Marissa Gender FAQ
This is the archived version of my Gender FAQ for people who knew me before my transition. It's preserved here primarily for posterity, though I will try to keep it up to date.
The basics: Use the name "Marissa" and "she", "her" pronouns to refer to me from here on. Not much else has changed.
So, after much soul searching and experimentation, I have decided to embrace a female identity. Trans people have wide and varied experiences, and this one is uniquely mine. And, as much as I would love to talk to each and every one of you to make sure you understand and are comfortable with my personal experience, I also understand that that would take approximately the rest of my life to do.
Thus, I've prepared this document to answer the vast majority of the questions I received from people during my early experimentation period. You should probably read at least "How should I refer to you?". How much of the rest you read is up to you.
Maybe not every question you have will be answered here. If you have a question that isn't answered here, you can just ask me (preferably privately), and I'll happily answer you. I won't get upset or annoyed; I've been patient with myself as I go through the process of understanding and accepting this in myself, and I will absolutely be patient with you as you go through your own. Don't be shy or worried about saying the wrong thing - I'm not fragile, and above all I'm glad to see that you care enough to want to know more!
- How should I refer to you?
- What if I screw up and call you "Michael"/"he"/"him"?
- What about for stories that happened between us before I read this document?
- What about when I'm talking to someone who doesn't know about this transition?
- What about when…?
- Why "Marissa"?
- Why not "Michelle" or "Michaela" or some other variant of your old name?
- What if I want to use a nickname?
- But it's not on your driver's license/passport?
- What about your email address?
- How do I talk about you?
- What else should I change?
- What's changing for you?
How should I refer to you?
It's pretty simple: Use the name "Marissa" wherever you would have previously used the name "Michael". And use "she" and "her" pronouns. You would also use the feminine variants of gendered words, like "sister" instead of "brother", "daughter" instead of "son", etc.
What if I screw up and call you "Michael"/"he"/"him"?
It's okay! As long as you're not doing it intentionally to be a jerk, we're all good. Just correct yourself and move on. If you don't, I might correct you (gently) if it's clear that you're referring to me. And if it's not clear that you're referring to me, I probably won't respond in the first place. I do this just in the name of helping everyone establish their habits. I don't think you're a bad person for slipping up here and there. Even I am still adjusting to this, and I might screw up from time to time too - I'll try to correct myself as well!
What about for stories that happened between us before I read this document?
You should probably still refer to me as I am today, even if you're talking about the past. Nothing is really changing for me, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm still the same person I've always been. I'm just asking you to use a different identifier.
What about when I'm talking to someone who doesn't know about this transition?
You should continue referring to me as Marissa (making the connection explicit for them, e.g., "who used to go by Michael" so they are not simply bewildered), and if they ask, you can feel free to point them to this document with the shortlink http://reya.zone/GenderFAQ (or just to me in general).
What about when…?
Don't worry, there's very little nuance here. There's basically no situation where you would need to continue using the name "Michael" or "he"/"him" unless I specifically ask you to.
I like it. I've liked it for a very long time. When I thought about (and researched) names for myself, it leapt into my mind and wouldn't leave until I picked it. Why are YOU named what you're named, huh? Someone else picked it for you, huh? Yeah, that's what I thought!
Why not "Michelle" or "Michaela" or some other variant of your old name?
Because anyone calling me that for most of my life was being a jerk, and I don't want a name that reminds me of those darker times when I was surrounded by jerks. I'm surrounded by wonderful people now! And you're one of them!
What if I want to use a nickname?
Go wild! People at work call me "mstaib" because that's my username. It's my username because it's my first initial followed by my last name. And it still works for that. (This was definitely a perk of the name I chose.) Most of my other existing nicknames are plays on my old name, so I'll mostly pass on those. I generally had people call me "Michael" anyway.
But if you want to come up with a new nickname to replace your usage of an old one, you're welcome to! Some friends of mine are already starting to call me Mari [MAH-ree]. You are welcome to use it if you want a shorter way to refer to me.
But it's not on your driver's license/passport?
It is, actually.
What about your email address?
This has changed too. Are you still using that old domain? Get with the times!
How do I talk about you?
Refer to me as a woman, or use whatever other term you would use to refer to a woman. I am also trans (short for "transgender"), though that is generally not something that's relevant to bring up in conversation. Most other terms for trans people are inaccurate or offensive, and you should just use the ones I listed. For more information on this subject, see this FAQ on how to talk to and about trans women.
What else should I change?
There's really not much that you need to change. I'm not really changing, so you don't really need to change either.
What's changing for you?
Not a whole lot. I like to think of this as an acknowledgement of the person that I already am, rather than a change. I've been working tirelessly, especially in the last few years, on becoming comfortable with my whole self and allowing myself to express it fearlessly. Changing my outward identity, then, is a reflection of the things I was already holding true to with my inner identity.
Will you look different?
Yep! I'm experimenting with clothing and jewelry and makeup that allows me to express my female identity. The hormones I'm taking are also affecting the way my body looks.
Will you sound different?
I do! I've been working with a voice coach to practice using a higher, ringing voice to sound more feminine.
How long have you been like this?
Forever. Since my earliest memories. But if you mean "how long have you been expressing a female identity", then since high school. I've been playing female characters A LOT since I realized that I could do so and not be ostracized by my friends. More severely, my primary online identity for the past five years is female. And I've been exploring expressing this outside of the internet since early January 2018.
Are you really sure about this?
Surer than I've ever been about being male. Coming out publicly is a major ordeal and I wouldn't go through with it if I wasn't solidly certain.
I didn't see this coming!
That's not a question. But yes, I worked very hard on making sure no one saw this coming. I did such a good job that even I didn't see this coming. But here we are today!
I totally did see this coming!
I'm very proud of you. As mentioned, even I didn't see this coming. Although the signs were certainly plentiful, most of them were inside my own head, where they were hidden by my denial and self-rejection.
Are you going to be okay?
I've been doing this for nearly two years, and I promise you, I'm going to be more than okay. Already today I am happier and more comfortable with myself than I've ever been. It is undeniable that there are some dangers out there that exist when I am presenting my new identity that didn't exist when I was presenting my old identity. But I believe that it is worth it to brave those dangers in order to live freely and happily as the person I know myself to be. Especially because the more people are exposed to trans people, the more understanding of trans people will blossom, and the better a place the world will be for other trans people.
Additionally, if you're really worried, you should know that I have an unparalleled support network - I currently have a fantastic therapist who specializes in gender matters and is more than capable when it comes to general matters. Oh yeah, and I have a surrounding web of awesome friends, many of whom are trans themselves, whose support makes me basically unstoppable. As far as I'm concerned, there is no situation that I cannot handle with both style and grace with these people behind me. And hopefully, everything will go swimmingly and the Marissa Alliance's help will not even be needed.
What does this mean… you know… medically?
(You probably shouldn't ask people this question or any of the related ones. But it's okay, I happen to not mind talking about it.)
So far it has meant getting the hair removed on my face and chest via laser treatment, starting around February 2019. I've been on HRT (hormone therapy) since around August 2018.
I'm currently (as of December 2019) loosely considering bottom surgery. I have no plans to get top surgery or facial feminization surgery/tracheal shave at this time.
Are you gay?
I still like girls as much as I ever have, so... yes. But it turns out I also like boys, so I'm actually bi.