I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I see very little about this anywhere and it quite possibly may just be a ‘me’ thing.
So for anyone new here I’ll describe myself briefly. I’m Rae [Hi!] and I’ve known I was trans since I was a little kid but waited until I was 34 before coming out. I’ve been living as a woman and medically transitioning for over a year now.
I’m also not much of a dreamer. In that I don’t often recall dreaming most mornings. I’d say it happens once or twice a week lately, but I’ve gone months with no remembered trip to dreamland.
And besides that, me and dreamland have a…complicated relationship.
See, in the earliest, pre-pubescent days of my awakening to my gender identity reality, I recall a dream quite clearly.
I found myself in a scene obviously stitched together from the album cover to Def Leppard’s Retro Active (my brother at the time was a big Def Leppard and other suck rock of the age fan, his albums being scattered all over). I was standing by an ivory coloured vanity with a big circular mirror. I was in my underwear. And I was a girl.
I wasn’t shocked. But I was exploring myself. The body was unfamiliar to me, but I didn’t hate it. The dream was basically me exploring myself in the mirror, then picking up a comb and combing my long, straight (red for some reason) hair. Then I woke up.
Whenever I try to think back to when I knew something was up with me, I keep coming back to that dream. Besides it being rather vivid (heck, I remember it vividly even after 25 years), it’s the earliest I remember genuinely wanting to be a girl. I mean, I can pick little moments here and there before that night where I could potentially spot some seeds of self discovery, but this was a much larger epiphany.
When I woke up, I wasn’t horrified that I dreamt I was a girl. I was horrified I woke up. For months after I kept hoping the dream would resume. I’d picture it firmly in my head every day before falling asleep trying to seed a sequel.
Eventually I started asking God in my prayers(I was still somewhat Catholic at the time) to make that dream come true. I started wondering why I wanted such a thing. I felt isolated, and the anger and depression kicked in shortly after then. I would have been 10.
Yeah, that dream had an impact.
But this post isn’t to describe that one epiphanic dream. But rather the role dreams have played in my life in general.
Dreams are mysterious. We don’t really know for sure what they do, how they materialize or what function they play, given that pretty much every organism has some version of them. The popular theory is that the brain is either sorting out everything it’s seen recently, putting some of it together like Lego pieces, throwing some of it away, or that it’s a side effect of the cleaning/maintenance/whatever the hell else the sleep cycle does. Or both.
But dreams will generally contain images experienced recently. They’ll only make cursory sense, if you don’t think about them too much. They’ll seem real in the moment. Most will not be remembered when you wake up. Of those you do, the memory will fade quickly unless they had a big impact on you.
Basically, dreams will rarely, if ever, contain anything completely new. They’ll be a hodgepodge of stuff from your life, just presented uniquely and quirkily.
Very rarely, I would dream I was a woman. For most of my life, I dreamt as if a man. It makes sense, given how dreams seem to work after all, as I was living life in a man’s body. But sometimes, for whatever blessed reason, my dream would put me in a woman’s body.
When I would wake up I would hold on to that dream as closely as a could. The dreams I remember the most vividly are those for precisely that reason. I wouldn’t let myself forget. That dream gave me a relief. Whatever weird or fantastical setting I was in (in one case I dreamt I was the wife of a chieftain of a snow tribe….yeah it was weird), the fleeting experience of having a body and gendered experience that fit me so much better was terribly refreshing. Like catching a breath of air after long submersion. But then I’d have to go about my day, submerged again.
Just like that first dream, I would try to vividly picture it before going to bed the following nights hoping to recapture that magic. But it was always in vain. But I was so thankful to have them at all.
I’d cherish those dreams as gifts unlike any other.
And that brings me to my current life.
I’m out. I’m living as a woman socially and even legally. I’ve started developing secondary sex characteristics that match my gender identity. I wear a bra, put on makeup in the morning to feel better about my face and show a better one when out, muck about with skincare, and suffer trying to find well fitting clothes. My body is increasingly female, matching my mind so much closer. My life is now female.
So how has that affected my dreaming? Well, it’s complicated.
My early days presenting as a woman was months before I was prescribed hormones. I was wearing a cheap costume wig, prosthetic silicon breastforms in a specially made bra ordered from a drag store. I would cover up the arms I found too ungainly. I was a mess. But worse, I still felt like I was driving around a male meatsuit. I didn’t know when or if I’d be given HRT and how much of an impact it’d have on me in the end. All I knew/wanted was for people to see me as a woman at least, even if I felt like I was in costume.
As such, I would dream….as a guy. For any dream in which I was aware of my body, my body was male. I mean, I would go to bed in a male body, after all. The breasts weren’t real. I felt them against my “manboobs”. So my brain assembled my dreamland avatar as the man it still assumed I was outwardly.
This persisted for a long time. In fact, it hasn’t fully gone away yet. The boobs are real now, but I still occasionally find myself in dreamland in my old shell. Granted, more and more I find myself in my current body. I’ve no doubt this will correct itself to the point where my man-suit appears in my dreams no more often than those blissful fleeting womanly avatars I’d cherish.
But it’s this weird thing now. As dreams, even pleasant ones, will sour on me once I recall if it put me in my old self. Instead of hoping against hope that dreams would provide some relief from my troubled existence, I now dread when they pop me back into those days where it truly was troubled.
So dreams and me have a complicated relationship. It’s getting better, at least, but I suspect it’s a dynamic not shared by many people. I do, however, wonder if it’s something other trans people have run into as acutely. Hit me up on Twitter or CuriousCat if you’re trans and this is familiar to you!