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7 Years (8/30/07)

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day I began testosterone injections- the first step I took in transforming my physical self.

Trans people like myself have many anniversaries- each milestone carefully earmarked for later reference, each date a marker on the long roads we travel. Some celebrate these as Ďbirthdays.í And though I like to joke that I just turned 7, keeping track of my many other ages could prove a maddening exercise.

Do I count from the day the truth dawned on me as I listened to a trans guest speaker at my college? From the day I met the author I so greatly respected and heard my first chosen male name issuing from hir lips in validation? Do I count from the day I haltingly confessed my feelings to my partner and was met with an understanding response? Or from the day I told my family, friends, employer? From my first shot of hormones or the day I woke to a newer, flatter chest?

If I counted from any of those milestones Iíd be no older than 11- and Iíd most certainly appear to have multiple personalities. Iím content to just remember each day- to observe and celebrate and give thanks. No party hats necessary, thank you.

They say that you are a new person every seven years- that each part of each cell has been replaced and reborn. If this is true, what remains of who I used to be?

7 years ago I sat down with my syringe, pushed it into flesh and muscle, and watched the amber fluid disappear as I began the journey I so desperately craved. I didnít know where that road would lead. And as I looked into the mirror I wondered how long it would be before the female face peering back out at me would have all but disappeared.

People speak of transition as a fixed point- as if a date or time could encompass and simplify the complexities of gender. You donít transition, you *begin* transition. You stop resisting the impulses to Ďforgetí the internal struggle and continue on in a life thatís neither satisfying nor authentic.

And now, 7 years into this transitional journey, do I feel as if my old self has been replaced? Like most other things related to gender, the answer is neither simple nor clear-cut.

When I think of that girl in the scratchy Girl Scout uniform, the young woman dressed up for a formal dance, she seems a distant memory. I know it seems odd to speak of the person I used to be as a separate entity, but itís difficult not to think of her as an old friend Iíve lost touch with. The important pieces of her remain in my mind and heart, but the details blur and fade more with the passage of time.

And, yet, I would never deny her. I am not that person anymore, but she made me who I am today.

I did not grow up as a male in this society. Actually, let me clarify. I was not *raised* as male. Despite my inner sense of self, the world regarded me as female and reacted to me as such. Can I erase all those years of learning and pretend that the troop I belonged to was made up of boys learning to tie knots and carve wood? That G.I. Joes and Skeletor masks werenít the childhood gifts that people assumed I would want? That the lesbian community didnít cradle, comfort and sustain me for so many years? It seems to me an insurmountable task and one I wouldnít choose.

7 years from that first distinctive act of needle in flesh, I do not see that girl in the mirror anymore. New friends refuse to believe that old photos are really of my childhood self. And outwardly I appear as Iíve always felt that I should.

Did I physically transition to ďbecome a man?Ē I once thought so and it was certainly easier to explain that to people than what I now understand is the truth: I didnít change my physical self to be able to walk through the world as a man. I began transition to be comfortable in my own skin.

My skin is rougher now, and perhaps a bit thicker than before, but itís still the same skin I wore as a child. Each tattoo and crease and line reflects back to me as a roadmap and Iíd like to think that I am better for it. Each of my cells may have rebelled, reshaped, taken on a new meaning to the world around me, but they are still mine- steeped in a history richer and more complex and beautiful than even I would ever have imagined.

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