Stephanie "The Transchick" Haskins, relaxing at home in Sacramento, California.

Transgender Euphoria

Realizing my true identity brings unparalleled joy

Stephanie "The Transchick" Haskins, relaxing at home in Sacramento, California.

December 2023

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of “The Transchick Chronicles,” an on-going series of essays written by trans journalist Stephanie Haskins as she documents her transition, and modern transgender life. Scroll to the bottom for links to her previous entries.

BY STEPHANIE HASKINS

When I first came out and started my transition almost five years ago, I started to hear about a phenomenon called “gender euphoria.”

Not “gender dysphoria,” a term describing a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

I’ve experienced plenty of that.

But this gender euphoria, well, that sounded fun.

Generally, euphoria is described as “a state of intense happiness and self-confidence.”

Doctors told me when I started hormone replacement therapy that at totally random and unexpected times—sort of “just because” with no particular trigger—I would likely start to experience moments of an incredible sense of joy and satisfaction at finally being at one with myself.

Whole, if you will.

Wholeness.

Because, at long last, I would be a real, honest-to-God authentic person—a FEMALE person!  A person that I had unknowingly been camouflaging as male for years. Decades.

And, ya know what?

It happened. It actually started to happen. I experienced euphoria.

It totally blew me away.

It actually started almost immediately, just a few hours after I swallowed my first micro-dose of Estradiol, an estrogen steroid hormone.

That happened at my gender therapist’s office during my weekly session earlier that afternoon; I wanted to share my experience with her, so after I picked up my first bottle of estrogen and a bottle of Spironolactone (an androgen blocker that usually drastically reduces testosterone levels from the bodies of male-to-female trans women and better allows Estradiol to work its feminizing magic), I popped open a bottle of Gatorade, toasted my decision to transition, took a gulp and swallowed the two tabs.

I felt a shiver down my spine because I knew that I was effectively ending my life as a miserable, clinically depressed male named Steven.

It was a peaceful passing: I felt no pain, and then, I sensed that I/he was gone.

It was the night of February 14, 2020, at a family gathering to celebrate my wonderful, sweet daughter’s birthday.

None of my extended family knew about me at that point. My wife and daughter did, and both were still angry and upset and embarrassed and devastated and afraid—and both had ordered me not to say anything about my decision to start hormones and actually transition.

I had agreed, reluctantly, because I had no idea where all of this turmoil was going to lead. I mean, how could I?

 

 

My first little chunk of gender euphoria materialized out of the ether. Hard to explain it, except I started to cry. Tears rolling down my face. I had to quickly excuse myself from the dinner table and run to the bathroom—where I totally lost it.

I was very confused—quite frightened actually, because I had no idea what was happening. And even more confusing was that I was weeping because I was just so overwhelmingly HAPPY!

Sobbing. Head in hands. Sitting on the toilet in the dark. Trying like hell to muffle the sounds of me exfoliating a few decades of confusion and dismay about myself as a male.

But not as a MAN.

As I look back on my life, I can see now what a pathetic excuse of a “man” I was. Yeah, I’d been able to execute the deception pretty well, I believe, but at a terrible cost to my soul.

During that teary episode in that bathroom, I was absolutely, uncontrollably excited and joyous in that little moment. I felt this wave of warmth and peace wash over my entire body.

Not exactly how I would have defined euphoria back then.

But that’s EXACTLY what it was. The first of many moments since. Almost all defined with tears, by the way.

Euphoria is almost ALWAYS liquid in nature, it seems. At least for me.

And I cry all the time now. Any strong emotion I feel comes with an overwhelming sense of wonder, happiness, and even curiosity.

Accompanied by a spigot of tears.

Is this REALLY euphoria? For me, it appears to be so.

For so many years, the main emotion I felt was a very low level of anger. Even during happy times, I never lost that sense of “WTF, is this all there is?”

Maybe worst of all, this chronic depression was manifested by an edgy, crampy, queasy knot in my gut that roiled inside of me for thousands of days in a row.

It was very, very real and very, VERY uncomfortable. At some level. Every day. For years and years and years.

From a very young age, I absolutely knew that I was terribly uncomfortable existing as a male human—an entity who was supposed to grow up to be a man-person. But that didn’t mean I felt I should have been a girl or woman-person either.

 

 

I didn’t want to play with dolls but I was more comfortable being around girls and women, and I did dress in female clothing on occasion—mostly out of curiosity to see what I’d look like as a girl. I mostly considered those dress-up episodes as proof of some kind of sexuality “dysfunction”—that I was gay, not transgender.

Neither man nor male, woman nor female—I was a thing. I was of alien flesh. I wasn’t human.

Oh, I pretended really well; I was a hot-shot television news executive who helped set the information agenda in my city for a couple of decades. I hoped that would be enough to ease all of the pain inside.

God, I hoped so.

It’s called sublimation.

I wanted that knot in my gut to go away sooooooo badly.

I’m not exaggerating that ache. The discomfort. It was always there—never completely debilitating—but I rarely enjoyed much of anything, and work consumed everything else. I just sort of existed.

When I first came out as a VERY queer person (Note: NOT transgender, just queer) on June 10, 2019, it was to a young Episcopalian priest who had just graduated from the Divinity School at the University of California-Berkeley. He described himself as a life coach, and was only going to be available for two or three months.

Enough time for me, I figured. I’d just clean out all my sexuality issues with him and be done with it. Gender stuff was not at all on my radar at the time. Yes, I could sense a discomfort connected with it but I had no name for it.

So my therapist, my life coach, my savior (really!) was named Alex.

After two or three incredibly emotional sessions with this young holy man as my guide, Alex somehow managed to pull the truth out of me—like the toothy monster that popped out of a dead crewman to scare the shit out of Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley in the movie Alien.

Like an exorcism, this thing, these secrets, this monster, was pulled out of me by a man of God.

He ripped out my monster, all drippy and icky, looked at it, shook it around a bit, and pronounced it to be lifelong gender dysphoria.

I did not scream. I did not recoil in horror and fright.

No, dear readers, I was relieved.

I was relieved to finally confront that slimy, squirmy, drooling, horrible thing as it dangled out of my ever-so-damaged psyche. My secret was out. And it was out to me!

To ME!

But there was something else. A BIG something else.

“You are a woman,” he said to me very quietly and very matter-of-factly on that hot, late Monday afternoon in his small office on the outskirts of Davis, California.

I remember that moment so incredibly clearly. Everything about it. I was crying (of course) and gripping a pillow to my chest and stomach.

I was stunned. Dumbfounded. It couldn’t be true. Not ME. 

I was a GUY, albeit a totally fucked up and terribly depressed guy who did not want to live any longer—but indeed, still A GUY.

I told Alex that I was not. That it couldn’t be true.

But he continued to look at me, and in a very soft voice, announced to me again that I likely really was.

A woman.

And in about 10 minutes, maybe less, I knew that Alex was telling me the Great Truth. This horrific monster that had been squeezing my soul and gnawing on my gut for my entire freaking lifetime was actually MY TRUTH.

There it was.

Something I had never before even considered as a possibility—an option, if you will.

Instead of being this disconnected, confused, guilt-ridden, and yes, quietly terrified male person, I was actually not that.

I was female.

A female.

A woman.

And then, from the very deepest part of my consciousness, I acknowledged to Alex that I likely was. 

I had to try that concept on for a few seconds, maybe minutes, but my God. I knew at that moment that he was right.

The signs were strewn everywhere in the timeline of my life: I hated most male things, most male tropes, and, truth be told, most men.

I had pretended to be one of them because I thought I had no choice.

I had no idea what to do next.

Who could I see? What could I do? Were there other transgender people like me who I could meet and learn from? What would happen to my life? My marriage? My very, VERY male-oriented, safe life?

They were all important questions to address, but the main emotion was that for the very first time ever, EVER, in my life—I finally understood the WHY of me.

Why I had felt the way I felt for my entire life.

And of course, that “why” signaled the beginning of the end of my life as a pretend male person. Less than a year later, my marriage ended, my house was up for sale, my family was angry, ashamed and felt betrayed, and I was heading to a mostly solitary— albeit exciting—transformation.

All alone. Pretty much, except for my docs, and far away people in my group therapy sessions. Remember: This was around the time Covid shut down the world, so all my therapy sessions at that point were virtual, by way of Zoom.

 

 

Still, there were many surgeries, many cosmetic procedures, many hormone replacement therapies.

And many moments of euphoria.

Clothes. Makeup. Voice lessons. Shoes. Oh my God—footwear!

New breasts. A new face. A new voice. New skin. A new life invented from nothing–except the ashes of my former life as a masking male. 

And I experienced everything by myself. Except for the help of a few paid, professional caregivers, and the people in my group therapy sessions, I was almost always alone.

I got to know myself really, really well. And the more time I spent alone, the better I came to know and like this brand new chick.

So many changes to consider. And accomplish.

And so much euphoria.

I was so freaking excited to be out, being me. Living as me. And loving every waking moment.

And even unawake moments, too. I no longer needed pills to sleep.

Or Oxycodone, to get through the days.

I was addicted to Oxy for 15 years, but after I started transitioning, I no longer needed the highs. Or the lows.

I just didn’t.

Occasional euphoria seemed to easily and perhaps inexplicably replace regular doses of Oxy.

More on that another time.

Alex found his first nearby congregation at the end of the summer of 2019, and thankfully, I found another therapist who has patiently and joyfully guided me since. Her name is Kimberly and, like Alex, she has certainly saved my life over and over again.

She’s helped me allow this really sweet new woman to come and occupy what’s left of my male body.

Her name, as you know, is Stephanie Grace.

She isn’t quite what I expected her to be, but I confess, I like Stephanie Grace very much. Four and a half years after that fateful first meeting with Alex I’m still not exactly sure who or what she’s all about quite yet, but I DO know she’s female.

That I am female. Absolutely female. That’s not up for debate. Never.

I realize now that I’ve probably always felt a female incarnation as part of the essential me, buried beneath the self-loathing. I don’t know if I can actually pinpoint any attempt by this female presence to actually feminize me; she was simply and not so subtly signaling that I was NOT a competent, functional male. Not somebody she was crazy about.

After I started to transition, this female presence has become more quiet. I still feel her, but I no longer see visions of her in my sleep—at least not for a couple of years—and I somehow sense she’s at peace, and waiting out the rest of my years until we can move on to our next incarnation.

Hopefully as a female. From day zero, this time.

And something else has disappeared: that gut-twisting feeling that I hauled around for years, the one that always signaled distress of some sort, is gone as well.

Gone!

And seemingly, as a replacement, pretty regularly, gender euphoria.

A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping at my local Safeway supermarket, and I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in a surveillance mirror.

For a moment, I was stunned.

“Who is that woman?” I thought.

But only for a split second.

“My god. That’s me. That’s actually ME!”

And I was hella cute. Not perfect, but pretty damn cute.

Apparently, euphoria does that to a woman of a certain age.

 

Stephanie Haskins is hard at work on the next chapters of “The Transchick Chronicles.” Sign up for our e-newsletter here to be alerted when they’re published. 

To read her previous installments:

June 2021/Transgender Journalist’s Life Story Destined to Become Her Most Important

July 2021/Surgery and Soul: Merging the Exterior with the Interior

August 2021/Becoming My Authentic Self: Identifying My True Gender Has Been a Journey Decades in the Making

September 2021/Crucial Caregiving: Finding the Right Help, from the Right People

December 2021/My Current To-Do List: Fixing Family, Changing Name, Finding Friends, Fighting Transphobic “Allies”

February 2022/From “I Am Woman” to “WAP”: Some Womanly Thoughts on Misogyny, Menstruation, and the Gaze of Males 

April 2022/Doctors’ Devastating News: Transchick Might Not Be Healthy Enough for a Vaginoplasty Surgery

June 2022/Vagina Ahoy! Countdown to Long-Awaited Bottom Surgery

July 2022/Post Surgery Reflections: Rocky Recovery Marked by Joy, Pain and Covid

January 2023/Post-Surgery Blues: This Girl Is Sad, Mad and Still Sick (But Getting Better) 

April 2023/Hate Trans Folks All You Want: We’re Here to Stay and Determined to Fight 

July 2023/What It Feels Like to Be “Uncomfy”

October 2023/What Was I Made For? Searching for Connection, and an End to Loneliness

 

Stephanie Haskins is a Reporters Inc. Board Member. You can read more about her here on our Team page. She can be reached at .

 

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