeal, or celebrity. Glamour is, rather, a form of nonverbal rhetoric, which moves and persuades not through words but through images. Glamour takes our inchoate longings and focuses them. By binding image and desire, glamour gives us pleasure, even as it heightens our yearning. It makes us feel that the life we dream of exists, and to desire it even more. We recognize glamour by its emotional effect—a sense of projection and longing—and by the elements from which that effect arises: mystery, grace, and the promise of escape and transformation. The effect and the elements together define what glamour is.

The Power of GlamourYou can probably see why I was immediately struck by the connection to transgender feelings. My strongest trans feeling is that longing to escape from my male reality, with its career obligations and social frustrations, where I’m expected to go out and get what I want, into a dream world where all I have to do is put on the right clothes and everyone will pay attention to me, desire me, and give me what I want. (Yeah, right!)

To me, glamour explains the connection between gender dysphoria, my feeling of unhappiness with being a man, and gender desire, my desire to be a woman, to be seen as a woman. There are lots of men who are unhappy being men, but only some of us want to be women. Glamour helps us understand why we do.

As Virginia has pointed out, this is compatible with the Official Trans Narrative: if you have an innate sense of gender that doesn’t match your physical sex, then you’re likely to be unhappy and thus feel a desire to escape your birth gender classification. But for those of us not convinced by the innatist narrative, glamour opens the door to other explanations.

Since then I’ve followed Virginia on her blogs and on Twitter, and in June she mentioned that she visited my blog while checking footnotes. On Monday night I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at the book launch party, and found that I’m quoted on Page 63, connecting glamour with despair:

I came to the idea of despair based on Virginia’s characterization of glamour as a means of escape. If you’re trying to escape through a fantasy you have to be pretty desperate, right? That’s the sense of “despair” that I mean – a feeling of being trapped and having no options left.

To Angus/Andrea with thanks & best wishes - Virginia

That’s from a comment I left on an article Virginia wrote in 2008, expanding on the connection Salman Rushdie made between terror and glamour. In the book, she expands on my connection to despair by noting the glamour elements highlighted in the documentary Paris Is Burning.

The glamour response is powerful. It can move us to approach strangers, to buy houses, and to blow up buses full of people. It can also move us to cross-dress, to get surgery to change our bodies, and to declare gender transitions.

What I’ve read of the book so far has been great. I encourage anyone who’s interested in transgender feelings to get a copy. I’ll be posting more about it in the future.

Gender fog update

It’s really hard for me to write this post, because it’s not my highlight reel.

I worry that someone might read this and use it to undermine my credibility on issues that are not really related to it. I worry that people might make incorrect assumptions about me based on this.

Still, I think it’s important to post this. Not very many people are writing about gender fog. But I’ve talked to other people, and I know I’m not the only one who feels it. So here goes.

As I wrote back in July, I went out in public as a woman and had some serious gender fog. I actually had difficulty sleeping for two weeks. I finally decided to go out cross-dressed again, and the night between making the decision and going out was the least restful of all. After that I had one more difficult night, and then my insomnia returned to its baseline.

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I couldn't hold the phone steady for long enough to take a picture. That's how excited I was to go out for the second time this year. I don't want to get that excited.
Last Saturday I went out for the third time this year, and this time I only had trouble sleeping the night before. Since then, I’ve been back to normal. I don’t know for sure why I had such a strong reaction back in July, but I have a few guesses.

When I went out in July, it was the first time in two years, and that made it much more exciting. In August and again this weekend, it had been a month or less. It was still exciting, but not exciting enough to keep me up for several nights. So that was a factor.

I also got a lot of affirmation in July. I spent the afternoon with one of my best friends, and he was really nice to me, even though he’s going through a lot of his own issues. He said I looked good, said he didn’t know how anyone could have read me. He picked out clothes for me to try on and gave me helpful feedback. He asked thoughtful, sympathetic questions about my trans feelings and experiences. I also dealt with security guards who were uniformly polite, friendly and gender-affirming. I ran into a co-worker who said I looked great.

The second time I went out this year, I made the mistake of riding Citibike in the heat. My friend is out of town, so I went to regular middlebrow stores, where people didn’t pay much attention to me, and probably less than normal because I was sweaty. I had a nice conversation with the same co-worker, but it wasn’t as exciting the second time.

This past weekend, I got sirred by the woman in the dressing room at Burlington Coat Factory. I had a nice time and got some fun clothes, and had a short conversation with my co-worker, but overall it wasn’t that exciting.

The combination of novelty and affirmation was probably what made my gender fog so intense in July. Since the intensity was unpleasant, I need to manage those and try not to get so much of both at the same time. I’m planning to make my outings a bit more frequent (every month or two) without doing anything too exciting. I’ll let you know how that goes.

What’s keeping me awake at night

I have real reasons to be happy about my excursion on Saturday. I have a great friend. My co-workers are super cool. But that’s not how gender fog works with me. Instead, it keeps me up all night thinking about things like this:

I'm so hot.
I’m so hot. Don’t you think I’m hot? I’m in soft focus.
  • I’ve lost so much weight! I wonder if I’m a 38C or a 36D.
  • That guy who held the door for me totally didn’t read me. I bet nobody did!
  • I definitely fit in with all those cute tourist women. I was prettier than a lot of them.
  • I could rock the dress that woman was wearing on the subway yesterday.
  • Would the brown skirt I bought go better with a black top or a white one?
  • I so want to go out in that green dress. Maybe this weekend. Can I get the time off?
  • Makeup is such a pain. I wonder how much laser costs.
  • Can I really wear a strappy sundress? I’d definitely need to get rid of my T-shirt tan lines first.
  • I could have gone to work in a dress yesterday. No, maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea. Well, at least I could’ve gone to the coffee shop in a dress. Who cares what my neighbors think?
  • Is my video camera good enough to make a haul video?

Gender fog

You may have heard about “gender fog.” Also known as “pink fog,” “pink cloud” or “gender euphoria,” it’s an intense emotion that many transgender people experience around a significant event. I used to get it when I tried on a new outfit, particularly a kind that I had fantasized about (when I was a teenager, that involved short skirts and nylons). Now it mostly happens when I go out in public presenting as a woman.
SAMSUNG
This excitement is relative, and it depends on how much I’m used to the activity. If I haven’t cross-dressed at all in months, I may feel some gender fog just at cross-dressing. The same thing for shaving or haircuts, or new outfits. If I’ve been cross-dressing a lot, and shaving and maybe even getting new outfits on a regular basis, I don’t get as excited. Since I haven’t been going out cross-dressed very much lately, just going out can bring on very intense euphoria.

For me, gender fog generally starts as soon as I make plans to go out. I get insomnia, where instead of sleeping I lie in bed thinking about what I’m going to wear, where I’m going to change, whether I’m going to meet up with anyone, when I’m going to leave, where I’m going to shop and what I’m going to buy, whether I’ll have a meal, and so forth. I dwell on potential problems, mostly around passing: is my makeup technique good enough to cover my beard? Is my belly too big? Are my shoulders too broad? Will it be too hot to wear a dress that flatters my figure? Have I been practicing my voice enough? Will my sinuses be clear enough?

When I finish changing and actually go out in public, I usually get very excited. Then, since whatever activity I do in public lasts several hours (otherwise it’s not really worth putting on all the makeup), at some point in the day or evening I’ll feel kind of tired or bored, and think, “I could be doing this in guy clothes, and it’d be a lot easier.” But then there will usually be something else interesting or fun that happens. I’m typically tired at the end of the trip, and sometimes I sleep very well for several nights afterwards.

The post-event gender fog usually involves some experience that made me happy, usually because it confirms my role as a woman. Because of this, many of these involve passing or acceptance. I got a cute outfit. I used my female voice for the first time. A guard directed me to the women’s room in Rockefeller Center. A waiter flirted with me. A transitioned trans woman briefly thought I was a non-trans woman. A woman complimented my look. I went to an interesting part of the city or event that I’d never been to as a woman. Or maybe it was just the experience of walking through the city, being accepted as one of the women.

After the experience, I find myself dwelling on it, thinking about how I could repeat or extend it. If I got a cute outfit, I think about wearing it at home, or on a future outing. Maybe I think about future outfits. If it’s an interaction, I think about other interactions. If it’s a place, I think about going back to that place, or to other places. I also may think about things that were time-consuming or inconvenient, and about ways that I could make them easier.

If I had a really good time or if I did something really new for me, I may be high for days, thinking about nothing but my experience. My wife and friends get really tired of hearing about it. I have trouble concentrating at work. I may plan to go out again, sooner than I had originally thought. I may think about more “soft body mods,” like ear piercing, growing my hair or permanent leg or facial hair removal.

The gender fog always lasts for several days after the event. Usually I use ten days as a rule of thumb, although if I ever go out more than once in a ten-day period the excitement is compounded.

Yesterday I went out in public, and I’m definitely feeling the gender fog. It’s not as intense as it has been at some times. I had trouble sleeping the night before, and I was expecting to sleep better last night, but I had similar difficulties. On the other hand, my difficulty sleeping may be unrelated to this experience. I’ve been having insomnia lately anyway, and the heat doesn’t help.

Some of you may be scoffing at this. If you transitioned years ago and have been living a quiet life as your target gender, then yes you probably don’t have experiences like this. Similarly if you’ve got a stable genderqueer or genderfluid existence. If you’re transitioning then your outings are probably more extensive, frequent and social than my shopping trips. But I’ve seen transitioners have similar reactions to other milestones, particularly relating to hormonal body modifications and legal and social acceptance. I’m guessing that you’ve all had some feeling like this.