Because I read a book about this stuff and want to talk about it.
Last month I read Uncomfortable Labels: My Life As a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale, as I have personally been following Laura’s work over the past few years. I found the assorted snippets of her past to be rather intriguing, if not relatable, and that title is a mostly accurate descriptor of myself. I mean, two outta three is at least worth something. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the insights it provided, and reading through Laura’s memoirs got me thinking that, hey, I have a rinky dink little platform where I can talk about being an austitic trans woman, and a generally odd little duck, so I should do that. Sure, doing so will be embarrassing, and reveal a number of very personal details to the world, but secrets are made to be shared!
Starting with a bit of a preamble, my name is Natalie Neumann, I was born in 1994, assigned male at birth, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 6, did not start beginning my gender transition in earnest until mid 2016, and have been presenting myself as female since January of 2018. That’s the long and short of it, but I have loads to talk about my travels and current status, so I’ll just go through things in more of a chronological order, because I need some structure with topics this sprawling. Not that it helped this post from being a rambly mess.
Part 1: The Autistic and Early Years
From a very early age I was considered a very bright but also very reclusive child. I quickly learned basic mathematics by the time I was two-years-old and learned to read and write shortly thereafter, but laggard in several other areas. My general coordination and motor skills, my speech and verbal articulation, and my social skills were all considerably lesser than most other children my age, which my parents quickly took note of, as they had previously seen early childhood development occur in my older sister. I never attended a conventional daycare and spent much of my early childhood, up to age 5, at my paternal grandmother’s house, who provided me with a quiet and open environment where I was offered a great deal of freedom and autonomy. I was monitored by my grandmother, of course, but if I wanted to play with my toys, watch TV, eat snacks, or just wander around her house, I was given free reign, only called aside when it was time for me to practice and develop my reading, writing, or mathematics skills, normalizing me to those subjects at a young age
Now, I was not strictly alone with her all the time, as occasionally other family members were around on a given day, or she extended her loosely defined daycare services to a few other children, who incidentally served as my first opportunity to really engage in meaningful social interaction with people the same age as me, give or take a year. Due to the small scale of our environment, and the fact that we were so young that we had no reason to not get along, I managed to succeed in these interactions, and became friends, for as little as such a term means when you barely understand who you are yet.
On that note, the typical narrative for a transgender person is for them to hem, haw, and go on about how obvious the signs were at an early age and how they have, in some way, always found dissonance between their sex and gender. This is something that is commonly presented as a sort of requirement for someone to be transgender, a long-standing knowledge that something was amiss with one’s body and placement within society from a very early age. But that is not the case for every transgender person, as feelings of gender dysphoria, a disconnect between one’s perosnal identity and their bioloigcal sex, can arrise at varrying times in one’s life, and does not really need to prescribe to a set narrative.
I say this because as a small child I really did not feel anything that I would peg as gender dysphoria or the like. The world told me that I was a boy, said that boys like certain things, should act a certain way, and I accepted what they told me for the most part, without having any real reservations or objections to a lot of things levied towards me. I certainly was more quiet, emotional, and less physically inclined than most of my male peers, but while a lot of the world I grew up in was very gender coded, it never was particularly extreme. As in, I was never mocked for a lack of masculinity, excess of femininity, or generally not willing to conform to a rigid standard. Those standards did exist, don’t get me wrong, and there were certain expectations, but beyond some light teasing from others claiming that Y was for boys or X was for girls, I truly do not recall any deeply gendered insults beyond soft-edged schoolyard sexism, which largely persisted until high school.
So yes, I did not have a deeply troubled internal identity crisis before I learned the multiplication tables, but I am not saying my childhood was devoid of some more feminine inclinations. When I was little, my sister once dressed me up in some of her more overtly feminine clothes. She painted my nails at least once, though it never lasted very long. And I played with her dolls on a few occasions, though I never really liked them due to the artificial hair, which lacked the consistency of the plastic toys I was used to. But as a child with an older sister, I viewed this type of behavior as being completely normal, and did not consider it to be defying the gender norms that, while not heavily reinforced upon me, were still present, and did hinder me at a few angles.
For example, I distinctly remember picking up certain toys and putting them down when I was told that they were ‘for girls’ or not watching cartoons I was interested in such as Sailor Moon and the Powerpuff Girls because they were ‘girl shows’. These limitations never necessarily irked me on a deeper level, but they were arbitrary restrictions that made me wonder what it would be like if I was female. These ideas were only fueled by various episodes of cartoons I watched wherein characters switched bodies or changed sexes. Fairly popular concepts for episodic entertainment that provided a narrative explanation for somebody who was male to become female, at least in a physical sense.
This idea really stuck with me, and was something I would occassionally think about, but I did have enough social wherewithall to recognize that my fascination with this subject was abnromal and nonconforming, so I kept my inclinations and fascination with this concept a secret. Though I would often act out short stories with my assorted and absurdly large collection of toys, when I wasn’t enacting out video games using guide books and a hefty dose of imagination.
But because I was only really interested in the type of shows that were enjoyed by my male peers and had a particular fascination with large multimedia Japanese series, my toy collection largely consisted of Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z figures. So the only female figuresI came across were Misty and Jessie from Pokemon, and Videl and Android 18 from Dragon Ball Z, and certain little Digimon that were just ladies but in weird costumes.
All of whom had body shapes that were quite different than any of the other figures, and I found their forms rather fascinating as I handled them with my grubby little child hands and shoved them in my mouth sometimes. You know how most children grow out of the oral fixation period before pre-school? It took me until I was 11 or so before I got over that. Which could have been an extension on my fixation to touch things, as I did, and still love, feeling the differences between objects with varying textures. From rocks, plastics plant life, wood, and so forth, as a child I loved touching everything and rarely shied away from the opportunity to examine something with my hands… even if my examining often involved destroying the thing in question. I chipped away at so much paint, killed so many plants, and sent so many of my toys to the crazy glue hospital over my early years…
…What was I going on about again? Oh, right, fondling toys that were just sexy ladies. Yeah, my particular fascination with them and fondness for using them could be interpreted as a sign of internal gender issues, but honestly it could also be attributed to a ‘boy’ developing sexual inclinations at an early age.
Jumping back to the loosely established timeline, I had managed to do quite well within the very loose and freeing environment of my grandmother’s house at an early age, and for the most part that same type of success was found as I began attending school. While school was a very noisy and sometimes confusing place for me at an early age, there was a clear schedule, regimented activities, and stated objectives to accomplish. I was taught things, told to do things, and did them, succeeding in the structure that was established before me, and was not particularly bothered by the larger group structure one would expect from a class of 20 to 25, as they were more of an ancillary background feature next to the lecture provided by the teacher. Plus, I liked the act of learning, still do, and before I began attending school with Kindergarten I was given several opportunities to grow more accustomed to larger groups.
Between soccer lessons, where I quickly grew frustrated with the movement, noise, and my own physical inability to kick the ball with a modicum of force, eventually choosing to spend most of my time climbing nearby trees. Church and Sunday School sessions, which I only attended for a year or two before my parents realized that I did not enjoy having my days eaten up by travelling to a building and being told a bunch of things I didn’t understand while sitting around bored and dejected children. And a number of social skills sessions I was sent to before attending school, where I spoke either with children or adults who also helped me with my, as of then, undiagnosed autism by helping me with my hand eye coordination and teaching me how to say the L, S, Sh, Ch, and Th sounds properly.
So yes, I was not necessarily unfamiliar with the act of being around a classroom of mostly directed children my age, but I did struggle when that structure was changed. During Kindergarten recess I would often leave the hectic playground behind, and spend most of my time in the nearby retention pond, where it was quiet, I had a lot of space to myself, and I was left to come up with my own sources of entertainment, often opting to go on imaginary hunts for washed up treasure or alligator eggs. Though I never did find anything other than bugs when searching through the damp grassy plains. Then in grade school I just sat and wandered around a shady picnic area with a lot of benches and tables, and pursued whatever idea my imagination fancied.
That was my mentality with a lot of these more open and noisy situations. I would quickly look for a way to shy away from them, effectively isolating myself, and I only actively participated in them when I was forced to by a teacher or encouraged by a friend. And surprisingly, I managed to snag quite a few friends once I started grade school. Between Ashour, Michael, Sony, Andrew, Danny, Anam, and some others I am probably forgetting, I cast a wide net of companions early on. This seems like a very odd turn of events based on the narrative I’m spinning here, but one must remember the nature of relationships between 6-year-olds. Everything is simple, personalities ast still undefined, and people have less to disagree about. But that all started to change after 3rd grade, when I began drifting apart from these people and began adopting a single friend mentality. Which is my way of saying that I went from having friends to having a friend.
In fourth grade I was really close with Zack, but then he moved so I started conversing with Marlon in 5th grade, who eventually started going by Geo… or Gio. I never learned how he spelled it. Then met up with Osama later on in 5th grade, who later changed his name to Usman because terror begets bigotry, and eventually Matt. Matt served as my main friend throughout most of middle and high school, before I had a little episode where I questioned the very nature and purpose of friendship, closing things off in a regrettable and hurtful display that left me more or less isolated for almost two years, and I have not spoken to him since 2014.
As my friend, these people could expect to see me move out of my reserved and quiet shell and received the full brunt of my specific interests and fixations around certain television shows or video games, namely Pokemon and Dragon Ball, both of which I had an encyclopedic knowledge. A knowledge born from obsessive viewings of the series on TV and home video, as I had a sizable VHS collection of both, assorted Pokemon strategy guides and handbooks, and Pojo’s Unofficial Total Dragon Ball Z, which I remember being a treasure trove of information on things that were still years away from airing.
In other words, I was a nerdy kid with obsessive interests who did not socialize very much, often isolated themselves when their friend was unavailable, and also got into emotional hissy fits that were considered guache for my age. So naturally I was subjected to bullying, but it was largely relegated to simply verbal insults for my obsessions, speech issues so bad that I could not even pronounce my deadname properly or mockery of my natural red hair color. I initially responded by getting sad and telling my teacher like a good little student, but the bullying persisted from a former friend of mine, Michael, who persistently taunted me day in and day out during recess for about a year. He would approach me, get on my nerves, and I would eventually get so upset at him that I would chase him away, and fail to catch him because I was a slow child who could not hope to catch anyone even at a dash.
This only stopped once I finally grew so frustrated with my own inabilities that I began having an emotional breakdown during recess. An adult eventually found me, took me in to speak to somebody, and I muttered how I was being bullied by Michael. He stopped taunting me after that, moved away the following year, and I never really had an experience with bullying again. But that’s mostly due to how my eccentricities began adopting a more… worrying trend. Self harm!
As I started middle school, I began to struggle more with certain things, and that instilled a great deal of stress within me. Classes were now given different teachers, rooms, and schedules, I now had to keep my supplies in a locket. I had to make it from class to class within 3 minute breaks, I had to deal with considerably more homework, and I had to make sure that my grades kept my GPA high enough, as that was now the definitive measure of one’s academic performance. The latter task was made all the more challenging due to how my middle school adopted a harsher grading curve. Basically, I began to truly worry about school for the first time in my life, and when I didn’t do as well as I wanted, I would become deeply unsettled, try to find a way to recover, and look at my grades, numbers that I used to represent my worth as a person, to try and find a way to make them high enough to get the academic achievement that were imposed on me.
But in my more colorful botches, I would enter a fetal position, cry, and bash my head against a wall as a means of punishing myself. I felt that I was so stupid, so terrible for getting a bad grade, that I deserved to experience brain damage, a concussion, internal bleding, or death whichever came first. My coping skills were problematic, my obsessions over my GPA became severe, and I normalized this behavior over time so that I wound up having an episode approximately once per quarter (school quarters that is) all the way through the tail end of high school. Though I stopped this habit once I attended college, as I simply was not nearly as stressed out about my classes as I was in middle school or high school. Possibly due to mental maturity, and possibly due to the fact that once I got to college, I was good enough at school that I didn’t need to worry about getting good grades.
Anyways, imagine the reputation that would follow the sort of person who had panic attacks like this and combine it with the fact that I started visibly brimming with frustration and malice whenever somebody interrupted a lesson with some, as I interpreted it, inane dribble. Mix them both together and you have somebody who probably registered on a number of radars as a weird overly emotional kid who should probably be left alone, and may resort to violence.
Now, the next obvious question should be what my school did about this. Well, there was this one time when I whacked a kid with my lunchbox on the way home from middle school, because they were annoying me, which suspended me from Field Day, which I always hated anyways. Right, I probably should explain what Field Day is. On the last full day of the school year, my elementary and middle schools would hold a massive celebration for all the children where they would play games, serve free food, and host general festivities. This was always followed by the actual final day of school, which lasted 20 minutes, involved children saying their goodbyes for the summer, and was when report cards were distributed.
So, yeah, aside from that one time, my schools really did not do much to disincentivize my behavior. But they did recognize me as a ‘special need’ kid early on, and gave me an ‘independent education plan’ from an early age which, as the name implies, offered me some accommodations, but it mostly mandated that I go to speech classes once a week, where I made very little progress in my verbal articulation skills, attend group meetings with other children with ‘behavioral quirks,’ and occasionally I was sent to the classroom for the children with Down’s Syndrome and other severe developmental disabilities, because I had high functioning autism. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what happened.
They also offered me independent study hall periods starting in middle school, and bizarrely decided to put me in ‘lower level’ English classes because they thought it would be good for me. While I personally loved study halls in school and felt that they did wonders for helping me organize and focus on my classes, offering me a place to study and work on homework, the alternative English classes caused my existing misunderstandings of the fundamentals of the language to only linger on. So I would call my school district’s approach to how they should handle me something of a mixed bag, let’s say.
I guess the best way to summarize this section is to say that as a child I was meek for the most part, had a number of issues, both physical and mental, and had only slight inclinations of gender dysphoria that I mostly just ignored because while I acknowledged gender norms, I never felt suffocated by them. However, in these sorts of stories the real discomfort only arises during puberty, which is incidentally where things get really embarrassing. I probably should be more careful with how I word this section, and the details I share, but… I’d rather share the raw, definitive, and uncut truth.
Part 2: The Fetishistic and Puberty Years
Puberty is a weird time for most children, as their bodies are changing at different rates and in different places, over the span of several years that are meant to represent the gap between one’s child form and adult form. As a child, it was always described to me as an unfavorable experience, one that was meant to breed bodily disdain and hatred, at least until the transformation is finally complete. I anticipated the worse from an early age, but I think I might have been too taken into the hyperbole I was fed.
Don’t get me wrong, I hated just about every change that happened to me. I despised the hairs that would grow on my arms and legs and would often bite at them, because, again, weird kid. I disliked the weird feeling in my privates that popped up sporadically while sitting in class. I actively avoided looking at my face any time I could. And I certainly did not care for how my voice became deeper, but even though it did become deeper, it was never really all that deep. I don’t have any recordings of my pre-transition voice, and I sure as shit can’t emulate it now, but let’s just say that I sounded like I was 12 even when I was 20.
Facial hair was also a gripe, but because I have a fair and light hair color, and blotchy blobs of reddish fuzz didn’t start popping up on my face until I was 17, it was nothing that could not be repressed with a daily shave or two. And, once I had a razor in my possession, I began to look to the bothersome hair adorning the rest of my body, and began shaving it away regularly ever since. I honestly barely even noticed my Adam’s apple, since it wound up being super tiny. Height was never really an issue since I’m only 5’10, or 178 cm, which is still an inch shorter than my mother. And while I’m at it, I’ve always been a skinny person since puberty, and have never weighed more than 130 pounds, or about 59 kg.
Seeing these gradual changes happening to me, and observing my body become more masculine was concerning to me, but I accepted it as something that just had to happen. It was natural, it was how life worked, and while it did suck, it was supposed to since life sucks. Then, during the summer of 2008, I started revisiting the idea of ‘becoming a girl,’ and began regularly dressing up in my sister’s clothes, which didn’t fit me for the most part due to weight differences, wearing a bra stuffed with cotton balls, and nesting my genitals into a pair of her panties, which I kept hidden away in the corner of my sock drawer. I would play dress up with her assorted clothing regularly, trying out her heels, and even experimenting with makeup, only to give up after making an ass of myself. I must have done this at least a dozen times, and would have certainly continued, as I truly loved dressing up like that and making myself look like a woman from the neck down. I kept at it until I was almost caught by my father when he came home early one day. I was terrified of the conversation that would follow if I were caught dressing up in my sister’s clothes, so I stopped then and there.
Now, you are probably wondering how I jumped straight into ‘cross-dressing’ like that, and the answer is both simple and complex. I finally decided to look up my interest in seeing media wherein males become females on the internet, and said interest blossomed into an obsession of mine. An obsession that is commonly referred to by monikers like TG, Gender Bender, and TSF (at least in Japan). I have discussed this material in length before, and I personally described as “content that has a character undergo a change in sex through some fictitious or fantastical means, with the ensuing narrative, assuming there is one beyond the initial transformation, centering on how they adapt to this new situation.”
So in short, all of that stuff I liked as a child wherein characters underwent a change in biological sex or ‘gender bending’ body swaps, that’s TG. The playtime Dragon Ball Z fanfiction I came up with where Yakon (the green monster from the Babidi saga) steals Videl’s body and has the real Videl get killed by Gohan with the Z Sword, that’s TG. The terminology here is weird and I don’t really like it, but I have previously voiced these grievances in the past, and this post is already too damn long. The long and short of it is that I started delving down this hole by binging Ramna ½, a very common starting point, which led me to delve down into an internet rabbit hole where I scoured through ‘gender bender’ artwork on DeviantArt, soaked up YouTube videos of clips depicting body swaps and TG sequences from shows and movies, most of which came from channels with some variation of the name JadeTrue, and delved into some more colorful avenues. From the OG TG writing bastion that is Fictionmania.tv, hunting for good TG fan fics on Fanfiction.net, pillaging through Writing.com (which is borderline unusable nowadays), and diving through TG Caption sites, which I should explain.
So, I mentioned the core narrative crux of TG, right? Well, TG captions are basically an easy and efficient way to make varied TG content using a story short enough to fit on an index card, and some image of a woman that represents the main character after they were TGed, swapped bodies, possessed somebody, et cetera. I soaked these up in my early teenage years, and when I was still feeling out this surprisingly large rabbit hole, I got to thinking that, which I could not suddenly become female like the characters featured in TG media, I could, at the very least, try dressing up as a girl to get a loose idea for what it feels like. That led to my exploration with my sister’s wardrobe, and after such experiments were concluded due to fear, I decided to double down on TG, and see where the surprisingly deep rabbit hole led me.
A question I should probably answer here is why my fascination with this material did not lead me to explore the idea that I myself was transgender. Well, the long and short of it is that I looked over what being transgender entailed, looked up a few people, started following the vlogs of a trans woman, and tried to get assorted information about the subject. While I did have a strong desire to be female, or at least try it out for a bit, I did not consider my desires to be enough to make me transgender. I wanted to give it a go, but I was met with murmurs about intensive and pricey surgeries, social ostracization, and a series of images of trans women who… honestly looked pretty ugly to me. I was given information, looked it over, and reached the conclusion that I was not compatible with the requirements for what it meant to be transgender. So what was I then? Well, considering how I really liked TG media, and it was the first thing I ever encountered that regularly gave me an erection, I eventually decides that, no, I’m not uncomfortable enough with myself to be transgender, I’m just a big old pervert!
I identified with several terms over these years. Asexual fetishist, as my sexual desires were squarely placed on TG stuff and my own fantasies. Self-sexual, because I did masturbate quite a lot from the age 15 through 20, after which I effectively stopped masturbation altogether. And autogynephile, which refers to a male who finds the idea of themselves being a woman to be sexually arousing. This term has some dubious origins, being tied to a theory that is complete bullshit, but since my only source of sexual relief was imagining myself or some male turning into a girl, I figured that the term fit well enough.
However, my sexual preferences at that time were also a bit… odder than just being into everything and anything that featured a male becoming a female through some fantastical means, and I just don’t mean the type of preferences that everybody has. From a very young age I developed a resentment towards nudity, and even to this day, I’m still not a fan of visual depictions of a naked human body. This also naturally applies to sex as, to me, visualized sex is nudity to the second power, involving two or more individuals, bashing their private no-nos together, and often adopting unnatural poses or uttering odd noises. I have gotten used to this after years of exposure to erotic comics and the ilk (I genuinely read them for their stories and habitually skim over the lewd bits), but I would still vastly prefer something that censors the naughty bits, the female nipples, the vagina, and the penis and testicles, to something that depicts the activity in its full ‘glory.’ So long as I cannot visually see the sex or any gross nudity, then it is fine in my book.
As for why I feel this way, it’s due to a combination of things. From a very young age I viewed genitalia as body parts that were never meant to be shown to others, i.e. private parts, and as such I felt a twinge of horror whenever I encountered them. From seeing an old man’s hairy crotch at a public pool locker room when I was 7 or so, stumbling onto a porn site when trying to access Cheat Code Central back when I was 10, to that time I saw 1968’s Halloween back when I was 6, which… yeah, that one probably explains a lot. I mean, the film begins with a brief bit of nudity before a young woman is murdered for having pre-martial sex, and the rest of the film is about a murderer going on a vindictive rampage against sex having teenagers. For teenagers having sex is a crime deserving of death. Or in other words, my first experience with nudity tied nudity to sex and intertwined both those things with murder.
Now, I have not seen the film since, and could be misremembering things completely, but that was the sole reference point I had for sex until I was formally taught about it in health class back in middle school and high school. When I learned that sex is a great way to spread chronic lethal diseases and that the pregnancy process is genuinely horrifying. Gee, I wonder why I was so turned off to the stuff that typically turned people on…
Then there was that one time when my middle school once showed a class of mine the film adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank back in middle school, which has a scene wherein a group of naked women are sent to a gas chamber. Oh, and how can I forget the incident where I was watching a RogerregoRRoger Newgrounds flash animation that had nippleless female frontal nudity in it, and my mother came into my room while I was watching it and censoring the screen myself using a tissue. You can imagine the rest of the story from there.
So, yeah, not a lot of good nudity influences were seen throughout my childhood. If there were any, they certainly did not leave much of an impact, and were repressed under puritanical values that I internalized from a young age, and now I find nudity and sex to be all icky yucky no-good, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. I have immersed myself with ample amounts of visual nudity and sex scenes, which have almost exclusively been illustrations or 3D renderings, very rarely anything based in reality, and I still don’t like it. But there are two very real exceptions where I am okay with it. Okay in that I am fine with the content, and do not experience a twinge of revulsion when I encounter it. Not in the sense that I find it hot or anything. Nudity is and always was a big turn off for me.
Firstly, if the sex or nudity is outlandish and crazy, a complete abstraction, or is illustrated in a way that does not draw from reality, then I am okay with it… for some reason. So a perfectly normal couple having missionary sex is yucky and I don’t wanna look at it. But something like that comic where Shinji Ikari turns into a cactus woman and gets bum-sexed by a cactus man? That’s a-okay in my book. Secondly, if the visual aspect is removed and the nudity or sex scene is only presented in written form, then I am totally cool with it. Hell, when it comes to writing sex scenes, which I have done, and recently at that, I have no issue with it, because I am not seeing the nudity with my eyes, so the ickiness factor is not in effect. And when I do write them, I tend to take more of a pragmatic approach, using them to put characters into the places I want them to be, and when I do describe the acts, I tend to focus on what is going on in the characters’ heads, rather than saucy descriptions of wet hot sex. I still throw in some erotic flavoring for good measure, but I do not write them for people to get off. I write them to advance the story and characters, and because sex is a good plot device.
Now, if that whole explanation sounds like a bunch of semi-contradictory horse hockey… that’s because it kind of is. I don’t like seeing sex or nudity, real, drawn, or whatever, but I can appreciate it if it’s weird or abstract, and if it is written, or I’m writing it, I have no issues, because the nuddy bits only exist in my head. It is a warped and bizarre stance to take on things, but that’s where my travels landed me, and that’s how my brain works.
Oh, and to tie this around to being autistic, the fact that I was so obsessed over TG media could also be considered a demonstration of my autism. I mean, I have an organized collection of at least 35GB of TG artwork, comics, and so forth that I routinely update, and have been deliberately managing for over 5 years. Before then I mostly relied on DeviantArt’s favorites section, but then a bunch of artwork I liked was deleted, and I subsequently lost faith in internet data preservation. The internet is forever… except for when it isn’t.
Part 3: The Revelatory and Transitional Years
So, the next part in this mangled mesh of a narrative will naturally be me realizing that I am trans, going through the ol’ rigmarole, and eventually reaching the present. So, what was the catalyst for the realization that I was transgender? Well, it was a combination of things. The revelation came back in January of 2015 when I was 20. At that point, I had questioned my gender dozens and dozens of times and wondered whether or not I was trans for a good 6 years or so. These internal debates typically went a little something like this:
“Yeah, I don’t like the more male aspects of my body, but isn’t puberty supposed to be uncomfortable and kind of suck? Doesn’t everybody feel some degree of bodily dissonance? Besides, only an insignificant number of people are trans, and they seem to have always felt dysphoria from birth. I was comfortable with being a boy as a child, so I can’t possibly be trans. I don’t want to actually be a woman, I just like masturbating to the idea and think the fantasy is appealing.”
Only after I internalized how long I had been having this gradual mental debate that I realized that, oh shit, if I am thinking about this so intently, I’m probably trans. But aside from the passage of time what exactly caused me to break away from this wall of excuses and self imposed truscum rhetoric and face the truth? Well, it was increased exposure to trans people, as in the early to mid 2010s information about transgender people became drmatically more accessible and also more relatable. It was around this time that I started seeing people and creators whom I had caught wind of coming out as trans. This went a long way for me to realize that, oh snap, transgender people actually do exist, the status of being transgender is attainable, and if I want to, I can really be transgender.
Over the years I steadily encountered a lot of people whose work I enjoyed or enjoyed at one time in my life, and wound up being transgender. Just going off the top of my head there are Lily Orchard, Jacob Hope Chapman, Kdin Jenzen, Momoka Truong, Andrea Ritsu, Katie Lynne Harder, a whole bunch of TG artists who have come and gone over the years. But the one who really grounded the concept of being trans for me was Tiffany Brockhoff, also known as Rosalina-sama, who was the first person I saw come out as trans, and struck me as a somewhat disorganized and troubled autistic teenager, something I could relate to. I thought if she can come out as trans, and look pretty cute doing it, then maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for me.
Around the same time though, I was also exposed to a large number of older male figures for the first time in my life as I started working a corporate office job. While my body would not change much for the immediate future, I knew that as time went on, and unless I did something about it, I would begin adopting traits seen in these older men I was being exposed to. I hated what they looked like from a physical perspective, hated many of the masculine traits they expressed, and the idea of growing into some facsimile of them made me uncomfortable. Whereas I found the various women who worked at the office to feature physical and behavioral traits that I felt would be more appropriate given my internalized and still developing sense of self.
I began to truly ponder the deeper repercussions of outwardly projecting a sense of maleness and masculinity until the day I die and I dearly did not want that. I thought for several months that I simply wanted to have a more neutralized outward expression, to repress my more masculine tendencies, and to become more of an angrogynous person physically. But, and no offense to any non-binary folks out there, I said fuck that wishy washy bullshit. If I was going to change myself, I wanted to change myself in a way where I am seen as outwardly female. I rejected the masculinity that I had been living with and accommodating to for 20 years, and said that I’m going to try the other thing, something I had wanted to experience for… the vast majority of my life. So I went out, I did it, and my only regret is not starting my transition sooner.
Oh, but that’s just the prelude to my actual transition, and how I want about things, which I will detail for all of you. From spring 2015 onwards, after I had learned to accept that I was indeed trans, I began my first meaningful change by altering my voice. Yes, my lispy child-like voice that had become deeper, but I sought to undo that by pursuing some less than ideal methods. I did this by adopting a higher tone as I spoke and began using the M sound in order to raise my pitch. I frequently did this while alone at home, at my desk at work, and while walking home from community college. I would frequently make a ‘mm-hmm’ noise in order to preserve a higher pitch, and wound up with a lipsy falsetto voice that I eventually decided to adopt as my default voice. It sounded pretty garish for a few months, got better over time, but but dramatic improvements only came in the fall of 2017, when I began attending the Northwestern Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning.
They taught me a far better method of vocal feminization where I would raise my vocal pitch and then adopt a sort of droning gyrating tone as I made the M, N, and SH sounds, before saying words and sounds beginning with M, followed by short nonsense phrases beginning with M and N. Stuff like “mix the many milks” and “never kneel near the needles”. I continued practicing these exercises every morning for about a year before I stopped seeing progress, and decided that my voice was now good enough. It is still notably trans sounding and lispy, but I figured it was good enough.
Beyond altering my voice, and doing continued research, I really did not do much to pursue transition for the next year or so. You see, I am not a very independent person. I still live at home with the rest of my family, as does my older sister. And I generally do not like going out very much, beyond usual stops to the grocery store, work, and school. Plus, I don’t drive, because I am not comfortable operating heavy machinery with my lacking motor skills. This meant that I very much could not pursue my transition without my family becoming aware that something was up, and I wound up depending on my mother to aid me significantly in the process of transitioning. But in order to ask her for help, I would first need to tell her that I am transgender. So on May 18th, 2016, one day after I went to work with her, I printed out a letter for her, coming out as transgender, and tried reading it until I was brought to tears.
I provided her with a brief recount of how these feelings have been building up within me over the years, along with information of what I would need done as part of my transition. Including hormone replacement therapy, facial feminization surgery (FFS), electrolysis hair removal, and lower surgery to turn my penis into a vagina. She was surprised, but accepted me, and wound up guiding me with various things that I would have struggled with on account of my autism, and general lack of developed social skills. From getting hormones in June 2016, visiting FFS surgeons in the summer of 2017, buying female clothes in the fall of 2017, and bringing me to her hairstylist to help me develop a hairstyle that worked for me. I seriously could not have done this without her aid, and largely depended on her support to push me through this process.
Hormones to me represented the true ‘start’ of my transition. I was preventing my body from getting any more male, and taking tablets that made it unquestionably more feminine over time. My skin became softer, I began developing breasts that have yet to grow beyond micro-breasts, and some of my bodily fat redistributed itself, mostly around my face. The changes were also emotional ones, resulting in an influx of emotional outbursts early on, and the development of a different emotional range, which is a bit tricky to explain. The long and short of it is that I overall liked everything the hormones did and are doing to my body, and made me more comfortable with myself physically. I am more mellow and emotionally comfortable with myself most of the time, and the idea of stopping them is one that fills me with a legitimate sense of dread. Similar to how the very idea of presenting myself as male again is vomit inducing.
For a lot of people, hormones are a good encouragement to begin presenting oneself as their preferred gender, but I chose to wait it out. I was not comfortable with the idea of presenting myself as female given what I looked like at the time, and believed that I could not hope to pass, and would not be taken seriously as a female, as a woman, unless I pursued surgery to reshape and reform my face. So I met with a local FFS surgeon, saved up $30,000 I earned from working at my office jobs, scheduled a surgery for December 16th, 2017, and began hustling my tuchus to get everything in line for me to begin presenting myself as female in 2018.
I went through the name change process, which involved heading to court to change my name to Natalie Abigail Neumann. My mother helped me find bras, sweaters, pants, underwear, pajamas, shoes, boots, and coasts. I began taking the aforementioned voice feminization lessons. I started doing stretching exercises to feminize my walking that involved leaning one leg on a chair or table and pushing oneself back and forward several times before swinging one’s hips left and right. I started tucking my penis and testicles away with a gaff (more on that later). And I naturally began telling more people about my transition. The first one to find out was actually my father, who discovered a letter discussing my name change. It was kind of terrifying, but he was never really angry at me or anything, and was instead very confused, struggled to accept things at first, and has since grown to accept this new normal. Meanwhile, my other close family members, including my sister, maternal grandmother, and maternal great grandmother were very accepting of me, and appreciated the letters I prepared for them, which were really just edits of the one I made for my mother a year prior.
Now, I did not make things abundantly clear to everybody at first. Many subsets of my family that I had drifted away from, namely my paternal grandmother, the woman who raised me as a small child, did not learn about this until after my surgery was days away, and were generally quite confused by the secondhand information they were given. However, I didn’t, and still haven’t experienced any true backlash to my decision to transition. Some were confused, or slow to accept that I was now a young woman named Natalie, but I never have been discriminated for my decision, which probably sounds really weird until one remembers how sheltered my existence truly is.
When I say that I barely go out, I truly mean it. The world I live in is very small, I do very little socialization, and am regularly seen as odd for how quiet and silent I am unless spoken to directly. The outside world is one that I feel anxious in, a place that feels me with uncertainty, and I generally do not like being out on my own, as I worry that something bad will happen to me. That I will be harmed or generally become lost and unable to return back to my home, the only place where I truly do feel safe. It’s also impacted my ability to even use public transportation, largely due to how many unknowns are found within it, combined with the variety of senses that are found by boarding a city bus. They can be crowded, stinky, filled with people with odd quirks, noisy due to the hydraulics of the vehicle rising and falling, and generally bumpy depending on the vehicle in question. It was sensory overload for me, and I wound up feeling exhausted whenever I got off or one, and during the few times when I made a mistake with my bus transfers, or the route changed due to construction… let’s just say that I came very close to a very publicized panic attack.
Because of the difficulties I faced with public transit, I wound up qualifying for paratransit privileges, allowing me to schedule a bus or car to pick me up and drop me off at specified destinations, allowing me to travel in some degree of comfort, as I no longer had to worry about the uncertainty of traveling. I mean, they sometimes are stupidly late, and I have been in incredibly long trips in the past, but I still find it preferable to the guaranteed uncertainty of public transportation. Though if I am in a rush, I will just wind up using a taxi, as they allow me to avoid the uncertainty and offer me a private means of transportation, albeit one that can be rather expensive.
Where was I again? Right, my surgery. For those unaware, facial feminization surgery is a very intensive process that absolutely wrecks ones face for a solid week or so. I looked like I was brutalized, and was in a constant state of numbed pain only dulled by bedrest, ibuprofen, and shoveling soft foods like scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and applesauce into my wire filled mouth. It sucked, but I was back at work in about two weeks, and started school again a week later, this time going by Natalie, which nobody really batted an eye to, because colleges see this sort of thing regularly, and I was already a bit of a queer kid who grew their hair out and spoke in a high voice, so people probably pegged me as being trans or something.
From that point, I was able to live as Natalie with no reservations, and… I really do not feel that that much has changed over the past 20 months over than a change in name, appearance, and clothing. I’m still the same person I was before my transition personality-wise. I still have the same mannerisms, such as autistically trying to keep my hands preoccupied while walking in public, or imitating my mother’s panicky and obsessive workplace tendencies. And while I have dabbled in feminizing myself slightly, I don’t really bother with accessorizing or makeup, nor do I wear clothes that are flashy or outwardly feminine. Instead, I tend to keep things basic and more professionally oriented, resulting in a boring closet of clothes that are mostly solid primary colored tops and form fitting pants that supposedly make my butt look nice, whatever that means.
I have never been a very flashy or showy sort of person, and I generally am not fond of presenting myself before others. I like being in the background, never the center of attention, and I have no real desire to present myself in a way that makes me appear attractive to others. Yeah, hormones can remix and rework one’s existing sexuality into something new, but for me they really just made me full on asexual after a point. At first I began thinking that I might be demisexual, but after time passed, and I began trying to imagine myself in a sexual situation, I started having doubts.
Now, one can very easily desire non-sexual companionship, but I’m not even sure if I really want that. I am a very self-centered person who puts their work and passions above everything else. I value my alone time very much, and while I do enjoy the occasional instance of friendly and passionate socialization, I have doubts about my ability to serve as a good partner for another person, especially due to the shaky relationship history that seems to have plagued my family for generations.
Okay, so I am basically asexual, but what does that mean for TG? Well, over the years I learned to appreciate the ideas and concepts behind TG media, and my fascination with it gradually shifted to a masturbatory and feitshistic one to that of genuine appreciation and fondness. I have tried revisiting some of the things I used to masturbate to back in my teens, in order to try and see if my fetishistic urges still remained, but the act of penile masturbation really no longer gives me any sort of pleasure, possibly due to a growing dislike for my male genitalia and interacting with it, but it could also be a side effect of wearing a gaff 12-14 hours a day.
What’s a gaff? Well it is a piece of clothing meant to repress the outwardly facing male genitalia and tuck it away. There are a lot of customly made ones that are advertised as being for crossdressers, and quite a few that have plastic vaginas on them for… reasons, but I made my own using the elastic band of a pair of underwear, and the tall part of a tube sock. Take the elastic waistband, filter it through the sock tube, and then put it on like a pair of underwear, sticking both legs in. But in order for a gaff to work properly, one must tuck away the penis and testicles. What does that mean? Well, you need to grab the scrotum by the bottom and pull it back to expose the testicles. Once they are presented, the testicles need to be plopped inwards to the bodily cavity where the testicles were originally held prior to puberty. Yeah, you know how they say somebody’s balls drop? Well, they actually do. They drop out of a weird cavity as part of puberty.
With the testicles plopped inside of one’s person, the next step comes from keeping the scrotum pulled back, grabbing the penis, then pressing and folding the penis against the pulled back scrotum. Once in position, the next step involves pulling the gaff up and using it to keep the penis folded, testicles in their cavity, and the scrotum flat. Afterwards, one’s underwear and legwear should be hoisted upwards It will feel very uncomfortable at first, makes you need to pee more frequently, since there is more pressure exerted on your bladder, will pretty much render one’s testicles useless. Also, never do this when trying to sleep. You’ll just wind up hurting yourself. For more information, I learned most of what I know from this video.
Part 4: The Present and Future Years
Holy bologna this post has gone on forever, but I’m just about done here. I guess the crux of my story is that I spent years being told that there was a barrier to being transgender, that somebody had to meet a set series of criteria in order to be ‘trans enough,’ after years of personal deliberation and exposure to other trans people, I wound up making the steps I needed to transition, which are becoming more and more procedural as information and stories are being shared online. After dismissing my desire as a mere fetish, I eventually came around it, and managed to achieve that which I desired dearly. Living as a woman and being acknowledged as such by those around me. That alone alleviates me of most dysphoria I would otherwise have, and does wonders to put me at ease.
I still want to make further physical changes to myself as time goes on, and am currently saving up the funds needed to pursue the next step, which will probably be electrolysis, but as it stands, I am ultimately happy with myself, even though I am aware that I am still a very much flawed person. My social skills will likely be forever marred, my coordination always limited, my voice will likely always be some sort of muddled and quiet approximation of normal human speech, and while I have long since grown past my self harm tendencies, it has admittedly been replaced by a form of mental harm.
I regularly feel a sense of generalized inferiority next to other people. At work I constantly worry about not being as efficient as I can be. When comparing myself to others, I often bend over and degrade myself to the point where it is a mental meme for me to go on about how there are only allegedly worse people in the world compared to me. And voices of doubt and self-hate sometimes appear in my mind and utter some variation of the following:
“Things would probably be better if you just were never born. Y’know how it is with the butterfly effect and all that shit. You already fucked up by not killing yourself in the womb, but maybe, just maybe, things will get better in the future if you killed yourself right now. I mean, you would stop being an expense, your assets would be liquidated, and your insurance policy would be cashed out. So, y’know, maybe pop a screwdriver into your juggular, ya li’l retard faggot.”
This is my personal mental baggage to bear and tolerate as I continue my life, which is currently in a sort of extended childhood that will potentially conclude once I finish my Master’s program, studying, and obtain a license to practice as a certified public accountant. I have flaws, I had some struggles, but having stated them all in extensive detail, it feels good to have aired out some of my baggage, and have it all be widely publicized for people to see, as I have that fewer things to hide regarding my personal life. Having done all this, I have to say that I am happy with where my life is and where it has gone, especially in comparison to the horror stories that seem to line the histories of a lot of other trans women. Compared to them, I am privileged as shit, led a life without strife, and while I have a bushel of mental baggage stapled to my tailbone, it’s 2019, that’s pretty normal nowadays.
That’s about all I have to share, so I guess that’s it until… right, I just said that I shouldn’t hide anything anymore, so… here is a short video of myself so you curious readers have a better idea of what I look and sound like. This is the first time I am presenting either of these things online, and I do not intend on making this a regular occurrence. ‘Cos I don’t look or sound good. Like, at all.
Some images used in this post have been modified from their original sources, and most of which could not be located at the time of publication.
What is me? by @774_10
Fetish Dealer by blackshirtboy
Modern Day Identity Crisis by Lemonfont
Beyond the Clouds by Jonn Lock (Nadia Kim)