About a year ago I was sitting with my friend J in our favorite bar, one of our occassional meet-ups after children were dispatched to bed. He’d picked up a couple books before we met up. I scanned one of the them — “I need to read that” I thought. J says he should have known something was up by how quick I was to say I wanted to borrow it when he was done. Later that night for a reason I can’t now recall I said something along the lines of “…of course I’m just a regular lesbian. Tons of us are tomboys as kids…” I remember J sort of raised one eyebrow and muttered something non-committal.

A little while before that J and I had been saying we needed to go buy clothes together. My recent attempts at improving my wardrobe after approximately a lifetime of neglect had been thwarted by blinding rage in women’s departments and frustration with giant clothes in men’s departments. We just kept never getting around to it.

Sometime in February, J loaned me that book. When I started to read, I still would have insisted it had nothing to me. By the end, I knew it had something to do with me. I didn’t know yet how much.

J and I finally got around to scheduling that shopping trip, I think in early March. I tried to back out at the last minute. Gail said to me “I don’t know what’s up exactly, but you are getting wierd about this and clearly just making up a stupid excuse not to go. So you had better go.” I went. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I started to like who I saw in the mirror. I started ironing (?!) and picking out my clothes at night for the next day.

At some point in there, A and I started to fall in love again even though we’d never fallen out. She said it was like there was so much more to who I was, only we hadn’t known. I felt like my eyes were starting to open. I was seeing her differently, too. I was starting to inhabit my body, and my body in relation to hers, in a new way.

I still thought this was a little thing. That it wasn’t much. That everything would mostly stay the same.

After a series of tighter and smaller sports bras, I furtively asked J (over chat, so I wouldn’t have to look at him) if he could recommend a binder. He gave me one of his old ones. I tried it on, looked in the mirror, and had a flash of recognition. So this was how I was supposed to look. I stood taller, breathed easier. I stopped slouching. I started writing.

There’s this feeling I recognize now, that I don’t think I ever felt before this year, something deep in my gut (literally, I feel it in my belly). It’s a little like being turned on, but that’s not it. It’s a feeling of deep pleasure and presence, of a solid energy, of recognition. I felt it in the dressing room on that shopping trip when I first found men’s clothes that fit. I felt it when I saw myself in the mirror in that first binder, at the moment I knew my name, the times I started to hear my name from Gail and our friends, that night that Leigh told me she just thought she’d call me Aba all the time. I’ve felt it with every step over this last year, and it helps me have the strength to take the next step amidst the background of fear.

And now it’s time for the next big step. I have an appointment for my first T injection on Tuesday. I’m definitely having that feeling. I’m also feeling my usual dull background roar of doubt and fear, I’m still chewing on the decision incessantly because that’s just what I do, but that feeling in my gut is really strong and really good.

If you’d told me last December that this is what 2012 would bring, I would have said you were nuts. It was certainly quite a year. It was the year I woke up. I’m not sure exactly what 2013 will hold, but I think it’s going to be pretty good.