Sunday, May 10, 2015

Live Your Dream!

I think we all start off hoping to start changing into that mythical supermodel with the long thin legs, that impossible Barbie waistline and cleavage we always wanted as soon as we embark on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)... Meanwhile, it doesn't happen for everyone quite the way we hope it will, and certainly not overnight, if at all. I think it's an unrealistic expectation we all have.

After a lifetime of living inside a shell that doesn't match what we feel we look like on the inside, we want the exterior to match the interior. We feel like beautiful people on the inside, and we want the outside to reflect that image we have been taught from an early age, a woman 'ought' to be.

"I don't think my face is feminine enough". "I don't think I pass". "I look like a dude in a dress"... These are some of the many, many self-critical comments I've heard from many of my sisters over the years. Some of them I've heard crossing my own lips.

Many people tell me I'm a beautiful woman, and these days it's not so much that I believe them, eventually - it's more that it doesn't really matter to me what other people think of my looks anymore. You see, while I am not unappreciative of the compliments people pay me, it really has nothing to do with how others see me - but with how I see myself.

I still think my jaw looks a little square in certain lighting, I still cringe at recent pictures that remind me of the 'old me'. I delete a lot of selfies before settling on one I want to post to Facebook! My voice still gets me called 'sir' on the phone or at the drive-through, and yet it's no more husky than many cisgender women.

Being transgender is very much rooted in what we understand to be 'self-image' - and while other people may see a perfectly feminine and beautiful woman, I may still be reminded of my transgender-ness by a passing resemblance to the male characteristics I left behind. It used to bother me a lot in the beginning of my journey, and less and less over the years - particularly after I completed my surgeries and changed my documentation now just over a decade ago.

It doesn't really bother me anymore. Do you know why? Because no matter what people see about me, no matter how they may judge me, I am more than this flesh and blood. There are cis-women with deeper voices than mine. There are cis-men with higher voices than mine. And this is only the beginning. Let me explain:

Back when I was still contemplating my journey, I was a 92kg dude who was in the Army, restored VW Beetles as a hobby and used to impress my friends by lifting a whole Beetle engine off the garage floor onto a workbench and back down again. I was pretty muscular and tall. I wore size 11 men's shoes. I think you get the idea. I worried then that I wouldn't 'pass' as a woman, that I wouldn't be pretty enough or feminine enough to please the world.

Then one day, I sat down in a shopping mall and watched people walking by. I noticed there were people of all shapes and sizes, varying degrees of masculine and feminine in appearance and build - big ones, little ones, thin ones, fat ones, the good, the bad and the ugly. I began to compare myself to them in various different ways.

Then I realized there is no 'standard'. People come in different shapes and sizes, and they come in the shapes and sizes that they come in. That's that. I realized that no matter what we look like on the outside, our appearance is only on the outside - it doesn't define who we are as people. It's society that does that.

I began to realize how shallow society's image of beauty truly is. A beautiful appearance could be a mask for a horrible person, and a beautiful person could be shining through a facade the world devalued because it didn't measure up to its shallow and unrealistic expectations, with a plethora of permutations between.

I realized that no matter what people think of me from the outside, what really mattered - what really ought to matter to ME - was how I knew myself as a person, and that as long as I allowed myself to be the person I knew I was inside, to allow that person to shine through, it wouldn't matter what the rest of the world thought of me. This was part of my first awakening realization.

I knew I would never be a dainty, petite girl able to fit into size 5 shoes, or to wear size 8 skinny jeans. Heck, at the time I would've been happy just fitting comfortably into a size 12! I realized I would always be a near-6 foot Amazon with a large build - but I'd already seen cis-girls taller than me at 18 years wearing size 12 slops! That's when I knew I would be strong, and confident regardless of what my face would look like, or what my voice sounded like, or what people around me thought of me, or how people would judge me, I would be beautiful.

It's a mind-shift. No matter how we think the world sees us as trans-women, we are still prettier, more feminine, more compassionate, more loving, better friends, better lovers, better companions, better workers, better colleagues - than a lot of people out there who take pleasure in judging us.

You see, other people tend to forget while they are judging us - for whatever reasons - that they aren't perfect either.

They tend to forget that while they are judging us for dealing with and confronting our own issues, they may well be avoiding their own.

Yes, I walked the MTF path, and while this letter is addressed mainly to people today walking the same MTF path I walked, it is also addressed to our FTM brothers - and in fact, to anyone who may be feeling self-doubt or who thinks they are 'lesser' than other people who surround them.

Don't judge yourself, leave that task to the people who like to judge others. Let them carry that burden - you already have enough work on your shoulders just by transitioning, just by facing their frowning disapproval or critical remarks or hysterical apprehension. It won't help you to take on their work too! Don't project their negativity onto yourself as well!

Once you realize this, you won't feel so much pressure anymore.

If people who criticize you for your appearance and for the way you fight to survive aren't the ones who love you, who shelter you, who keep you warm at night, or who dry your tears away, what do their opinions matter?

Just by taking these steps to be yourself - to be honestly and authentically YOU - you are already a much braver and stronger person than many of those who may criticize or judge you. People like us walk boldly where angels fear to tread. We aren't afraid of the dark, because we know the path.

Those who thought intimidation and threats of violence would scare me off, were disappointed. While you cannot reason with blind hate - the very nature of blind hatred is just that - unseeing, unreasonable - ignorance lies at its foundation, and while not all of us are activists - chipping away at that ignorance with education will go a long way to undermine hatred.

People attack what they fear - and they fear what they don't understand. I always followed a policy of being open and honest about being trans and about educating people who were interested enough to ask me questions - no matter how personal, or invasive, about my transition and the reasons for it. In this way I defused a lot of situations that could have escalated into workplace labor relations dramas. Once people were given to a greater understanding of transgender issues, the fear went away, and I went back to being just another co-worker.

You cannot be transgender and not become transformed into a strong person.

Live your dream.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to or use the Contact form.

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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