I often wonder if people I’m not in an intimate relationship with pick up on my walls or discomfort at times. I am often told I have a commanding presence when I walk into a room which I’m sure could intimidate others around me more. I do use a lot of self deprecating humor these days to cope with a lot which often brings people closer. I don’t take offence to a lot of mistakes made with gender, and they hardly ever happen now, and I think I’ve developed a comfort level in my friends who have stayed in my life. Though mind you there are the occasional men that no matter how feminine you appear will still give you a handshake over a kiss on the cheek when greeting you and I have learned that it’s not that they are disrespecting me they just have their own issues around gender and sexuality from a world of toxic masculinity forced upon them. It is a strange thing to experience once you actually start living as the opposite gender for awhile. Mind you I do tend to opt for the handshake before a kiss with some people because usually the body language screams “I don’t know what to do!” and I keep it completely professional so there isn’t any confusion of my intentions. So me being in their space and having a drink with them and seen as a friend still is honestly a positive.
It took me a lot of uming and ahing to build up the courage to go down to meet them. I am part of a social group that is involved in bring people together to be social at sporting events. Now the hard part with this is that I could not afford to go into the game itself because I needed to get my car fixed. I had to lie and say I was going to buy a ticket when in fact I couldn’t afford it and so I went to sit on stairs outside the stadium and watch the game on the big screen. One of the things that people don’t understand is financially coming out is difficult and I was feeling embarrassed. So I joined in for the laughs and socializing with everyone and excused myself. It was just too cold to stay there and I stayed until half time which I then decided to get up and walk to my car. I got so far and stopped and sat down on the stairs at the train station and watched the world pass around me and thought I need to get out and i need to be social because all I was going to do was go home and be antsy while attempting to watch tv.
To most of my friends in this circle that i met up with at the casino I am still seen as this person who was a man for years and the husband of one of their girlfriend. Now living as a woman here I am hanging with the girls in a bar laughing and having a night together, they see it as gay and not exactly as gender identity. To some of them I am still Daniel and the discomfort on some of their faces was so obvious that I avoided contact with them other than a simple smile. Outside of all this I am Mama Mish who most women describe as a strong woman often seen as an inspiration and who they say they feel blessed to have in their lives. This can be overwhelming as well as apply so much more pressure to how I should act in difficult situations. Not many know that my self esteem is like a 3-4 out of 10 and most wouldn’t see that. I was told once:
“I think to me the reason you’re so inspiring is because you’re like the epitome of authenticity. I really admire your sense of self awareness. I wish I was as brave to be myself as you are. Hearing your podcasts and stories has opened my own awareness to some things within me.”
That’s pretty heavy and often I feel the pressure to hide any insecurities I may have. So for me usually when meeting up with my friends I focus on the group I will be around and the protection they offer. They would never see what happens when they aren’t by my side and why I often choose the side of being sober than indulging in alcohol with them and letting loose. I can’t. It’s just not safe and I do have to remain on guard unfortunately. Before as a man I never had to stress about my safety as much, it never honestly crossed my mind. Standing at 6′ 3″ and being broad shouldered with a face of thick 5 o’clock shadow and goatee I could look mean if I wanted to, which I would regularly wear a scowl on my face to keep people at a distance. Now I walk down the street and people slam into me or cut me off or act inappropriately.
So here I was out last night with friends for one of their birthdays and going to a casino. I showed up and was a bit on guard because I had only ever been here once before socially in a straight bar with friends. I had a less than pleasant night before I arrive and my friend S gave me a big hug and bought me a drink as I sat down. Now normally if I see people I know I engage in conversation right away but the looks from the uncomfortable ones were unwelcoming so I pushed back into the high back chair and closed my eyes for a second to breath. No they all were several drinks in and once i git my Martini I did drink it a bit fast and trying to join in to a few conversations. So about an hour in I did relax and left the worries of the world at the door and focused on being present.
Now I couldn’t find one of my other friends F, as she went out for a smoke on the balcony. I think I just had this false sense of security going out there as i didn’t think much of walking around crowds to go find her. As I walked through the revolving door and walked outside there was this group of about 5 men standing close and all starred at me. Now I have learned to be able to watch people from the corner of my eye without making eye contact or make it obvious I am looking at them. I could see one guy bent over laughing, another smacking his mate and the others were wither handing a beer or grabbing the other. I was a spectacle to them. shouting “what the fuck” or “look at this guy” followed by “you can’t be fucking serious” as I pretended to meerkat the room and walk quickly back through the doors. I did feel pretty shit and became very aware of my personal appearance in that moment. back to my chair I went to hide my head and S was standing there with a glass of Veuve Clicquot for me. Now I am going to be honest I say its ok I say no big deal they are the closed minded ones etc but I walked away with my tail between my legs hurt and embarrassed.
I finished my glass and saw one of my other friends V who arrived later after having drinks with the birthday boy. V and I both always have respect for each other and we have known one another for several years so conversation is always there when we catch up. So after speaking for a bit and he stepped away to get a drink I had this shorter man come up to me and grab my hand and pull me close to him. If there are any men reading this I don’t care who the person is never grab their hand or wrist especially in a busy environment such as this. He grabbed my hand and got extremely close and was caught off guard by him approaching my personal space so quickly. I heard his mates laughing calling out to him. I took a step back as he walked back to them and they put their arm around him and they looked back at me laughing. I felt quite worse and grabbed my coat multiple times in an attempt to leave. Each time my friends would try handing me another drink and I declined and I was honestly too embarrassed to say what had happened up until that moment. I mean I wanted to be out and just enjoy dancing and listening to music and I was quickly realizing this was not a good space and I had to leave. So I grabbed my jacket and just waved to the entire crown that I was leaving and proceeded to leave. This was taken on the night as I was out.
The cherry on this cake was as I walked through the gaming floor. Now last time I checked in the mirror I present very feminine. I am a large person but still I am not sure what it is that screams “This is a guy and you should address her as one”. I was feeling completely overwhelmed and close to tears at this stage and felt myself staring at the ground as I held my bag and jacket in my arm. A guy came up beside me and said “Hey mate, buddy wait up” and tried to touch my arm and I raised mine to dismiss his approach. I chose not to take a tram up the street to my car park as I didn’t want to be close to other people. I felt if I looked at anyone in the eyes I would burst into tears instantly. I walked slowly to my car and so much was racing through my mind. Thoughts of why? Why did I HAVE to transition? Why can’t I be able to just go to a public place with friends without feeling like this? How have I been able to appear so strong but when faced with this situation have I become so weak? Am I being weak? I wanted to be held so bad, told it was going to be okay. I felt the tears fighting to come out as I walked further to the quiet place I parked my car and as soon as I sat in my seat and closed the door I couldn’t fight them any further and just let the waterfall flow.
I have become strong as Mama Mish, I have found my peace with my past with my step-father whose ashes sit in my living room and whose medallion I wear, I have learned to to integrate who I was as Daniel into who I am as Michelle with great success, I fought back using resilience that is in my families blood to rise back from the ashes of loss and I am still rising, I comfort those in need when and where I can, but as Michelle I am still learning and I am a woman with a soft heart that has been broken several times with displays of damage on it and I unfortunately carry it on my sleeve. So if you are reading this and you can identify toxic masculinity please remember what I am is not a joke. What I am going through isn’t for kicks or for pleasure. This is my reality and I am doing the best I can with it. If you choose to participate and joke with your mates about it just remember I have bigger balls than you in that moment for living my truth than you do standing there with that beer in your hand laughing.