My Trans Decade

Zinnia JonesIt’s a common refrain: being trans isn’t the only thing we are, or even the biggest or most important thing we are – it’s just one thing among many. Yes, we’re trans, but we’re so much more than that; we’re people, with families and careers and hobbies and interests, with personalities and likes and dislikes, with all the complex fullness of any individual.

But at the same time, I can’t pretend that being trans hasn’t been a massively influential theme in my life ever since I came to embrace it. My transness, my womanhood, has been a defining factor in so many ways over the past ten years, touching on nearly all of my most significant personal and professional experiences. It’s changed my life to the extent that I can’t even imagine what the last decade would have been like for me without it. Sometimes, in some ways, it is a big deal. And I think it’s worth acknowledging all the ways that accepting and celebrating this has made my life so much better.

2010. I start going by Zinnia Jones on YouTube, based on the initials of my previous name. I call myself genderqueer, just because presenting in a feminine way is so comfortable, and even though calling myself a woman still seems unrealistic and somehow out of reach, calling myself a man is intolerable. In August, I meet Heather in the IRC channel for the /r/lgbt subreddit I started, and we immediately slip into talking for upwards of twelve hours a day. That September, she asks me which pronouns to use for me. It’s something I had never been asked before, and for the first time, I say “she/her” – it feels new, and better. For Christmas, she sends me elbow-length black satin gloves.

2011. In April, Heather and I meet for a weekend in Chicago, and almost instantly fall in love. Before she goes home, she asks me to be her girlfriend, and for a few hours I think about what it would mean for me. I say yes.

In September, I travel to Orlando to move in with her and her two sons. It’s my first time living away from my family – and my first time being a stepmom.

2012. In May, I keep having dreams where I meet myself, but myself as a cis woman. I start talking to one trans woman from the Reddit transgender IRC channel I’ve been hanging out in for years, and another from a secularist blog network. Both of them highly recommend HRT. By July, I’ve decided to start transitioning as soon as possible, and I pick the name Lauren Hannah. I try wearing a bra for the first time and realize how much more right my body looks with breasts. Within a few weeks, I get an appointment with a nearby gender therapist. She’s surprised that I’ve already been living and presenting as a woman for more than a year. We talk about my life circumstances, my history with my gender, what I’m looking to get out of HRT and what I can expect from it, and we somehow run out of things to talk about before the hour is up. She decides I don’t need another appointment for my referral letter.

In September, I get my first appointment with a nearby prescriber, and after a few blood draws I leave with HRT prescriptions. (I later find out that even before HRT, my testosterone was borderline low.) I pick up my hormones later that day – it feels like the air is buzzing with potential and unknown as I walk home from the pharmacy. Within a week, I feel happier than I can ever remember feeling, for no clear reason. Everything, just existing in the world, feels natural, normal, easy for the first time. After 11 days, I notice the first signs of breast development. Nothing about it feels wrong – I want more of it.

2013. In January, my name change is finalized, and within days my new name makes the news after I’m subpoenaed to testify at Chelsea Manning’s court-martial. I have to move up my next appointment to May because I’ll be at Fort Meade in June; I get a prescription for progesterone and I’m suddenly able to stop being underweight for the first time in my adult life. I also land my first real job after being hired at a marketing startup by another trans woman. That June, I spend a day in a trailer with several soldiers who worked with Chelsea, as well as the former chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions. When everyone else has left, he and I have a conversation for a couple hours. Once I’m called to testify, I’m immediately asked to state my old name, and asked why I’d changed it. Chelsea is seated at a table in front of me; we exchange looks but don’t have a chance to talk. When she comes out as trans following the trial, I’m invited on CNN to argue for her right to access HRT while incarcerated. Heather gets a very aggravated phone call from Jake Tapper after she publicly called him out for misgendering me on television.

In September, I post “That was dysphoria?” and describe several specific dissociative symptoms which unexpectedly resolved when I started HRT; it ultimately becomes my most-read article to date as these descriptions resonate with a surprising number of trans people. In October, I make a brief return to Illinois to attend my grandfather’s funeral, meeting many close and extended family members who hadn’t seen me in years. My universally reviled uncle catches sight of me and immediately leaves his own father’s funeral service in disgust; the rest of my family compliments me on how well my transition is going and suggests bringing me everywhere to ward him off. I later end up in a conversation with my abusive former stepfather, who doesn’t even realize who I am until we’ve talked for nearly ten minutes.

2014. In January, my doctor doubles my dosage of progesterone, and within a month I find out that this causes me to be stressed, irritable, anxious, and despondent. I’m diagnosed with depression and start taking antidepressants, and I realize I’ve probably needed them for a long time. Chelsea, having been sentenced to 35 years in prison, asks me to serve as her stand-in as a marshal at San Francisco Pride that June. I accept, and Heather and I travel across the country; I get to sit next to Miss Major and Jewlyes Gutierrez at a luncheon, and we later meet Daniel Ellsberg while riding in the parade car.

That July, Heather and I are married in a Wizard of Oz-themed wedding, with her as the wicked witch and me as the good witch. My father, in an emerald green vest and tie, walks me down the aisle; my current stepfather does magic acts and amazes our kids. In September, I launch Gender Analysis with a 22-minute video examining how the “low T” industry provides unnecessary hormones to cis men.

2015. Heather and I get to know Penny, and that November, we invite her to move in with us and be a part of our relationship. Although we’ve since separated, the experience of being with another trans woman was remarkably affirming and comfortable, and it’s something I’m glad was a part of my life for a time.

2017. I post a followup to “That was dysphoria?” examining how the symptoms I described align most closely with chronic depersonalization-derealization disorder, and how studies that have since been published show that depersonalization symptoms are disproportionately prevalent among trans people and appear to subside after starting HRT. Later, I add several more articles of personal testimonies from trans people who’ve struggled with depersonalization as well as a history of apparent depersonalization symptoms described throughout trans memoirs from the 1950s to the present.

2019. After being out of school since 2003, I finally start attending a nearby community college. All of my worries about failing like last time immediately evaporate, and I discover that I can easily be more than competent in higher education; somehow it’s a breeze when I’m a confident adult woman instead of a severely dysphoric teenager. More than that, socializing at school just clicks and comes naturally to me for the first time, and I actually manage to make friends – I was never this outgoing before I was myself. I start the year as a high school dropout, and end it as a college sophomore.

My transness is not something incidental to this or separable from it all – it’s an absolutely integral part of why all of these incredible things happened in my life. This has forged the person I’ve become today, and I wouldn’t be me without my trans womanhood. And I can only imagine where it’ll take me over the next ten years.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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