Hey, hi, hello!
Happy #TransDayOfVisibility! Remember to show your appreciation for all the trans peeps in your life by sending them $20 (PayPal works fine, thanks babes xoxo).
Nah but for realsies, this is my first TDOV as an open trans woman, and I have a lot of feelings about it.
My relationship with gender has been chaotic for about as long as I’ve been lucid. I spent the first chunk of my life being completely oblivious to the binary, not really understanding that there was a (societally perceived) disconnect between “girls” and “boys” and sort of just thinking I would grow up to be a woman because… That’s just how it worked, I guess?
Having it made explicitly clear that I wouldn’t* grow up to be a woman kind of spurred on my first real existential crisis. I spent my teen years trying to run and hide away from, ignore or brush aside my feelings of dysphoria, always trying to make excuses for why I felt envious of the girls around me and didn’t fit in with or relate to any of the boys. Like most of the trans people I know, I kind of just assumed that everyone wished they’d been born as the opposite sex – that gender envy was just a normal part of life that everyone experienced.
I didn’t know what the words ‘transgender’ or ‘dysphoria’ meant until 2014, and after that, it was impossible to ignore what was “wrong” with me.
I got real sad.
I tried numbing myself with drugs and alcohol.
I used self-harm as a crutch.
I wrote more suicide notes than I’d care to count.
I was introduced to non-binary identities in 2016 (at the age of 19) and made a bunch of queer friends, and for the first time in my life, it felt like things kind of made sense. I started identifying as non-binary in my private life and slowly started feeling more comfortable with myself, even though I was still presenting 100% masculine. But as I entered my 20s, my beard got thicker, my skin got rougher and I started to go bald, and naturally my dysphoria intensified as a result.
I started seeing a psychiatrist that specialised in transgender care and planned to start hormones in secret in early 2017, but my sister found out and after a fight with her, I was spooked out of it (thankfully she’s no longer a part of my life). Five years later, last May, I was able to “come out” properly and start living as Ellie in my day-to-day life, be more open with how I expressed myself and experiment more with feminine presentation (albeit with the beard intact and a mostly masculine wardrobe). I also started HRT (hormone replacement therapy, for the cis among us) last July.
I did feel very comfy being openly non-binary, but the more I connected with my femininity, the more I was forced to actually address and reckon with my dysphoria. “Maybe I’m actually just a trans woman” was an argument I’d had internally for years, and I settled the debate for myself a little while before I came out last May (which is why I didn’t explicitly use the term “non-binary” when I did), but I didn’t make the full leap and come out as a trans woman then because, among other reasons, I was scared. I didn’t know how to navigate what would come afterwards.
Over the last few weeks of 2022, there were a few key events that forced me to take my battle with dysphoria more seriously. It became painfully clear that I couldn’t keep denying the truth for myself, and… I chickened the fuck out. I freaked, spiralled and ultimately tried to kill myself on New Year’s Day.
After coming home from the hospital and settling back into reality, I came to the conclusion that if I was going to keep living, I needed to accept myself as a trans woman and get myself to a point where I felt okay living as one. I started thinking about how I could work myself towards a presentation I felt comfy with before gently coming out – I’d keep going on my weight loss journey until I felt okay about my shape, then I’d lose the beard and get all the follicles lasered off, get a hair transplant and start growing it out, practise make-up in private until I had it down-pat enough, and then finally come out one last time.
But after seeing my extended family at a funeral in early January, I realised that I didn’t have all that time at my disposal. It hurt too much to keep playing pretend – I couldn’t keep wearing the mask I’d been wearing for my whole life thus far; I couldn’t force myself to hide behind masculinity anymore.
I came out to my partner on January 12th and leapt straight into femme presentation with no sense of aesthetic, a few hair pieces, wicked stubble, no idea what I was doing with makeup… I mean, I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m slowly getting better? I am slowly figuring out how to dress, present and embrace myself as the woman I am. And the truth is that I’ve always been a woman, it just took me 26 years of struggling to accept that for myself.
I’m still struggling. I cry at least once a week over the fact I don’t have my own hair (that surgery is my #1 priority right now). I am finding voice training to be absolute hell (heat from fire, fire from heat). I do not pass in the slightest (as people in the street are always extremely keen to make clear), and the public transphobia is so much worse than I anticipated (see: that TERF rally here in Naarm a few weeks ago, where Victoria Police protected self-declared Neo-Nazis while they bashed trans rights activists). But I would much rather die as an open, struggling trans woman than live miserable and closeted.
I am more comfortable in myself now than I have ever been. Every mismatched fit, botched makeup job and vocal cord squeak is a learning opportunity – a baby step in becoming who I was always meant to be. When I look at myself in the mirror nowadays, i don’t immediately feel like shit. I smile. I see the hormones slowly starting to work their magic, I see my aesthetic skills developing, and I see a future where I feel comfortable in my own body. I see a girl trying her damn hardest to live her best life – a life of authenticity, radically and defiantly so – and my spirit burns for her. She’s my biggest inspiration.
TLDR: my name is Elizabeth Ashley Doria – Ellie for short (and if you’re wondering, Robinson is my mum’s maiden name; I use it for my writing as a tribute to the feminine energy that shaped me). My pronouns are she/her. I am a daughter to Mark and Jeanette, a sister to [redacted], a fiancée to Milo and a dog-mum to Cadbury.
I am a transgender woman, and I am proud as fuck to be one.
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