15 January 2010

Through My Skin

For the past few days, I've had a rather heavy cold. That, of course, has left me tired, which is one reason why I didn't post yesterday. It was the first time in a few weeks that I hadn't written an entry and I felt a little sad about it.

Today I realized that something I've been unable to describe--until now--has changed since, if not as a result of, my surgery. I don't have a name for it (Does one exist?), so I'll describe a manifestation of it.

Sometimes I feel as if I can sense something essential, or at least basic, about a person through and on my skin. You've probably said that someone or another made your skin crawl. Well, sometimes I feel as if some people have that effect on me. Or they make my skin tingle or burn or feel as if it's going to float, and I'm not sure of whether it will remove itself from my body or take the rest of me with it.

I felt something like what I just described--in a much less intense way--after I had been taking hormones for a couple of months. I used to say that I felt as if a layer of skin had been stripped away. Now, sometimes I feel as if I'm a mass of nerve endings. Sometimes that's wonderful: I experience joy like I've never known before. But at other times, I can feel the warning lights flashing without being sure of why.

The weird thing is that I feel as if I'm learning for the first time about people I've known for some time. Sometimes that's a felicitous, or at least a good, thing to experience. However, it can also leave me feeling unsafe around, or annoyed with, someone I once liked. That's how I feel about someone whom I considered to be a good friend not long ago.

Or, sometimes, I just feel no particular reason to talk to someone with whom I once conversed, sometimes at length. Maybe it's because I realize that I no longer have, or have never had, anything in common with that person. That's how I feel about a few people at the college. It's not that I dislike them; I just don't feel any particular connection to them apart from being a co-worker.

On the other hand, I also feel that I have something to talk about--or at least a friendlier "vibe" from people who seemed not to like me before, or whom I didn't think I liked. I'm thinking in particular of one colleague in my department. She started teaching at the college three years ago; from that time until this year, I thought she was rather snobbish or at least aloof. But we have become rather friendly. It may just be that she felt insecure as "the new kid in town": after all, she is young and had just recently finished her PhD. She had a couple of fellowships but, if I'm not mistaken, this is her first full-time faculty position.

But she's been friendly to me ever since I "broke the ice" early in the fall. Maybe she realizes that I'm not a competitor: We may both be in an English department, but the work we do is very different. And, I don't begrudge her that she's way more attractive than I ever was, am or will be. If nothing else, she has a very appealing smile, which I hadn't seen before this year.

Somehow I have the feeling she was intimidated by me. My first encounter with her came when she gave a sample lecture after being interviewed for the job. I was in the audience, among other faculty members and administrators. And I asked her a question--I forget about what, exactly, except that it had to do with the role of gender in a novel she mentioned--and it seemed to make her nervous. I wasn't trying to put her "on the spot;" it was simply a question that came to my mind.

I guess that if I were in her position, I might've been caught off-guard, too. But what she may not have realized at the time was that I was asking the question out of a complete lack of familiarity about the works she was discussing. And, of course, I didn't understand how or why she would be intimidated, at least a little, by that. If that's the reason why she kept her distance from me, I can understand.

Or, it just may be that she knew I'm transgendered: if she couldn't see it at first, she may have realized it from the question I asked. And, she may not have known what to make of that. She could very well been one of the many women who worried about what I'd do in a women's bathroom. (The funny thing is that I try to spend as little time in them as I can; I'm usually not noticing much else besides the cleanliness, or lack thereof, and I'm thinking about what I have to do at that moment and the moment after it.) By now, she's heard that I've had my operation, and she may feel less worried about me as a result of that. And I'm sure that even though she knows that I see her as an attractive woman--I've told her as much, as I'm sure many other people have--she knows by now that I'm not seeing her as a potential sexual partner. Maybe she knows, too, that I see she's really an OK, and rather interesting, person to talk to.

Now, these changes I've experienced don't mean that I'm getting rid of all of my old friends, as some trans people do when they transition. I've thought about making some changes in my life, to be sure--and, in fact, I've had to make one that I'd thought about making. But it will be interesting, at least to me, to see whether the way I feel about other people and things changes during the next six months, year, or few years. I know that happened a few months after I started taking hormones and as I started to live full-time as a woman.

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