Back in October, I spent a day or two experimenting. Alone at home like usual, I tried to picture myself as a man. Now, for comparison, I’ll tell you how I see myself as a woman: Ashe-as-a-woman is slender; she has small breasts long, red, wavy hair; she’s got all her teeth and she doesn’t wear glasses. In real life, I’m far from slender; my breasts are quite large; my hair’s short and brown with a slight tendency to curl if kept so; I don’t have all my teeth, and I wear glasses. In real life, I’m comfortable with my weight, though I’d like to shave off about sixty or seventy pounds—I still want to have a bit of fat, because I don’t want to be too thin (being fat, to me, is a kind of security to me). I’d desperately like to get rid of my breasts; I’ve never liked them. I like my hair short, the kind of style which is wash-and-wear, because I hate spending a lot of time on grooming outside of the shower. I don’t really mind that I don’t have all my teeth—I’m able to close my lips now, when before, with my two front incisors, I couldn’t without those two teeth still protruding; and I love my glasses—I remember being a little kid and want-want-wanting glasses like nothing else and being absolutely thrilled to get my first pair when I was in sixth grade.

But as a female, in my head, my little picture of myself I’ve carried around for years and years, none of these facts was acceptable.

When I picture myself as a male? I’m my current weight, and still very comfortable with it. I’m not ashamed of my missing teeth. My hair’s short, and I wear an attractive style of facial hair. And I wear glasses. I’m quite handsome in my male image of myself—and it was very easy to picture myself this way. Far easier than it ever is for me to picture myself as female. Nothing against women in general; women are great, and they’re beautiful.

I just don’t want to be one.

When I think of being male—or at least being able to present as male—with facial hair, etc.—I feel confident. In a female body as I am now? I feel vulnerable. I feel like I’m not taken seriously. I feel weak and am uncertain in a lot of social situations. I understand I may be just as uncertain as the me I want to be if I’m ever able to get top surgery, a hysterectomy, and have testosterone. I may still feel vulnerable and weak, too, but I’m not certain about that. When I picture myself as a man, I see a much more confident Ashe, one who isn’t afraid to express his opinions and who can do so respectfully and tactfully without offending people. I see an Ashe who doesn’t get offended, because that Ashe is self-assured and doesn’t take things personally because he isn’t afraid of attracting the wrong kind of attention.

That has been one of my overriding fears throughout my life. I’ve never wanted to attract the wrong kind of attention, and I’ve always felt like my female body does that. I hate my feelings of vulnerability my body give me, and wish I could be as confident as I want to be. I’m good at acting comfortable with myself in my female body, and confident, and strong, but I’m really not feeling any of those positives. Inside, I’m cowering. I’m fearful. And I really wish I didn’t have to interact with anybody because doing so puts a lot of stress on my ability to appear as confident as I do, especially when I’m in places and/or with people who I’m unfamiliar with.

In an odd way, that feminine self-image I’ve forced myself to carry around is tied up in my feelings of security as a female-bodied person. I’m not sure just how, but I do know one thing: having that particular female self-image is what I used in order to help me deal with people. I use the masculine self-image in the same way, but it feels more natural to see myself this way, so it’s easier for me to feel confident around other people, even though I know perfectly well the body people see has no current hope of matching what I see of myself in my head. It was incredibly easy to discard the old feminine self-image and replace it with the masculine one, and doing so has opened up other aspects of my masculine side and enabled me to relax about the type of person I would be as a man.