The Voyage to Self Discovery
The voyage to self discovery is often a complex road. We are given paths in our lives that we elect to follow or pass over. For a transgender person, these roads are quite bumpy and complicated, often more so than persons of cis-gender.
“we had no idea where our destination would be or where the open road would take us.”
I recently had the opportunity to take a personal vacation, my first in nearly eight years. This one was different than any other I have had for several reasons. For starters, I was being joined on this vacation by my live-in girlfriend of 6 months – a woman who has been instrumental in my search for self-discovery and has provided support like no one else in my transition. Second, I would be presenting completely as a woman for the duration of the trip. Lastly, we had no idea where our destination would be or where the open road would take us.
It was my desire from the beginning of our planning to present as a woman for the trip. My closet has been taken over in recent months by clothes that better represent my true self. Needless to say at this point my feminine clothes outnumber my male clothes nearly 3 to 1. In addition, my girlfriend and I wear the same dress and top size, so her closet is basically my closet as well. Packing was fun, making sure I had the right outfits for any occasion that may arise. I was excited and a little apprehensive about how I would be accepted.
We’d be leaving our small corner of Georgia and heading east. Georgia is in the heart of the Bible Belt. It’s not short on bigotry. The culture across the entire state varies, but evidences of hatred, sexism, racism still persist. Sometimes it’s not that difficult to see.
The day finally arrived to pack and head out. The previous day had been a rush of excitement as I was packing my bag for a trip like I had never taken before. For years, when it came to packing for such events, for me it was a simple rationale of numbers. I would need this many shirts, this many pants, and so forth. This time it was different – what shoes, what tops. What may have taken 5 or 10 minutes before felt like an hours long choice of shuffling through my closet to determine what I wanted to wear for the rest of the week. I assure you, with what I packed away in my bags – I was ready for any occasion that would be tossed at me.
That Tuesday was the Georgia Primaries. I felt it my civic obligation to participate. Stepping out in female attire in south Georgia for that day was not an option. I immediately knew that I would have to present my driver’s license, and frankly after seeing the near empty polling station filled with elderly women, I was glad I had made the decision I did. The near thought of being outed in such a manner was horrifying, not to mention the woman who gave me my voting sticker was a parent of another student from my high school days many moons ago. Not only did I have to present my ID, they had mistakenly reported me as having already voted. Had I arrived as a woman, this would have compounded the problem in me getting my vote resolved.
“I was to learn the rigors of being a trans-woman for the next week”
I returned home to load our bags for the trip and begin my physical transformation into my natural self. There were at least 10 bags between the two of us for this trip. I was to learn the rigors of being a trans-woman for the next week. It would be far more demanding than I had imagined. We headed out shortly after noon and traveled towards Savannah, GA. Unless you are coming from Macon or Jacksonville, FL there are no direct routes to Savannah from anywhere. Our route was a jumbled mess of 2 lane highways connecting one small town to the next. I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous driving through these small towns. We had plenty of gas and snacks, so there was no reason to stop. I was confident in my girlfriend’s excellent job on assisting with my makeup, but some of these small towns are downright scary.
Along I-16 we had to make an unscheduled restroom break and our choices were not that huge. We settled upon a convenience store along the highway. It was light in traffic and to be quite honest this was the first time I was presenting as a woman outside of the occasional stint outside of the house or to my gender therapist. It was nerve wracking. After all, what kind of people do you expect in a town where they name the main highway that runs through it after a local Evangelist? My girlfriend and I eased into the store and proceeded to the ladies room. Having two separate toilets I quickly slid into the open one as to avoid contact with the occupant in the other. I wasn’t quite ready for this type of encounter in the ladies room. All went well and we made our way to Savannah, GA. We were two women on an adventure together.
After settling in at our hotel, we took the road into downtown Savannah and then walked leisurely along the streets admiring the architecture and then lastly onto River St for a bite to eat. Afterwards we explored the shops and boutiques that call this part of Savannah home. I felt nervous and stayed close to my girlfriend. When she grabbed for my hand I was unsure how to react. Would we perceived as lesbians? Would I be read as male? By the time we got back to the hotel I was exhausted, who knew being Savannah would be so tiring? I wasn’t sure if it was from the drive or the undue stress of worrying about what others may have been thinking.
The next morning we made our way to Tybee Island to see the Atlantic Ocean and for the first time I ordered food myself at a local eatery. I can’t express the initial nervousness I was experiencing. My voice isn’t very deep, but truthfully I find it more masculine than feminine in every manner. I kept my composure and ordered, and when I pulled up to the drive through window the young man greeted us both as ladies. We ventured back into town hitting local thrift and Goodwill stores to add to my growing wardrobe and find eclectic pieces for decorating our home. I was feeling more and more comfortable as my true self. I even ventured away from my girlfriend to look at items by myself. I felt as though I wasn’t needing her to be my personal shield.
Thursday was a coin flip for where we would go next – north to the Georgia mountains or travel the coast to St. Augustine, Fl. We decided we would head north. So after breakfast and loading the truck up once more, we ventured to Helen, GA. I rode in the passenger seat and watched the outside temperatures fall from 65F in Savannah, Ga to 32F just as we began nearing I-85. Initially we were greeted by a steady rain and quickly turned into wintery mix and finally just to snow. So for an hours drive and a hot cup of coffee we enjoyed watching the snow fall around us as we continued our drive. We were like two young children, so excited the see the unexpected snow.
Dinner was at Huddle House that evening and the small eatery that had it’s share of customers. I was finding more confidence in being out in public as Savannah. We sat ordered and enjoyed our meal, just two ladies on vacation. The next day we made our way into the surrounding towns searching for thrift shops. The first we came across was operated by Mennonites. I’m not religious by any means, but quite honestly the old gospel music was making me entirely uncomfortable and I was glad to leave. Less than a mile down the road we found an upscale thrift store and scored a few pictures for the walls as well as some ornate glass. I was much more confident and ventured outside by myself and looked at items of interest.
After lunch we returned to town and ordered some glass coffee mugs etched with her name and my preferred name. I can’t convey my feelings in having something with my name on it – even something so simple as a coffee mug, but alas it’s mine and my preferred choice of coffee cup for my morning or evening coffee. I will cherish it for many years to come as it symbolizes our vacation and my road to confidence. We ventured into another store and I perhaps received the greatest compliment of my entire vacation. I was told by the store proprietor that she had thought I was her niece when we came in. I was a bit shocked to be totally honest. As much as I had been somewhat conscious about passing this entire trip I was basically confirmed as a woman. I was so elated for the rest of the evening. Such a confirmation from a complete stranger was incredible. Dinner that evening was at a busy establishment, but not once did I feel uncomfortable as we enjoyed our drinks and dinner. We even asked a young man to take our photo together. By now, I was so used to presenting as Savannah that the exhaustion was replaced by calm.
“Just two close friends on a trip, or maybe we looked like more. It really didn’t matter”
Saturday morning began as any other day on that vacation, shaving, dressing, and makeup and then venturing out. My daily routine was becoming the norm and what seemed to take forever at the beginning had been reduced to just minutes. My girlfriend had me try to apply some makeup myself. Our destination that day was Anna Ruby Falls – a double waterfall and National Park. A quarter mile hike would take us to the bottom of the falls, where we would ask a kind young woman to take our picture together. Just two close friends on a trip, or maybe we looked like more. It really didn’t matter, we were enjoying ourselves and happy to be together.
Sunday morning was a somber moment as we packed up. Our vacation was coming to a close. For the first time that trip, I packed away my wig, my breast inserts, and bra and dressed in men’s clothing. Upon arrival back home I would have to pay a visit to my parents and since I’ve not outed myself to them just yet – seeing their former son dressed as a woman might not be the best way to handle such a thing.
I learned that I truly am Savannah and that I’m comfortable being her. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve learned that confidence is key. I’m delighted in the fact that for the duration of my trip, not once was I misgendered. I was always politely addressed as ma’am, no issues with using the ladies room, and I truly felt the hospitality of the people of my home state. I know that each time out will be different as I develop the inner courage to present myself locally, but this trip helped validate my securities as a woman. The best lesson I learned the entire trip was to be who you are – and own it.