The Trans Litmus Test: How Do You Know You're A Woman?

Updated: Feb 14

I Do. And I Don't Have To.

Today, a coworker asked me if I had a spare tampon.

A milestone for a trans woman, eh? Not really something I'd been aiming for (though I will hereafter keep tampons in my purse to help out a sister). An affirmation, nonetheless.

But not a confirmation.

Being Who I Am

It's been 4-½ years since I first realized I was trans, and, lately, I've been receiving all sorts of indications that I am recognizable to others and myself as the woman I've always been. Yet, that's hardly the whole story.

Being a woman is part of a larger struggle. For the last 3,500 years in a patriarchal world, women have had to constantly affirm their existence as human persons. We're all sisters in this journey together.

So, why would any dude ever gain affirmation at being acknowledged as a woman?

The answer, of course, is being who I truly am.


Since my transition, my nighttime dreams have been peppered with scenes in which I'm the dude I paraded as for 50+ years. It's not like transitioning flicked a switch that converted all my past experience to that of womanly existence. I maintained that manly façade so thoroughly that I myself didn't see through it until recently. Occasional nighttime dreams of again sporting a beard and playing son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather? I shrugged them of as collateral damage from type-casting myself for so long.

Estrogen-based hormone-replacement therapy does a great deal to change body-fat distribution, mood, facial composition, and mental health. It's a biochemical catalyst that undoes years of testosterone poisoning.

But it doesn't reveal my soul.

That privilege is up to me. Now, I live it. And I do so in a world dead-set on the contrived categories and stereotypes of an illusory gender binary. I had previously navigated that cratered landscape on a mission to prove to myself and the world that I was a man.

Funny. I've never had to try at being the woman I am.

Always Here

My sense of wholeness and well-being doesn't rely on "proving" myself a woman. In that light, transitioning hasn't been a transition at all but a revealing of who I am after decades of coverings, posturings, cloisterings, rapes, and other indignities. I've sloughed off years of accumulated skin to find that …

… I've always been here.

Once, I didn't know I could be me—only a costume. I dissociated from myself, never knowing the me who could choose to be me.

Now, my night dreams are those of being who I am. "Woman" is just part of that.

Last night, I dreamt I'd returned as a student to a school where I'd taught for eight years. A female student. I wore shorts, revealing hairy legs. People, when I presented as a dude, I had nightmares in which I my beard was shorn. In this dream, though, I didn't have to fight for my presence at the school. In fact, the school was transformed into a place where I felt at home, able to contribute without a struggle, without justifying my existence. Hairy legs should've ripped away the charade, leaving me to stutter and shroud myself.


I smiled and said, "Guess I hafta shave." And the dream went on, no one at school batting an eyelash or questioning who I was or even calling out the propriety of a girl with hairy legs. (BTW, my legs in real life are silky smooth. Which is beside the point. Hairy, smooth, or painted plaid with overlain polka dots, they're my legs. Damn fine ones, too.)

Those currently attempting to construct litmus tests for polity or sports as to what constitutes a woman are the suspects on parade. Methinks they doth protest much.

You and I, loves? We're kick-ass. As we are.

So, friend, "as you are." Enjoy it. Be it. Without doing it.



On the left, bearded man in hat, wearing glasses; on the right, a woman standing
Three Beautiful Women