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.
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.

Some Transgender Principles

As I have time, I’m going to gradually migrate my writings from my old transvestite website to this new blog, revising and updating them in the process. I’ll also write new articles as the muse strikes me. Many of them will relate to this list of principles that I developed in 2005 and have been expanding since.

For the past two and a half years I’ve been participating on the (en)gender Message Boards, moderated by Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty, and her husband Betty Crow. It’s a really good group of people, with lots of interesting ideas about transgender phenomena, but over that time I’ve found myself saying a few things over and over again. This page is written in part to save myself some typing on this message board; the next time one of these comes up I can just link to Principle 3. Kind of like the joke about the comedians’ club.

Right now I’ll just write a little blurb for each principle. As time goes on I may expand them into full-fledged articles.

1. No one really knows what’s going on
Discussions about transgenderism are often full of generalizations: “Transgender individuals are like this,” or “Transsexuals are like this, but cross-dressers are like that.” The fact of the matter is that nobody’s done enough research to prove this, so everyone’s going on hunches. Unfortunately, hunches can often be wrong. The bottom line is that nobody has information beyond the people that they’ve talked to. Except in Sweden. Continue reading “Some Transgender Principles”