corset hazard

I wear corsets regularly, such as the one pictured below:

For reasons explained in my post “corset training”, I’m going nearly full-time with these. What makes the one above suitable for daily waist training is that it is heavy duty—steel boned. Particular to the needs of transwomen, it’s made for long torsos and comes from Amazon in sizes up to 6XL.

But There’s a Hazard

Consider the following close-up:

I sliced my hand badly on the blade of a clip when pushing hard to unclip the corset.

Don’t do this!

at a wedding in Delhi

One of the most amazing experiences of my journey into womanhood occurred when I attended a wedding in Delhi.

The bride knew me before I transitioned, but immediately embraced my identity as Emily when I announced it. We quickly became extremely good friends, and I therefore eagerly attended her wedding when the time came. I was so happy for her that I even wrote a string quartet for the couple to celebrate their union:

The wedding rituals we performed during the two-day ceremony appeared more gendered to me than those of the American weddings I’ve attended. The women did many activities together with the bride, such as application of henna (see my hands on the photo below) and the anointing of saffron, while (presumably—I wasn’t there so I can’t confirm) the groom participated in activities with the men.

What stands out for me is that the women fully embraced me as one of their own, allowing me full participation in their rituals, knowing full well that I was biologically male. Result: An extremely happy moment in my life. Core validation!



After the anointing of saffron, still among women only, we danced to Bollywood songs for about half an hour. Felt very spontaneous.

Today I watched Kaouthar Darmoni’s TEDx talk “Dare to be feminine for guts sake!” (below). She begins by telling a story about growing up in Tunisia where women would gather together, away from men, and simply dance. She then describes how this practice traces back to Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago. Perhaps the dance ritual I participated at the Delhi wedding described above traces back that far; perhaps it inspired the Mesopotamians, or perhaps the Mesopotamians inspired it.

But I realized immediately upon starting this video that I participated in something ancient and profound.

reconstructing my life from scratch (part #1: radical kindness, and dresses)

As expressed previously on this blog (see “the trick to changing your gender…”), I habitually reconstruct my life. This skill proved essential to my public transition and continually issues economic dividends.

I now stand at an inflection point where I need to reinvent myself again from scratch. You see, the last five years delivered unprecedented upheaval in my life, so much that I have yet to fully adjust to and recover from it all. To provide context, in the last five years I:

  • Divorced
  • Publicly became Emily
  • Fell in love, and lost big, thrice
  • Lost a job I enjoyed and held for a decade
  • Experienced multiple psychiatric episodes (mostly suicidal ideation)
  • Visited India and Kashmir
  • Released two deeply introspective rock albums
  • Discovered that I enjoy having men penetrate me

Only about half of these experiences prompted suffering, but all of them taken together severely disrupted my holistic comfort and security. Consequently my worldview must adapt if I’m to continue delivering my best to the world. I need to rebuild.

I completely need to rebuild. To examine every feature of my life.

For clarity, I hold tremendous assets to step forward with, e.g.,

  • Faith
  • A roof over my head
  • Supportive family and friends
  • Great access to mental and physical healthcare
  • An education complemented by significant work experience
  • Enormous creativity
  • An open mind
  • Modest cash flow

So I’m advancing with resources in place.

My First Two Steps

I’ve decided to start by building a life that radically promotes kindness, and to wear dresses everyday.

Radical Kindness

I hold kindness up as my highest value. So I begin my reconstruction with a firm commitment to delivering kindness at all opportunity. I love greatly, and a clear dictate from the New Testament states that “Love is patient, love is kind.” [1]. Therefore we start with kindness.

I’ll write more about kindness in the future.

Dresses

“Emily”—the person, the spirit, the identity—sustained a major beating in the last five years. She resisted despair by asserting her femininity at every turn. Clothing provides a physical declaration of gender, and nothing more so than feminine dresses. So I plan to wear dresses every day from now on unless there is a good reason not to (e.g., fixing my car or SCUBA diving).

I cannot fully explain why this matters so much to me. But I have noticed (again I cannot explain it) that my life simply “works” better when I wear a dress than when I wear a skirt and a top. It could be confidence brimming up and therefore providing fruit, or could be the universe confirming my decision—most likely it is both.

Manufacturing Intent

I describe making an “intent board” or “vision board” in my post “make an intent board“. Basically on an intent board you paste images to a poster or Pinterest that represent your goals, values, and positive traits. Then you review it regularly for conscious and subconscious guidance.

My intent board includes four whole sections on dresses to celebrate and encourage the joy I experience while wearing them:

References

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:4. (New International Version)

feminine Chakras

I’m a bit of a mystic, and draw my practices and insight from multiple mystical traditions. My experiences mostly relate to Christian mysticism, which is largely ignored in the West, but I get around: I’ve prayed in Hindu ceremonies, dropped LSD to vision quest, and experienced healing through Sufi faith-healing rituals; to name a few.

So I think often about “energy” in a spiritual context. Nothing measurable in Joules (I used to be a mechanical engineer)–we are talking about something transcendent. Good vibes, bad vibes. Adding an engineering equation to the discussion, we can talk about “power” as “energy flow per second”. In mystical terms we can say “power” is “energy flow”: Then we can speak of optimism as power source and pessimism as power sink. Depression as power blackhole.

A few writers and lecturers talk about feminine energy versus masculine energy. (We are ignoring the complication of the non-binary here). At first I did not know what to do with this information. I certainly noticed my spirituality become more feminine over the last three years. So much that when I was once denied entrance to a male-only section of a mosque I visited, I felt “right with the universe”. (I accidentally tried to enter the male-only section, would never do that on purpose).

A lecturer I really like stated that feminine energy emits from the womb-space [4]. I discovered her while searching for resources to help me increase my feminine presence and decrease my masculine one.

Then a friend of mine told me about Chakras from the tantric traditions. These are (mystical) energetic focal points of the body meant to be awakened and mastered [1], presumably through spiritual practice like some forms of yoga.

Combining these two ideas I considered the possible intersection of Chakra practice with developing feminine energy. Immediately turned to Google…

Indeed the Chakras themselves are divided into feminine and masculine ones. The first resource I found, [2], stated that the goal is to bring the masculine and feminine energy into alignment.

I’ll have no part of that! This girl will have nothing to do with a masculine psyche and spirit.

But [3] had something really great to say about the “lower three” Chakras, the “feminine” Chakras.

These are the first three rungs on the energetic ladder that lift us up to achieve loftier goals while giving us a stable base on which to stand.

I like this! A lot. Read this as a spiritual mandate to get my feminine energy in tune with the universe. Expect I’ll experience significantly better mental health if I do.

References

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra

2. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16169/5-ways-to-access-your-divine-feminine-through-your-sacral-chakra.html

3. https://www.lightworkersworld.com/2013/04/the-feminine-chakras-wellbeing-worthiness-and-weight/

4.

feedback from my mentor

My primary mentor offered the following advice by e-mail to help me on my quest to deliver a more feminine presentation. I publish it here without explanation:

Walk slowly, speak slowly, listen ‘what is stated’, being open to others as you enter… ‘open hand represent Open Heart’…

big time

I’ve noticed that the Universe consistently validates my femininity, and (it feels like) little else right now. Best to run with what’s going well…

Update 13 November 2017

What this is about:  The femininity expressed up to the point of my public transition was instinctive. Now I am learning the strategic and the tactical expressions, i.e., how to fabulously make my way in the world as a woman. It is working. I feel the Universe opens this door wide for me.

perhaps my stage presence is too masculine… (part 2)

In my recent post “perhaps my stage presence is too masculine… (part 1)”, I ask whether I move too much like a guy while performing, and ask whether I care.

I worked out my answers to both questions: Yes, and yes.

The video posted below shows the problem: My movement to the music flows from my chest on up (masculine), rather than from my hips (feminine). I want to drive my motion from the hips to produce more feminine fluidity and curve.

And now that I’ve observed this, I feel deeply uncomfortable that I’m not achieving the more feminine display. It just doesn’t “feel right”.

What I really need to do is watch other female musicians play guitar while simultaneously singing, to see what they do with their bodies.

Also, in all the music videos I’ve posted on this blog so far, I wear flats. This was so I could jump around for the performance of “Voice in the Distance”. I should see what I can do wearing platform heels (I won’t jump around, that’s for sure).

Here is a video featuring my arrangements of “Enjoy the Silence” and “La Isla Bonita”. The second song is a samba, so the call for significant hip motion proves especially pronounced:

taking abuse for not being “ladylike” enough

I expect that many women receive abuse from their loved ones for not being “feminine” enough, by which these loved ones mean not being “ladylike” enough.

I received such abuse for the first time in my life last night, from a mentor and dear friend. He is a keen observer of woman and generally a wise man, so I rely on him for advice about my presentation. He also loves me greatly.

Something masculine in my behavior really lit a fuse with him yesterday though, and he sent an extremely abusive e-mail detailing his dissatisfaction. I won’t post it here. He obviously holds some deep insecurity that came out in that moment.

But I will post my response; it demonstrates how I’ve learned not to accept abuse but still can reach out with complete love, forgiveness, and compassion. I’m setting an example for others.

The lesson in this for me is that I need to refrain from oppressing myself. I place a lot of pressure on myself to become the “perfect lady”, but to me this is fun. As long as I maintain that perspective, and keep things real, things are alright. In my response (below), I observe how it is far more important for me to exhibit stereotypically feminine characteristics of empathy and kindness than, for example, manage how I walk or gesture.

And why do I consider the pressure I place on myself to become the “perfect lady” fun?  Because I am claiming the oppression and re-spinning it for my own ends. I accepted this oppression upon becoming a woman and decided to make a game out of it. This is punk.

And the fact that I’m now receiving the oppression from someone else shows how successful at feminine assimilation I’ve become.

Two days ago at a restaurant I observed a woman with the perfect presentation: Elegant gestures, graceful stance, etc. Then she slapped her kid. Disgusting. Poise without compassion is meaningless.

Anyway, here is my reply to my mentor:

——,

I am a lady, and therefore expect better treatment than you presented in your last e-mail to me. I expect an apology. I forgive you whether or not you give that apology.

I also know you wrote this out of both love and frustration. I am empathic to that. But ask yourself: Why the insecurity?

In my recent feminization work, I’ve pursued becoming a great “woman” over becoming the perfect “lady” (for now). So I’ve been maximizing my empathy and kindness.

I’ve also asked you before never to bring up my weight. Never do that again!

While I’m not perfect, please remember how far I’ve come! When one is acculturated as a man (think guzzling beer for instance), one cannot expect to change habits overnight.

Again, I’m focusing on the “woman” side of the coin right now, versus the “lady” side. So I’m studying fundamental examples of Christian women. Perhaps you noticed that the last time you were angry around me (about the PBS series on Viet Nam), I gently comforted you. That is the femininity I am concentrating on building right now.

I value your coaching tremendously, and appreciate stern correction. But your last e-mail was abusive. You are better than that.

With absolute love and complete forgiveness,

Emily

Update One Minute After Publishing This

About 1.5 years after my public transition, an emerging transwoman leaned on me for support. We had coffee together.

She is extremely tall, and carried a purse not much larger than her hand. I advised her that having a large purse would prove more appropriate to her body frame. Really stressed this when she resisted. (She likely resisted due to anxiety about having to spend money or anxiety about shopping as a woman).

I told her it would make a difference in how well she passed.

The thing is:  Saying it once was fine. But the fact that I persisted reveals some anxiety I was carrying at the moment. I fake nobility and rationalize that I was concerned for her safety, but I was actually really anxious because her look was incongruent. As if it reflected on me. As if it “outed” me.

I’m sure my mentor feels the same way, that my incongruencies reflect badly on him. As if it “outs” him as trans-friendly.

 

vocal frequency response

I now can speak consistently for an hour in a feminine voice—decent pitch, resonance, and inflection—before needing to rest. Moreover, my voice now passes on the phone.

So my voice therapist and I decided to tackle my singing range, to feminize that as well. (Followers of Axis Evil know I sing with a masculine voice despite functioning in all other parts of my life using a feminine one).

I needed data to see where I stand currently:

Starting at D3 (146.832 Hz), which lies in the gender-neutral pitch range, I recorded myself singing the words “I am Emily” up the scale in half-step intervals until D5 (587.330 Hz). (But I couldn’t make it that far in practice). I used a synthesizer to provide the pitch at each interval.

I then cut the synthesizer track and ran the vocal track through a frequency analysis algorithm to get a frequency response (Bode) plot:

As you can see from the plot, I can hold it up to about middle C, but can’t currently sustain volume beyond that.

Good baseline information.

head trip mindfulness

I’m consciously altering the voice in my head–the one I use to think–to match my new feminine voice whenever I become mindful of it. Basically, I intend to think in my new voice at all times.

Awareness will drive this change. Perhaps reading silently will help as well.

In short, I consider replacing my masculine head voice with a feminine one a good way to promote a more feminine psychology, as per my obsession.

the ideal woman (Hell’s r&d department)

I’m simply going to quote the section on creating the “ideal woman” from the Screwtape Letters. You can purchase the book in multiple formats here.

In a rough and ready way, of course, this question is decided for us by spirits far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I. It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual “taste”. This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females—and there is more in that than you might suppose. As regards the male taste we have varied a good deal. At one time we have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men’s vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. At another, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them, shall be at a premium.

At present we are on the opposite tack. The age of jazz has succeeded the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children. And that is not all.

We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be.

Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the rôle of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast!

my obsession (part 1: introduction)

My primary obsession and my number one suicide prevention technique relate to each other.

First the suicide prevention technique: I maximize my femininity and feminine expression. Do not know why this works, because the most frequent driver of suicidal ideation for me has nothing to do with gender dysphoria (it’s heartbreak). But emphasizing femininity really works for me! My guess is that I’m more “in tune with the universe” when expressing it.

Moreover, beyond suicide prevention, I reach for happiness. Femininity proves key to achieving happiness for me. Vital. A critical path.

But this alone does not suggest any direction regarding the masculinity I retain.

However, now I will discuss my obsession: To rid myself (consciously and subconsciously) of all masculinity. Completely; leaving no trace behind.

This clashes with my conventional wisdom that all individuals channel a mix of feminine and masculine properties. I’m saying I don’t want the masculine at all. Shut that flow down!

At some level I feel that (for me) maximizing femininity requires giving up all masculinity. A zero-sum game. Reality for other people need not align with this.

This series of posts will explore the obsession and how I choose to act on it.

Update 30 September 2017

These next few paragraphs prove rather disturbing: I previously observed in “a compromise adaptation to the problem of suicidal ideation” that I experience my suicidal ideation as internal visions of stabbing my wrists or shooting myself in the head. These visions occurred at some baseline frequency even when experiencing decent mental health.

But after writing the above yesterday, things suddenly changed. I (so far) no longer have these images. But images of stabbing or cutting off my penis replaced them. (I’m NOT going to do this, by the way!). I’ve never experienced genital-targeted self-harm ideation before. Basically I’m perhaps subconsciously redirecting the “blame” for the pain I want to release away from “myself” and toward my masculine genitals—which I’m seeing more and more as separate from myself.

This last part, seeing my masculine genitals as more and more separate for myself, feels natural given that I am on track for gender affirmation surgery. For most of my post-public-transition life, I’ve not cared much what genitalia I hold, as I delivered femininity as core identity and outward presentation.

But, as per my effort to maximize my femininity to increase my happiness, and in concordance with my obsession of removing all masculinity from my life, the nature of my genitalia now matters.

the one song I kept (artistic synthesis)

I’ve released two rock albums since transitioning. Moreover, these are the only albums I’ve ever released. I wrote all the songs for these albums post-transition… except one. Here I talk about that one and why I kept it.

The song is called “Voice in the Distance” and it appears on my debut album “City of God”.

First, it makes more sense to look at the songs I left behind, rather than the one I kept. I wanted a musical reset since the emotional upheaval that accompanied my transition drove the construction of “City of God”. I developed a new sound at that time and wanted to leave my old sound behind, just like I was developing a new (public) identity and leaving my old one behind.

ASIDE: The intersection of my transgender experience and several songs on both my albums “City of God” and “Light Me Up and Love the Bomb” is explored in the post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

So that explains why I did not keep most of my old songs. But what about “Voice in the Distance”? Why did I retain and promote it?

First and foremost, I thought it was the best song I had written pre-transition and worth preserving in an artistic sense. Moreover, it anticipated the sound I was to develop post-transition. So musically it belonged with my newer material.

Second, I did not have any subconscious association between that song and masculinity. My other pre-transition songs were written for all guy bands.

Finally, “Voice in the Distance” is a spiritual song—but not “in your face” about it—that really transcends gender. I relied on every ounce of spirituality I held to survive my transition, and so spirituality belonged on the debut album. Even the debut album’s name “City of God” is spiritual. So in that way “Voice in the Distance” looked forward in time, even though I wrote it about nine years prior to writing “Talk”, my first post-transition song.

Transition requires a life trajectory of constant evolution. This provides a wellspring of artistic material and artistic synthesis.

BTW: “Voice in the Distance” is one of my favorite pieces to perform live. First and foremost, I’m good at performing it, as I’ve played it often and had it for so many years. Also, people like it! More importantly, I enjoy playing it. The tune is complicated enough to satisfy my intellect and simple enough (for my guitar/voice skill) to perform effortlessly.