Stephanie Haskins, author of The Transchick Chronicles

From “I Am Woman” to “WAP”

Some Womanly Thoughts On Misogyny, Menstruation, and The Gaze of Males

Stephanie Haskins, author of The Transchick Chronicles

February 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth installment of “The Transchick Chronicles,” an on-going series of essays written by newly-out transgender journalist Stephanie Haskins, as she chronicles her transition. Parts one and two can be found here. Parts three and four can be found here. Click here for part five, here for part six, and here for part seven.

 

PART EIGHT

 

BY STEPHANIE HASKINS

I am woman, hear me roar,

In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back and pretend

‘Cause I’ve heard it all before

And I’ve been down there on the floor

No one’s ever gonna keep me down again…

Fifty years ago, the late Australian singer Helen Reddy recorded the song “I Am Woman” and it became an absolutely gigantic, worldwide hit. It was immediately adopted by feminists everywhere and sold more than a million copies, which is a very big deal, and an even bigger deal back then.

The song was all over Top 40 radio, television variety shows—everywhere. It was covered by all kinds of other female entertainers and, as you might imagine, avoided by dudes like Frank Sinatra who thought women’s lib was all bullshit.

The song has stuck with me because somehow, through all of my affected, chauvinistic, pretend-to-be-an actual male life over the years, it really spoke to me.

But how, you might ask. Why?

I didn’t secretly want to be a woman back then. Really, I didn’t. I confusedly thought I was a deeply-repressed gay something or other. I simply knew the words of this song somehow told a story I could relate to. And understood.

Again, I hadn’t lived the life of a female, but in many small ways I’d repeatedly watched women be marginalized, degraded, discriminated against, dismissed, passed over, left behind.

I watched it happen to my own mother, who was smart and ambitious but never much cared about education and had a brittle personality. She was unable to crack the glass ceilings at various financial institutions where she worked over the years. She knew how to do the various jobs she held, but was never considered for more responsible positions. Meanwhile, I couldn’t have been less enlightened or aware; It was just the way it was. After all, the Frank Sinatras of the world were in charge. They ran stuff—seemingly everything, in fact.

“My Way,” Frank trilled. His way or the highway. No women allowed for “man stuff.” Yep, that’s just the way it was. For a very long time.

But things have changed, we’re told. A lot, a lot, a lot, we’re assured.

Still, I wonder. Just how much?

And how much will all of this affect me? As a transchick.

In fact, since I’ve begun presenting as a woman, I’ve noticed little, tiny, anti-feminist, passive aggressions aimed at me. Especially by men in professions where few women have yet to find their place.

An example: A few months ago, I made a bad turn into my parking space at the condo complex where I live, and scraped my right front bumper on one of the wood supports. No major scratches, no broken paint. Just a part of the front bumper assembly had been pushed in about an inch or so. And as a result, I couldn’t close my hood all the way, because it’d become slightly misaligned by the impact of the accident.

So, I took my vehicle to the nearby Lincoln dealer to have one of the body shop guys look it over, and get an estimate for a repair. Couple hundred bucks, I figured. I pulled into the parking lot, parked, and walked into the dingy office.

And there he was: California Bubba. Greasy faced, oily hair, unshaven, stained baseball cap. He stared at me. I said I wanted someone to look at my SUV and give me an estimate for some work. He rolled his eyes, and with a great sigh, got up from behind his battered old desk and walked past me out the door. Not a word.

When he saw the minor damage, he asked me how it had happened. I told him, embarrassed, because I sensed he was stereotyping me as a careless, unskilled, woman driver. He grunted, groaned, and looked spectacularly annoyed as he tried to push the separated, misaligned pieces of sheet metal back together.

“You musta really smacked that post,” he said.

“Um, no, not really. I thought I just grazed it,” I replied. “So how much to put it back together? I don’t think it needs any paint.”

“We’re looking at  $1,500 to $2,000,” he said.

I was stunned. “Why? There’s no real damage,” I said.

That seemed to annoy California Bubba. “You don’t know that,” he told me. “We’re gonna have to disassemble the whole damn quarter panel, and we’re probably gonna have to replace the whole front bumper.

“Ma’am,” he continued, almost hissing, “if I do the work, it gets done right.”

“I’ll take a pass,” I said.

I left.

The motherfucker had lied through his ochre-colored teeth to my face. Because, I believe, he sensed that the person before him knew nothing about body work. To him, I was just another woman, a stupid woman.

A couple of weeks later, a mobile dent repair guy I found on Yelp came to my condo, spent about half an hour, manipulated the two pieces of sheet metal back together, replaced a couple of small clips, and whaddya know: Fixed.

The cost? $150—which i had to force him to take. “Aw, I didn’t do much. I don’t what to charge,” he said.

His name was Rob. He had an infectious, good natured sense of self about him—and my God, he was interested in customer service. MY customer service! Plus, he didn’t seem to have any preconceived ideas about my intelligence or ability to understand his oh-so-complicated car-lingo.

Rob, I believe, will never be a California Bubba. He was a sweet male human who saw me as a person, not a 43C rack on legs, and restored my faith—a bit—in people with XY chromosomes (a.k.a. men).

Still, it was Bubba who stayed in my mind. A misogynistic, chauvinistic paternalistic asshole. The Bubbas of the world have made me increasingly phobic about spending any time at all around aging, ambulatory eggplants.

Oh yes, I am wise

But it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price

But look how much I gained

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible

I am woman

Sometime in the next three or four or six months I’m going to undergo what’s quaintly known in my transgender universe as “bottom” surgery.

That means that my highly skilled San Francisco surgeon will “re-purpose” my sad-little-pretty-much-useless penis into a vagina. Think about that for a moment.

It’s bloody miraculous!

I have NO fears whatsoever about this wondrous surgical intervention because it means that, at last, I’ll have done as much as I can to physically transform myself into what I hope the rest of the world will perceive me to be: A woman.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, you fucking with some wet ass pussy

Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet ass pussy

Give me everything you got for this wet ass pussy

Yeah! But, no, those are definitely NOT lyrics from “I Am Woman.” For the uninitiated, they’re from a far more, uh, contemporary hit titled “WAP” by the rapper Cardi B. WAP stands for an aforementioned “wet ass pussy.” It’s a totally feminist fuck-you song—a tune to which one can wildly dance if one so chooses. (I do!)

In my humble opinion, Cardi B speaks the wet ass truth. I love this tune, and it’s become my newest go-to anthem when I start to have doubts about myself and my journey.

Of course, I’ll never have a naturally wet-ass pussy, because my neo-vagina won’t be self-lubricating, But I’ll finally have a pussy nonetheless.

A dry-ass pussy.

(So, side note, if anyone wants to come and romp in my new surgically improved playground, a lot of store-bought lube will be totally necessary. All flavors and scents welcome.)

But here’s what’s important: At long last, my physical being will finally match my now incredibly strong sense of femaleness—and hopefully it will no longer reflect my ever-diminishing-guilt for never been a genuine, real, intuitive male.

I was a phony. A fake. A counterfeit, pretend, masking AMAB (assigned male at birth) who never had any fucking idea what he was doing as a presumptive penis-person.

With that said, my penis is going away for good. Its short term lease is getting shorter by the day. Pretty much like my actual penis nowadays. The estrogen and the androgen blocker I take have shrunk it, and my testicles, and made them basically useless as a sexual organ. My dick is now employed only for conveying urine from my bladder to a toilet. So, at long last, the goddamn thing will be gone sometime soon.

As a side note, however—a confession, actually—I’m terrified about the first time I’ll have to pee without having my penis act as a pipe from my inside to the outside. A young trans woman who recently completed her gender confirmation surgery told me that when she now has to pee, her urine doesn’t emerge as something resembling a stream; it sort of gushes out everywhere, although she’s gaining more control.

That is not good news for me or my OCD, which demands perfection in all things—especially when it comes to (dare I say NASTY) body functions like peeing or pooping.

I do NOT want my pee going everywhere. I want it to come out neatly and cleanly. No unwanted splashing, please.

Of course, at the same time, I want my penis-funnel gone even more.

I will learn to live with splashing.

Another females-only bodily function that has recently shown up, quite unexpectedly, involves my own personal iteration of a menstrual period. No, I don’t discharge any menses, but for the past six months or so, I now experience many of the same symptoms women experience every month. For me, they show up between the 15th and 20th; I feel tired, crampy, bloated, and oh-my-god, I have BAD intestinal issues.

I mean BAAAAAAADDD.

I know, I know. This sounds like total bullshit. But kids, I assure you it’s not. I didn’t believe that It was real until it happened. To me. One of the most cynical, no-bullshit persons on the planet. And it wasn’t until the third or fourth time these symptoms occurred that I accepted the possibility of having my own version of “the curse.”

I feel fucking awful for a few days every month.

I have to admit that when I first read about trans women possibly experiencing period-like symptoms, I thought it was just the craziest thing I’d ever heard. Couldn’t be true. Trans women don’t have ovaries, and no bank of ovum—so the shedding process that comprises the pathology of menstruation can’t happen.

Nope. NO. And yet another no.

Well, the discharge can’t happen. But since we trans gals flood our systems with estrogen for months and years, some researchers now believe our bodies’ endocrine systems are sometimes stimulated by female hormones to the point where our brains start to anticipate either a pregnancy or the sloughing off of an unfertilized ovum.

Of course, neither reproductive scenarios are reality. We don’t have human eggs waiting to be fertilized, nor can we shed them each month. We just can’t. Ever.

But too late: Some of our bodies have apparently come to anticipate one or the other, and since pregnancy isn’t possible, we get to FEEL like we’re expelling an unfertilized ovum, even though we’re not actually doing so.

I first read about trans women experiencing faux periods about five years ago, when I came across an article on a now defunct website called “The Establishment.” It was written by Sam Riedel, a trans woman who had heard about the phenomenon from some of her trans friends, and was fascinated by the possibility.

Finding almost nothing about transgender female periods in existing medical literature, Riedel conducted her own modestly-sized survey among other trans women and discovered, much to her surprise, that a relatively significant number of transitioning women reported having to deal with symptoms that presented as those of a dry period.

Riedel’s article had a huge impact on me.

For one thing, I knew then that I might be entering a very mysterious land of femininity and that emerging sensibility made me shiver with…what? Anticipation? Anxiety? Dread? 

Yes!

Since Riedel’s article was published, I wanted to see how much additional literature on transgender menstrual periods has been posted or published. When I Googled the subject, I found quite a bit more—although Riedel’s article still seems to still be the seminal piece. Still, even the Wall Street Journal has weighed in with an article.

The phenomenon seems to be well accepted at this point by many gender clinicians, but it hasn’t inspired a whole lot of intensive, additional research. I DO know that in my own trans support groups, no one seems to be surprised if a member discloses that she is experiencing pre-menstrual-type symptoms.

One article, written by Veronica Zambon for Medical News Today, also notes that while this area of trans health has not been extensively studied, the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPD) agrees that the hormone loads most transgender women carry in their bodies may cause symptoms similar to those of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Again, those symptoms might include sore breasts, rapid mood shifts, and irritability. For me personally? Check, check, and check. Not to mention the other symptoms as well: headaches, intestinal issues (and how!), cramps, and a sense of almost total exhaustion.

But WHY? Again, hormones—high levels that can fluctuate up and down. I use estrogen patches, two at a time, that I change every three days. I affix them pretty much everywhere on my pelvic area—buttocks, abdomen, groin, hips—but not in the same area twice in a row.

I used to take tablets—but my endocrinologist suggested patches instead when my hormone levels started to drastically seesaw. I do like the patches. Sounds silly, but they make me feel more feminine.

I personally think menstruation is an absolute gift to persons who were assigned females at birth. It’s a wondrous process whereby women can slough off unfertilized eggs and get a fresh start every month. A brand new chance to get pregnant. Which I also think is wondrous.

Of course, I do understand that most females have decidedly mixed feelings about the process. I was married twice and have a daughter. I’ve been around menstruation most of my life.

So, mixed feelings, yeah. The monthly pain and discomfort, the mess, the inconvenience. But it’s also emblematic of the exclusive feminine prerogative of pregnancy. Bearing children. Little versions of ourselves. Perhaps the most sacred of all things human: reproduction.

And maybe I’d be even less enthused about my faux-periods if I had to use tampons, and pads, and worry about leaks, and stains, and some REAL menstrual pain. Month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

Next topic.

Let’s call it “The Gaze of Males.”

Yes, I see them watching me. Some guys  have started noticing this transchick. And a few of them, I believe, want to fuck me. In a vagina I don’t yet have. Or, in lieu of that, they want to stick their dicks in other orifices already well-established for alternate pleasuring. Shake your heads if you must, but this is absolutely true. And I’ve done NOTHING to encourage this. I swear!

Ok, no, not true, exactly. After I got my breasts a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to wear bras. Ever. Oh sure, sports bras when I have the need, but other than that, nope. So, when I pack my breasts under tee shirts, or blouses, or dresses, they’re unencumbered, and my nipples are very obvious, and very visible. And I don’t freaking care. Not one goddamned bit.

Ya wanna look, boys? Be my guest. Enjoy. Let your imaginations run wild. I’ve started to learn how some women wield their power by inviting not-so-clandestine inspection.

And yes, I realize my exhibitionist prerogative erases a bit of my radical feminist street cred, but we all have our little guilty pleasures.

And then there’s social media, which is still something of a mystery to me. I admit to being a bit careless—and perhaps naïve—when someone I don’t know wants to connect with me online and, with little hesitation, I respond with an “Okeeeeeedokeeee! You CAN be my friend!” And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when some random dude, usually from a far-off land where English isn’t the first language, assesses my photos, and starts up a texting conversation that usually goes something like this:

Them: “Hi.”

Me: “Hi back.”

Them: “What are you doing?”

Me. “Responding to you.”

Them: “Ok.”

Me: (No response.)

Them: “You are so beautiful.”

Me (Surprised): “Thanks.”

Them: “Are you taken?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “I love you so much. You’re going to be my wife.”

Me: “Um, well, we’ll see,” (Then I give them the talk about being transgender. That I still have a penis. That I’m still pre-op, that I do NOT have a vagina, that that I’m still legally married to my wife.)

Them: “When will you get a vagina?”

Me: “Soon.”

Them: “Send me a picture of yourself without any clothes on.”

Me: “No, I don’t do that.”

Them:  (They send me unsolicited pictures of their erect dicks. Some of which, I must admit, are quite beautiful.)

Okay. So I don’t totally hate ALL dicks. Depends. Maybe it’s more who’s attached to them.

I still don’t want to keep mine, though.

Regardless, I’m not sure I EVER want a penis inside of my new vagina. As my gender has changed, so now has my sexual orientation, it seems. Now, I believe I identify most as a lesbian.

And I absolutely don’t want cisgender, straight men (Bubbas) hanging around me. At all. They can take their dicks and shove them.

Someplace else.

Still, I’ve got to better understand and learn to live with The Gaze of Men. Wanted or unwanted. Right now, I really don’t know how I feel. Flattered? Yes, I guess so. No one—and I mean NO one—has ever called me beautiful up until now. Ever! Very few have lusted after me (that I know of).

So, I guess I rather like being a sex object. Whodathunkit?

I mean, I do have a rather attractive body of a woman of a certain age. Measurements: 43-28-38. Not exactly hourglass shaped but, hey, not bad.

I’ve even been wolf-whistled, when I was out running a couple of times recently. I was surprised at first, and then I felt very vulnerable. Two or three youngish, unappealing, and rather unkempt young men started driving slowly alongside me and screaming nasty shit.

And maybe, for the first time ever in my life, I actually felt a sense of violation. I understood how women have felt when they’re emotionally assaulted by assholes who think they have the right to verbally fondle and/or perhaps even emotionally rape women who they perceive to somehow be their property.

I get it, sisters.

Perhaps too late, I admit. But I finally, really get it.

And I can’t tell you all how truly sorry I am for all of the disgusting shit you have to put up with.

I’m also now somewhat sad for me. Because no woman—cisgender, transgender, straight, lesbian, questioning, etc.—should ever have to move through our culture always being a little bit afraid, almost all the time.

It’s becoming very obvious to me that my new life as a female—as a woman—is going to be an always wondrous, often fabulous, sometimes scary, and occasionally confusing trip through a cultural landscape that is still often times openly hostile and fearsome to us.

I’ll end up, I think, as a sort of mashup of the women celebrated in the lyrics of “WAP” and “I Am Woman.” Funny how the past and the present can come together—if we try hard enough.

Now from the top, make it drop, that’s some wet ass pussy

You can bend but never break me

‘Cause it only serves to make me

More determined to achieve my final goal

Now get a bucket and a mop, that’s some wet ass pussy

And I come back even stronger

Not a novice any longer

‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

I’m talking WAP, WAP, WAP, that’s some wet ass pussy

I am strong 

I am invincible 

Give me everything you got for this wet ass pussy

I am woman

 

Stephanie Haskins is hard at work on the next chapters of “The Transchick Chronicles,” and we’ll bring them to you when they’re ready. Sign up for our e-newsletter here to be alerted when they’re published. Stephanie can be reached at 

 

 

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