Alanna Marie’s Story

Alanna Marie

My main reasons for blogging: encourage thought-provoking discussions, preview aspects of my life, and write thoughts I kept bottled up.

The Beginning of My Gender Transition (2015): Here is What Happened

June of 2015 is when I started my gender transition from male to female. I let my close friends and family know about my transition plans prior to starting, just so they will not be caught off-guard about my changes. I consider myself very fortunate because most of my friends did not abandon me during my transition and my experience was not that bad, especially since I went to college in the Eastern Kentucky area. This transition occurred during my fourth and final year of my undergraduate career. Long story short, I experienced a unique journey that lead me to ongoing happiness. Continue reading if you would like to read my full experience.

Professors

Prior to my transition, I was treated like an any regular college student. After I attended classes, presenting myself as female, fortunately, I wasn’t treated too differently by professors. Although, there are a few professors and moments worth discussing. In the school’s database, I was not registered as Alanna. I did not want to attend any class without my professors knowing about my transition beforehand, since I wanted to avoid the name embarrassment of roll call. The last thing I wanted them to do was to read the name on file and force me to explain my situation in front of all of my classmates. I sent them all a short and sweet email a few days before the first day of the semester. My first moment worth discussing are the responses to my emails. They were all positive! Keep in mind, they were professors teaching psychology, criminology, and business management. Sure enough, they all called me by my new name during roll call. After learning about the experiences of other transgender college students, I became shocked. Apparently some professors are cold and do not respect transgender students, despite potential lawsuits, and issues involving student well-being, campus reputation, and retention. I felt bad for other transgender students but I felt fortunate about my situation.

Unlike the positivity of moment one, moment two was very negative. One day during the semester, I had to miss class to go to my hormone doctor for my first three month check-up. I only had one class that day and I informed my professor of my absence weeks in advance. He seemed understanding at first. However, after I got back from my appointment, I emailed him requesting the information and assignments I missed. He responded by telling me that he would give them to me eventually. I waited, providing a reminder or two. Every time I would remind him he kept blowing me off by saying he would get to it. About a month or two later he posted midterm grades and I had two zeros on assignments done in class that day. I sent him an email about this issue and my willingness to complete the missing assignments. He told me to check the PowerPoint on Blackboard from class that day. I checked that PowerPoint and I only saw one assignment. I completed it and a practice assignment (since I could not locate the other one). I turned them in to him and explained how the second assignment was not on Blackboard but I did an extra assignment. He said okay and updated my grades. However, my grades were not as expected. He gave me half-credit for one and zero for the other. I emailed him about it and he replied in a very rude tone. He told me that I am lucky that he even gave me credit for an assignment I was not even present for and that I should have been in class (despite my excused absence). We exchanged a few more emails but it just escalated to him further taunting and confusing me. I asked about this in-person after class and he told me to drop it. He continued by threatening me. He said if I report him to the chair of the psychology department, he would report me for plagiarism; thus expelling me from college. Then he walked off, saying he had better things to do. I would be lying if I said I did not have an emotional breakdown about this. I wasn’t thinking about reporting him prior to that interaction but, after speaking with my advisor (who also disliked him), I decided to report him. Needless to say, it was a futile effort on my part. He had tenure and the assignments did not impact my overall letter grade. If they were both zeros or both perfect scores, I would have gotten the same letter grade. There was nothing I could do. He was also the only professor who taught capstone. Sadly, I had to endure him one more semester and he was biased against me and my friend for association. She told me that he was always more nice and respectful to her before taking this class and it was very obvious we are close friends. He was always more critical of our assignments than other students’ (I have proof). Fortunately, he never gave as much attitude in this class as he did the previous one. I am glad he is now in my past and I never have to enduring him ever again. Although, there is one more professor worth discussing.

This next professor is very odd to discuss. You see, I developed a good student-professor bond with a self-proclaimed liberal professor. This bond was established sometime during my freshman year and continued throughout my undergraduate journey. An aspect worth discussing is her bias against religiosity. I never asked what her religious views were but they appeared to be on the spectrum of Atheism. Regardless of her views, I got along well with her and felt safe. This bond changed when I confided to her my transition plans, about a year in advanced. She told me she has an open mind and I can do whatever I want but I am wrong. When lecturing about sexuality and gender in class, she discussed how transgender people are transgender because society makes us that way; that we cannot stand being feminine gay males and masculine lesbian females that we need to transition to make us feel more accepted by society. After lecturing she said that she’s releasing class early because she knows she offended people (as she looks at me). A year or so later goes by and she feels the need to tell me that she is worried about me because my hormone pills are “cancer pills” and does not want me to get cancer. In reality, there is no known proof of transgender medicine increasing the likelihood of cancer. She referred to the use of estradiol for cisgender women going through menopause but there are so many differences between their treatment and mine. As stated earlier, these moments were a bit odd with this professor. I can tell she had good intentions but she was clearly misguided and made false assumptions. If you are not transgender, you can never truly understand what it means to be transgender. Period.

Students/Peers

This section will be short because there’s not much worth discussing. To my surprise, most students treated me no different. Of course there were psychology peers who were caught off guard about my change but they were largely accepting and referred to me using my correct name and pronouns. I am glad they were my peers! There was one peer who literally look down every time he walked by me and would get this mean look on his face. This was not the case prior to my transition. I really didn’t mind since it was just one peer and I wasn’t close to him. If they are the type of person to pass such rash judgement, they are not worth knowing anyways.

Friends

This section will be bland because my friends were and are the best! They treated me like a great friend before and after my transition. Most of my friends talk to males and females the same way but I have one friend who implicitly changes how he talks to males and females. In the very beginning of my transition, he kept talking to me like a male but about half-way through the school year, he started talking to me like a female (that’s probably when I started to appear mostly female). I found out this was implicit because I asked him about it and he was genuinely confused. I am glad this is the case because that shows he truly values our friendship and me as a female.

In addition to my established friends, I made one more friend my final semester. We found each other and messaged via Yik Yak. We eventually met up. This friend should be mentioned because she is also transgender. To my knowledge, we were the only transgender women at MSU. Even though we didn’t have much time to know each other, our friendship was definitely magical for me. When you are transgender you feel somewhat alone and unrelatable to others. Just by having a transgender friend, I no longer felt an ounce of loneliness and it felt great finally relating to someone with a similar story and struggles. Other than just relating to each other, she was also a genuine friend to me.

Boys, Boys, Boys

Prior to my transition, I never seriously pursued romantic activity. The beginning of my transition was no different. I did not want to date anyone who expressed attraction to me during the very beginning of my transition. Even though I have always been female at heart, I knew I looked mostly male when I first came out. If someone expressed attraction to me at that point I would feel uncomfortable and felt they were attracted to me for all the wrong reasons. January of 2016 is when I felt I started to look mostly female. I wasn’t really after romantic commitment at that point but I still wanted to put my fingers in the water, meaning, I wanted validation. I felt like I looked mostly female but if a male I have never met before treated me as a female, then that would serve as the validation my self-esteem needed. I will admit that I got a Tinder account and started swiping left and right. I did not mention my transition in my profile but I had recent pictures posted. Long story short, I got the validation I was after. Men saw me as a female. Please do not see this validation-seeking as treating men poorly or “misleading them.” After I told them I am transgender in the messages, most men removed me, blocked me, ghosted me, snapped at me, fetisized me, and (on exactly one occasion) politely turned me down. It would have never worked out between me and those men so I have no hard feelings. I did not actively pursue a relationship until that summer. That relationship is another story on its own. I will make a separate blog about dating men as transgender in the near future, so stay tuned.

Work

I started my job at the on-campus Recreation Center May of 2015, a month before hormones and three months before coming out. I got to know my boss and some coworkers prior to my transition over the summer. I also felt like I was forming a legitimate friendship with one coworker. It was only natural for me to tell him about my transition so he wouldn’t be surprised when I came to work presenting as female a week later. He only seemed uncomfortable when I told him and he dismissed himself. I did not make much of it then but after I came to work as female, he never once tried talking with me and avoided me at all cost. I never spoke with him again. I found out he got fired for breaking company policy for something else. Part of me felt bad for him losing his job but another part of me felt like that he got his karma. When it comes to other coworkers, I did not interact with many. I felt like I got along with the ones I talked with. Although, through the grapevine, I heard a coworker told a friend that if he were on the hiring committee, that he would have prevented me from getting hired because I did not belong there. Of course I reported that to management. That might have been his views about me from the beginning, but as we interacted more, I feel like that past person was no longer him. At least, this is what I hope.

Even though my coworker experience ranged from negative to slightly positive, my manager was a different story. My experience with her was completely positive. I told her about my transition plans about a month or so before committing. She was worried because it was a huge step for me and she knows transgender people go through a lot. I was also the first transgender employee they had at the rec center so they do not have past experiences to reference. She invited me to a meeting with a student representative to discuss coping with issues, addressing issues as they arise, my current mental/emotional health, and references for us. I can tell this helped relieve her worries. She was consistent about her support throughout my employment. Most bosses should be like her!

Housing

The semester before my transition, I talked to a representative at the student housing office about my plans to transition and desire to live on campus with my cisgender female friend. She told me that campus did not support transgender students and if I were to transition, I only had two on-campus options. I would either live in a boy’s dorm or boy’s floor and my roommate could be a tolerant guy. Alternatively, I could live in a very expensive on-campus apartment in a room by myself. I was against the first one for obvious reasons but I hated the second suggestion more because I hate the idea of being isolated during my transition. Pushing me to live alone instead of with other females sends a nasty message. Transgender people should never feel alone and forced to be by ourselves. This lead me to live off-campus. I did not like the idea of living off-campus and I ended up pressuring a friend of mine to join me so I wouldn’t live alone. I feel bad for pressuring them but I am forever glad they joined me. I heard after I graduated that they fixed their anti-transgender student housing policy. I really hope this is true because there should be no reason why transgender students should be treated the way I was treated.

My Bodily Changes

After starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which involved daily doses of estradiol and spironolactone, I did not experience change until about one month into it. The first change is difficult to describe. Imagine if you have a light switch inside of your body and it has always been flipped one way your entire life. Now imagine you feel it flip in the opposite direction. That’s about how my first change felt like. Ever since the switch flipped, it has not flipped back in the original direction. About two months into my transition, I started to notice the formation of breasts and slightly thicker thighs, butt, and hips. About six months in, I started to develop that “pouch” of stomach fat that most women have. This was honestly not flattering to see at first but now I am kinda used to seeing this extra fat. Around the same time, my fat and muscle cells started shifting in my face and making my face look more feminine. After a full year into my transition, my body shifted to look mostly female. Most people could not tell that I am transgender at that point. However, most changes involved the shifting of fat cells. My fat cells were almost completely transitioned. Muscle cells take about three years to peak in their changes. Nowadays, I feel comfortable going out without make-up on because people still treat me like how I want to be treated.

In addition to my physical changes, I also experienced mental changes. Transgender people have unique brains. Our brain is actually wired more closely to our desired/natural gender than to our natal gender. However, there is still wiring discrepancy. HRT helps to eliminate this discrepancy issue by transitioning our wiring to match that of our desired/natural gender. So when it comes to me, my mind has always been mostly female but not completely female. HRT helped shape my mind to be structured like cisgender females. To make these changes sound more concrete, I will tell you how this changed me.

Prior to my transition, my emotional intelligence was rather low. I did not always pick up on what people were saying “in-between the lines”, I was not completely in-tuned with how I felt, and I sometimes I would make comments (to which I honestly thought were fluid in conversation) that killed the conversation and/or generated negative responses. I do not want to go out on a limb and say that I now have high emotional intelligence but it is much higher than it was prior to my transition. All of the issues I mentioned were no longer issues for me. Although, I still make odd comments in conversations but they don’t generate negativity and most conversations are no longer killed by them.

Prior to my transition, I was and still attracted to males. The difference with attraction involved a shift in values. I used to be attracted to males mainly based on looks alone. I hardly cared about their personality or interests; I just cared if they looked attractive to me. Looks is still a factor for me but the weight of this factor has decreased dramatically. The peer I mentioned earlier, the one who became a passive bigot after coming out, I was actually attracted to him prior to my transition. I noticed how he interacted with others and he is not a good person, to say the least. I did not care about that but after I transitioned, his personality actually influenced my attraction. I can now say I no longer find him attractive due to his terrible personality.

The final brain-related change to talk about is my mental health. I was told that most transwomen experience more moodiness and mood swings when beginning their transition. Luckily, I was already experiencing those prior to my transition so I never experienced this issue. However, prior to my transition I had very low self-esteem, confidence, and happiness. Occasionally I may experience an issue with my mental health but ultimately I am a much healthier person. I mostly feel great about myself and I am happy.

Overall

My first year living authentically as female was mostly refreshing. So many of my issues were resolved and I was able to graduate on a positive note. There were some negatives that surfaced with my transition but they weren’t much so I feel fortunate. Most of my transition-related issues actually surfaced after I graduated but I might explore those in a separate blog. As for now, I just want to reflect on how well I had it and how we can improve the lives of other transgender people. Our society is slowly improving and I am happy about the progress we have made and the progress we will make.

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