“What can I get you ladies?,” said the barista at the first floor Starbucks, to a co-worker and me.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to be constantly aware of how others are viewing you, always paying attention to signals that let you know who they see you as. That’s got to be exhausting.”

“It is,” I respond. “I wish I didn’t have to be so aware. I wish I could just turn my brain off and not pay attention to whether someone calls me ‘sir,’ or whether they call me ‘ma’am’ or ‘miss,’ but I can’t. As much as I’d love to, I can’t help that my mind is always aware, seeking validation from others.”

Thinking about that conversation, I know that I don’t need validation from anyone when it comes to my identity. There are a lot of things that I don’t needThat doesn’t make the want for those things any less. I’m getting gendered correctly by strangers on a more frequent basis. This is a very good thing. Months ago, I could be wearing eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, blush and lip gloss… and still be called “sir” by every person I came in contact with. Lately, though, I’d say that probably 95% of people I run into will either gender me correctly or won’t use any gendered honorific when addressing me. This is amusing when someone is speaking to a line of people, saying, “sir, ma’am, ma’am, sir, miss, sir…” and then hesitates and just smiles, nods, or just says “have a good day” to me, for fear of guessing wrong.

That’s okay, though. It’s kind of ridiculous that we feel obligated to call complete strangers “sir” or “ma’am,” anyway. When someone skips it, hey, that’s a push; deal the cards again, we’re good. When someone calls me “miss” or “ma’am” or if I’m with another woman, “ladies,” that is an amazing feeling. As amazing as that is, though, being called “sir” pretty much sends me down an emotional spiral of negativity for at least the remainder of the day. I begin obsessing over features of mine that bother me.

My hips are too narrow!

My shoulders too wide!

My face too masculine!

My boobs too small!

ImageI know that nothing good comes of it, but my brain goes on autopilot, veering off into very negative spaces. Why do I do that? Why can’t I just say, “ah, screw that guy?” Because, overall, I want society to see me as nothing more or less than any other woman. I don’t want to be seen as trans, a man, or a freak. I know that this teaches me to be patient, but sometimes it’s more difficult than it’s worth.

I’m hoping that there’s still a fair amount that hormone replacement therapy can do for me. I’m hoping that I don’t plateau in this in-between stage. I do know, however, that there are limits to what hormones can do.

In the meantime, I wish I could just shut my brain off, and stop worrying.