Discovering My Womanhood 23 Years Later: The Unexpected-Expected Journey

The signs were always there. I was never keen on masculine interests. I surrounded myself with women and leaned in slyly when the topic of make-up, dressing up and boys inevitably arose. People would compliment my long flowing hair and I would be confused why the compliment made me feel so good. I used to play as the girl trainer character in Pokémon “just because.” Hell, I asked for a garishly feminine animatronic toy pet dog for Christmas when I was five years old.

It was my femininity peeking out from under the covers. It had always been there. Now, 23 years later, I am – to really double down on a cliché – an elegant flower finally blooming.

For the longest time, I never really acted on these impulses. The looming doom of being labelled “emasculated” is something no person assigned male at birth ever wants to experience. The social embarrassment. The loneliness. The mortification of being called “gay” by your peers. All these were pills I would rather leave on the kitchen bench to be forgotten forever than swallow.

When I was just a nerdy band kid in high school, the last thing I wanted to do was alienate myself further, so I decided to be a “man” about it.

This is the most embarrassing stage of the journey of finding my true self. I overindulged in traditional notions of “manhood” because, although I didn’t know it, I was subconsciously swimming in doubt. I cut my hair short. I listened to blokier music; none of that gay shit. I learned how to speak in a deeper, more masculine voice. I tried to learn how to discuss Australian Rules Football.

It was a nightmare. All of this had my body and brain screaming, a wail upon reflection I think I could always hear in the back of my head. Like a flowing water tap in your house you’re not sure if you’ve forgotten to turn off or if you’re just imagining it. Not listening to my body, my impulses, my very being, was slowly but surely deteriorating.

From finishing high school to the start of this year, the light of femininity would poke through the blinds from time to time. I would get my partners to do my make-up just as a joke, haha. I started studying queer cinema in my University’s film classes. I would still play as the girl trainer character in Pokémon – that never really seemed to go away.

Despite all of this, in my most dire cries for help – which was genuinely the last straw that broke the poor camel’s back – I decided to grow a beard. I know now the beard didn’t do me any real favours, but I was in lockdown, my partner at the time had liked it, I was a tough-looking, totally-not-fruity masculine man! The beard gave me comfort in my faux manhood, but at the same time, gave me desperately agonising dysphoria. It was my body bellowing for normalcy, for elegance, for beauty, for womanhood.

Cutting the hairy growth off of my face was like releasing myself from a cocoon; a metamorphosis had occurred underneath that I didn’t even notice. Seeing my bare face in the fogged-up mirror was like seeing myself for the first time a second time. It was one of many moments that would occur throughout this year that confirmed all of my little suspicions and curiosities. I had been a woman all along, but after 23 years, I finally realised it.

It was like that point in a murder-mystery film where they discover who the killer really is and the movie rewinds through all the key moments the cast missed where clues were given away by the true murderer. Everything clicked. The investigating and over-thinking could come to an end. The anxious howling for change at the back of my brain could quieten.

Then, all of the jigsaw pieces started falling into place. I went clothes shopping with my partner and they helped me get a grasp of doing my own make-up. I started wearing dresses to work. I started carrying myself in a new way. I changed my name, choosing that of one of my favourite Greek mythology characters. I also changed my name on Facebook with absolutely no context, which did more harm than good, but this is my gender journey, damn it, I get to decide how it goes.

In all my years of travel, creativity, exploration and discovery, nothing has ever brought me more peace than doing all of this.

I start hormone replacement therapy soon. Now that my brain has finally caught up on 23 years of questioning, confusion and befuddlement, it’s high time my body starts reflecting it. Everyone discovers themselves on different points of their journeys, and I’m so glad I arrived here now. I just tried shaving my legs for the first time. I’m gradually updating my wardrobe. I’m slowly telling friends and family and peers about who I really am. I’m going to figure out to do fucking winged eyeliner. I might pierce my nipples… okay, this is getting off-topic.

I love all the women who have helped me on this mission of self-discovery. I love being me and I hope soon I can represent the true version of myself that I feel on the inside.

Photos provided by the author. If this article brings anything up for you, you can call or webchat QLife from 3pm ’til midnight every day.

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