As I’ve written before, one of the signature transgender feelings is gender fog: an intense excitement around a significant gender event, along with a narrow focus on that event, lasting up to three weeks. This is important because it can feed dysphoria: for me in the past, focusing so much on gender, and on a different gender presentation, made the rest of my life seem like an uninteresting distraction from the exciting gender stuff. But that’s an illusion: you can’t live a long, fulfilling life that’s nonstop exciting gender stuff. You need more sustainable sources of pleasure.
The workaround that I’ve developed for this is relatively simple: I space my significant gender events out in time. Through trial and error I’ve found that if I leave at least six weeks between events, there is time for me to get over the feelings of gratification after the event and turn my focus to other aspects of my life, like my work, my family and my research, before beginning to anticipate the next event. Sometimes I’ve been a bit surprised to discover that I also find those things interesting, and even exciting at times.
I’ve encountered another challenge with gender fog: insomnia, particularly in the anticipatory stage. On occasion I’ve had several sleepless nights in a row, just thinking about what I planned to do, where I was going to go, and what I was going to wear. It’s not good to lose too much sleep, especially when you need to be alert for other activities.
The workaround I’ve been using for that has been to try and avoid planning any significant gender event, and instead try to decide that I’m going to go out with a feminine gender presentation on the spur of the moment. Sometimes I’ve even faked myself out, telling myself that I probably would go to a different activity, and then changing my mind at the last minute.
That has helped me avoid some of the insomnia, but it has made it hard to share these events with friends. Several times in the past few years I’ve contacted friends at the last minute, but they’ve all been busy. One activity I’ve been particularly interested in is transgender karaoke, but it’s very hard to get three or more people together for karaoke on short notice.
This past time I stumbled on something that worked fairly well: I organized a karaoke event three weeks in advance, instead of one or two weeks. My friend Alex invited me to a picnic, and he and a number of others at the picnic expressed interest in karaoke, so we set a date.
I had a bit of difficulty sleeping for a couple of nights right around the time I announced the karaoke get-together, but then I pretty much got over it and started paying attention to other things going on in my life. I slept fairly well every night from then until a couple of nights before the outing, which is fairly normal for me.
It’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from this one instance. This was a particularly anxiety-provoking outing, because it was the first time in fourteen years that I appeared in a skirt in my own neighborhood. In addition, there were a number of other things that caused me to lose sleep. My two-year job (extended for three months) came to an end, and I was anxious about the prospect of finding new work – especially since my name is publicly associated with being trans. My family and I adopted a new cat, who spent the first few nights affectionately head-butting me in the face as I tried to sleep. Given all these things, it’s surprising that I got as much sleep as I did, even without the gender fog!