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And this I internalized. Little did I know that what I was seeing was a reverse discourse directed against certain theories of transness that had historically been used against trans people.

I thought it was just the unfiltered experience of trans people, and when your feelings and intuitions are as tentative as mine were, and you're used to suppressing them entirely for so long... then sometimes it doesn't take much invalidation to dismiss them.

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But even when I realized I was clearly some kind of trans to some extent—8/4/2017, I remember the day—I couldn't figure this out.

The thing is: I saw trans people say over and over and over that gender identity and sexual orientation are separate.

I had once dared to suggest in a Quora answer that actually, I'd been able to track down a few examples of trans people who'd found their orientation change (usually widen) but it had gotten shut down fast by others.

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Anyway, I can go on about my experiences during those years and some day I probably will, but what little contact I had with trans people and representations of trans people was never relatable, for reasons that still largely make sense, so I didn't figure that out for years—and I just couldn't relate in a sexual or romantic way to women AS A MAN, and I still can't.

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I knew a bunch of those. Always looked up to them. Wanted to be like them. (egg! egg! egg!)

But that seemed hardly relevant. Right?

I think I knowingly interacted with one trans woman before moving to San Francisco in 2013. She was shy and totally stealth outside the queer community at Caltech, just keeping her head down doing a technical job. I don't remember much about her and wouldn't tell you any detail if I did, because for all I know she's still stealth.

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The idea of adopting the role of a straight man in a heteronormative relationship scared the hell out of me. (Of course!)

And I've never been especially attracted, to this day, to the heteronormative ideal of an attractive woman. The women in straight or "lesbian" porn do nothing for me. The fashion models, actresses and pop singers whose pictures my male teenage peers had been so excited about always left me cold.

I'd dare say this experience is not unheard of. FOR LESBIANS.

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In hindsight it made perfect sense. I was very aware of the way that (presumed) straight men can make women (justifiably!) uncomfortable just by looking at them for a split second too long, and absolutely mortified about doing so even accidentally, which clearly happened sometimes when I wanted to read what it said on a woman's t-shirt or the book she was reading or admire a creative hairstyle or whatever.

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All that said, there's been one big thing I didn't see coming. I identified as a gay man for 16 years. Had several relationships. Even moved in together with one boyfriend, for a while.

What I didn't know was the extent to which I was suppressing my bisexuality.

Plenty of people suppress their gay or bi nature to perform socially acceptable straightness, but vice versa? I'm not sure I'd considered the possibility.

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Not about things I couldn't possibly know about, obviously. I haven't started believing in the supernatural or paranormal, exactly.

But when it's about predicting my own feelings and prejudices, there's nothing weird about being fairly accurate about that. I have access to a lot of the raw material my future self will be built from, after all.

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I mean, things have fluctuated a little bit. I've stopped some femme style markers and adopted some others, but in the grand scheme of things, the fluctuation has been minimal.

And I did indeed mostly stop wearing makeup the moment remaining beard stubble became tolerable from a dysphoria point of view. Though I've been experimenting a bit with mascara. So far... I like the look, but it's a hassle.

Anyhow, one thing I've learned from all this is to trust my intuition more.

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But I sorry spent years developing the mental habits of critical thinking. And then later, considerable time in CBT therapy learning to turn that skill inwards to critically evaluate thoughts about myself.

And so I made extra special double sure to allow for the possibility that maybe, I would love to be a girly girl once I got over my shame, and that this whole trans-fem-but-not-femme thing might just be a coping mechanism.

A year and a half into transition I've experienced no such thing.

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I have been careful not to put too much hope in specific transition expectations and to take everything one step at a time.

And I'm glad. It was a loving, thoughtful thing I did for myself.

BUT—

Virtually all the things that I kind of suspected but didn't feel justified in relying upon have turned out to be... true.

Like, I recall telling my friend when we were buying makeup to use to cover my beard shadow that I might not wanna wear makeup anymore once my beard was far enough gone.

I responded on The Other Site to a request for things trans people want cis people to know about us. Gonna share it here also:

It's fine if you don't understand. I don't understand it either. That doesn't make it go away, though. Being trans doesn't emerge from some theory or understanding. It just is. The stories we tell about it are maps, not the territory.

@kilodeer personal answer that may or may not apply to you:

I'm a trans woman. Genderqueer trans woman, is what I prefer to say, really. Anyway. I haven't shaved my legs in ages.

I did it sometimes before I transitioned! I guess in hindsight it was dysphoria relief. Identifying as a gay man gave me an excuse to do such mildly gender non-conforming things, though.

But the hair has gotten thinner and softer on HRT. And I don't wanna look like "dude" anymore but I'm A-okay with "hairy dyke."

mental health, dysphoria 

But to come back to the top of the thread: it's ruining my ability to live in my head.

Sure, that approach to life had been wearing me out and I don't wanna think about another 30 or 40 or 50 years of living that way, but it had its benefits.

Fortunately, it's by no means entirely gone. I think everyone has it to some extent.

But I can't wait for my orchiectomy. I know it's totally unpredictable whether it will do all I am hoping, but it's gonna be as positive step.

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mental health, dysphoria 

Aso I decided to take a rigorously experimental approach to transition. Do one thing, see if it helps. If things decrease the social awkwardness of gender ambiguity but don't affect dysphoria, at least try out if you can just get over it instead. Get over social anxiety by escalating in lots of tiny tiny steps.

The whole thing required a pretty obsessive attitude but it's paid off even more than getting obsessed with compilers and programming language design.

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mental health, dysphoria 

So I did what I do in such situations: I scienced the hell out of it. I'd managed to get a sabbatical leave from work and spent months reading blogs and academic papers and books.

And then I concluded that (a) the "experts" were full of shit, and (b) when trans people told a narrative that didn't match my experience, it was a mix of one part genuine variation in ways to be trans and one part attempts to appease prejudice.

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mental health, dysphoria 

But bootstrapping that realization into a mental justification for transition took some intellectual work. I'd gotten pretty far in life by being serious about critical thinking and the scientific method. The idea of taking these big leaps based purely on intuition seemed very unwise. I needed to at least know that others with similar intuitions had proven them correct. And that's harder when you feel like your sense of gender may be idiosyncratic even for a trans person.

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mental health, dysphoria 

Like, seriously, I'm trans in a somewhat peculiar way. In a sense, I don't think "agender" is a completely inaccurate term. I have never had a strong conviction up front that I was in some abstract, absolute sense a woman all along. And yet, time and again I've found that making my body more female or at least ambiguous makes my brain work better. And that being socially categorized as female bothers me a LOT less than the only alternative available in most contexts.

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mental health, dysphoria 

It dovetails nicely with my particular kind of neurodivergence. If you're going to get obsessed with a thing that distracts you from reality it might as well be a thing that involves systematizing and problem solving. It might be getting good at OpenTTD or calligraphy or accordion playing one day, but on another it could be compiler design. Or transness. That was a good one.

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mental health, dysphoria 

There have been periods of my life when I managed to direct this relentless drive to distraction from my embodied existence, and relatedly from my social shame and anxiety, in ways that were at least socially desirable or practically useful. At some point, in college, I distracted myself from the guilt I felt toward my physics professors for being behind by learning CS instead. That turned out very lucrative…

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