In Search of Financial and Emotional Stability

My wife wants out.  That is not news.  However, we can barely afford a cup of coffee, let alone be financially independent of one another—especially with two children to protect.  There is good news on that front, though, but how we get from here to there is a big question mark.

For the last 3 1/2 years, our family has been effectively running on two part-time jobs.  While my wife is in her dream career, she does not make enough money.  I work retail.  Scheduling and the fact that I barely make $1 more as a supervisor than a cashier means I am underpaid and have a less than full-time workload.  With two children and no money for daycare, we have been able to craft our schedules so that the children are always with a parent (when not in school).  However, the arrangement has never been ideal for either of us and does not generate the money required to float a family of four.

For years, the family has operated on a negative cash flow.  We were able to do this because when my mom died, I became a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, stock options, and a 401(k).  That gave us six figures in the bank account and the opportunity to move to a safer neighborhood.  We had our second child and guaranteed our older child would be able to attend the top-rated public school in the district.  I was able to stretch that money for years, but now it has run out, and the family is crisis mode.  Bills are past due; rent is frequently late; our credit cards are maxed and closed.  At the same time, we do not qualify for many government assistance benefits because we are in that gray zone:  We make too much to be poor, but we are too poor to pay all of our expenses.

While all of this happening, the quality of life in our home has deteriorated.  The children do not get to do as much as they used to (things cost money we don’t have!).  We stand in food lines to acquire donated food our kids do not necessarily want to eat.  Stress levels are high; nerves are frayed.  My wife wants out of the house more than ever.  She is unhappy.  Not that she exactly knows what she wants, but she knows it is not me.  Still, without financial stability, leaving really is not an option right now.  If we can’t keep one house afloat, how are we going to finance two separate households?

There is some hope, though.  Early in the year, she received a significant raise.  Now, I am on the verge of acquiring a government job that would be full-time and double my current salary.  I have a tentative job offer pending background checks (which I have no reason to fail), so paid training should start in late May.  That means I should see a paycheck in June that could start taking us to a place that is not underwater.  This is all great news, except for the fact that getting from here to June will require some magic.  We are lucky to have three figures in the bank account these days.  Filling the gas tank is an exercise in fear.

Family Pressure

Lately, my wife’s family has been applying pressure.  They offered to extend us a loan that would get our bills current and float us until the tide changes.  However, the deal comes with significant strings.

First, the loan would be formalized legally, binding both my wife and I to repay the loan.  While that seems kosher on the surface, I believe that puts me at great risk.  The family would never forgive my half of the loan but, of course, may be willing to look the other way when it comes to my wife at some point in the future.  They are upset with me because my transition has caused my wife such pain.  Being legally bound to a family that seemingly despises me seem like a bad idea.

The second condition:  My wife would need to set up her own personal bank account.  While community property laws and martial conduct exceptions could allow me to claim a portion of any money held in a private account while she continues to access joint funds, I really do not want to have go down that road during a divorce proceeding.  Our relationship was built on honesty, but her family is encouraging her—actually requiring her—to keep funds for herself that would not necessarily benefit the family as a whole.  This way, they can funnel her money while keeping me from directly being benefited by it.  This stipulation is an end around to hurt me and help her with no deference to how our family fares in the end.

The third condition of any loan from her family would require us to begin actively separating ourselves from one another.  Now, while separate accounts and divorce proceedings are very likely in our future, I object to her family using financial leverage to dictate how and when we choose to dissolve the marriage.  If they want to help the four of us get out of a financial emergency, then we thank the family for the help.  However, this entire deal is odious and offensive to me.  It legally binds me to being indebted to a family that no longer wants anything to do with me and provides them power over my decisions.  At the same time, my wife may be afforded waivers and leniency where I will never see any.  The whole deal is unbalanced, manipulative, and unreasonable.

In response, I have tabled the family’s questionable offer.  Instead, I am looking at all ways that I might be able to raise funds to bridge the gap between now and June.  To that end, a friend of mine has offered a no-strings-attached loan, that while not covering all of our projected needs, at least gets us current on bills and keeps the lights on.  No signing on a dotted line.  No power grab.  My friend’s offer comes because she cares about my well-being and that of the family, not because she has a secret agenda at play.  I thank her for her help.  We are still projected to be short, but at least this is a start.  I continue to find other ways to make this work out without having to succumb to the family’s loan.

Beyond the Marriage

My wife has told me she thinks I have rejected the offer because I am trying to keep us together.  While there may have been a time that would have been true, she could not be further from the truth.  In an ideal world, she would stay with me, realizing that I am still largely the same person she fell in love with all those years ago.  She would see that I have a lot to offer—love, support, even romance if she wanted it.  She actively worries about what life will be like without me.  At the same time, she still wants out.  I have my own worries and fear about life beyond the marriage.  However, I have already taken the step of grieving our union at least once.  I have cried, screamed, and fought against my heart telling me to stay.  Her continued pulling away from me has made it easier (again, easier not easy) to pull away from her.  The more she makes individual decisions, keeps gifted money to herself, does not communicate the basics of what is going on in her life, and hides emotions & feelings, the more I do not want to be with her, either.  I was raised to live openly and honestly, to share feelings even when they are uncomfortable, to talk things over in times of need and celebrate in times of victory.  But there is no little joy here.  Romance is non-existent.  Hugs are few and far between.  What is there to hold on to?  What is there to save and keep together if one or both of us is no longer invested?

For quite awhile, she has been pulling away from me, and I have not stood in her way, as much as it hurts me to watch happen.  However, I am not sitting on the sidelines trying to keep us together as she conjectures.  My focus this year has been to improve myself both personally and socially.  To that end, I have found this new job.  I am sharing my story a little more actively in an effort to possibly advocate more in the future.  I am working to keep emotionally balanced despite the stress and drama that surrounds me.  While still providing plenty of attention and love to the children, I am also taking more time for myself.  I am making more friends and going out a little more often (on the cheap, of course!).  I think about the future—my future and the future of the kids.

The upcoming job will first and foremost help stabilize the family’s financial problems.  Its secondary purpose will be to establish my individual financial stability in the long run.  I hope to achieve this goal without need for her family’s interference.  We will separate when it is appropriate for us on our own (hopefully, amicable) terms.  If her family wants to help her then, by all means, I would expect that from them.  That is what family does.  However, if I can not be in debt to them, then more power to me.

Beyond the money, I have interest in moving on.  For the first time in years, my libido is non-zero.  I have interest in not only making more friends, but even possibly in dating.  I want someone who loves me for me, not for what I used to be.  I want to realize that maybe I am more beautiful than I think, that being transgender is not a romantic death sentence, and that the fact that I have children could actually be an endearing quality instead a deal breaker.  I have feared that being 40, trans, and a mother of two could get in my way.  That might not be the case after all.  My personality and my kindness are features.  If I embrace the compliments I regularly receive, my sense of self will be improved, which in turn makes me more marketable.  Gender confirmation surgery would not be bad, either.

There is a long way to go to get there.  First, what is left of our family comes first.  I will do everything in my power to protect the children and myself from harm.  I will find things to sell.  I will drive Uber.  I will work multiple jobs with little sleep.  I will not be played, and I am certainly not try to figure out how to keep my wife and I together.  That ship has sadly sailed.  As Morgan Freeman said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I choose to dream and to live.  Time to inspire myself in the same way I have inspired others.  Now, to figure out how to safely get to June and beyond…

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Can I Be Proud to Be Transgender?

In the last week, I have both met Sarah McBride and read her memoir Tomorrow Will Be Different. I have laughed, cried (a lot), and have taken some time to ask myself two questions with which she has challenged me: Can I be proud to be trans, and what is my favorite part of being transgender?

Last Friday, I attended what may have been my first-ever book signing. A friend invited me to the event to see Sarah McBride talk about her freshly-published first memoir. Sarah is National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, was the first openly transgender person to intern at the White House, and was the first transgender person to speak at a major national political convention. Additionally, she has been a trans advocate in her home state of Delaware fighting for marriage and gender equality.

In her short speech at the Democratic National Convention (2016), she introduced herself as “a proud transgender American.” She also likes to ask people, “What is your favorite part of being transgender?” The ideas of being proud to be trans or having a favorite part of being transgender are difficult for me to grasp. Yes, I have attended Pride events the last two years, and I am beginning to find my advocate voice, but would I go so far as to say I am proud to be trans?

I have faced so many challenges in the transition process: the effective loss of my marriage, contemplation of suicide, isolation by my brother, the gazes and comments from unsettled cisgender people. I battle health insurance companies, others who question my hormone therapy, and even myself. The last 3 1/2 years (and really more than that) have been a real struggle. The effort to be find my authentic self has been exhausting and mentally taxing. Prior to facial feminization surgery (FFS), I routinely cried at my reflection in the mirror. Prior to vocal therapy, I feared my voice—even though it could have passed for androgynous—was a clear signal, at least to me, that I did not sound feminine. My main focus of 2017 was focusing on correcting those issues. The notion of pride was furthest from my mind. “Passing” and being comfortable with myself was much more of a concern.

I made significant progress last year in the face and voice departments, and as a result, I became much more comfortable with how I presented myself to the world. As much as I desire to “pass” in the world, I am more concerned with being authentic—representing myself in the most honest ways possible to myself and the world. To that end, I do not necessarily hide the fact that I am transgender, but not until I considered Sarah’s position did I really start to think that I could be proud of that status.

Being transgender does not define me; it is only a piece of who I am. When asked by the New York Times to introduce myself at the beginning of my audio recording for my “Conception” video, I introduced myself as a 40-year-old woman, mother of two. I did not specifically introduce myself as transgender. I intentionally shied away from that point, even though that was a primary reason I had been selected to take part in the series. Even the final 4 minutes, 40 second cut never uses the words trans or transgender. Why did I shy away from using those words? Because I do not want to be summarily defined that way. I fear that in today’s society that if I am simply seen as trans, all of my other special qualities may be overshadowed by that one fact by the cis-majority world.

However, this stance stands in my opposition of my desire to advocate for the transgender community. I have found my authentic self. Despite the challenges, I live that reality every single day with a freedom I have not felt in quite a long time. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. I could be happy raising my two children to be the best people they can be, who love both of their mothers. That alone would fill my heart. But as proud of a mother as I am, would that be enough to fill the whole of me? What about being fully proud of myself? Can I stand in front of a crowd and say that I am a proud transgender American? Can I stand up and advocate for a community that I have become attached to and invested in? Am I willing to risk my relative anonymity for the greater good as Sarah McBride has done?

My desire to help others is immense, but I can only do some much from the privacy of my own home (or a blog that is barely read). I have accepted myself. I am happy to be me. I can stand up in front of a crowd and say that I am doing the best I can. I can speak to a group and announce I am transgender and tell my story. I did that just six months after going full-time. I can now tell people that I am proud of myself, of who I am and what I can do in the future. And to that end, maybe I can come to terms that I am proud to be transgender because that is a part of who I am, and it need not wholly define me if I do not let myself or others do so.

As far as Sarah’s question, “What is my favorite part of being transgender?” By finding myself, I have been able to truly live my life authentically. What does that mean exactly?

I believe that whether a person is transgender or cisgender, that goal of a person’s life should be to live as authentically as possible. No fronts, no games, no living for others. Transitioning has shown me that I was I was effectively living a lie. I believed for years that I was a male with some female traits. I was different, and that was OK, no matter how much the bullies tried to tell me otherwise. Giving myself permission to dress as female characters at Halloween was socially acceptable despite being outside the norm. I could help plan a wedding with my bride-to-be and walk down the aisle at my wedding and guests would see that as original. I could be emotional and wear those emotions on my shoulder without being judged, because that just made me special and unique, right? But what about my secret desires to actually be the bride, be the mother in labor, be the princess everyday not just Halloween? I suppressed those needs. I hid them from the world. I hid them from myself. Now, those barriers are removed. I can admit to myself, to everyone, that I always wanted those things. I can move through the world as be the woman I never allowed myself to be because of this or that reason. I am free to be me in all of my magic.

So what is my favorite part of being transgender? The ability to be me without restriction, with total authenticity. I have a much deeper understanding of who I am and what I can accomplish. This a feeling that I think many cisgender people may never truly realize because they are not required to dig down into their souls to identify their own internal truths. Transition is painful, but it is eye-opening and ultimately rewarding.

So while I have only briefly met Sarah McBride and given her a hug, I must thank her for sharing her story and making me think more about myself. Can I be proud to be transgender? Can I view transition in a positive, rewarding light instead of casting it as a dark, tumultuous time in my life? That answer to both of those questions might quite possibly be “yes,” and acknowledging that may lead to a new drive to move forward in a new, fulfilling direction in my life.

How I Ended Up in The New York Times

The year began with some exciting news:  I was featured in a six-part New York Times video series which centered on unique and transformative ways people have come into motherhood.  I have written in the past about my connections with motherhood, including my story of coming out to my children, my need for a maternal title, and the eventual granting of the title of Mom.  My kids are the center of my world.  I would not be alive today without their love and support.  However, I never thought being a mother would put me in the national spotlight.

Last summer, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to be put in contact with a video producer from The New York Times who seeking motherhood stories.  While I was not sure I wanted the exposure, I figured there would be no harm in at least talking to her to see what kind of stories she as producing.  One afternoon, I took the kids to lunch and then let them play while I called New York.  During the one hour phone conversation, the producer explained a little about the series and wanted to hear a little about my story.  In typical fashion, I rambled on about my transition and my children.  I told stories about the day I told my wife I was questioning, opened up about the depression I had gone through, and how I was proud to be a mother of two amazing, beautiful children.  While more than 13,000 people had submitted pitches to be included in the series, I was not one of them, nor was that the goal of this phone call.  I was not trying to sell myself.  I was simply talking about myself, and she hung on every word.  At the end of the hour, I finally got around to asking questions I had for her about the kinds of stories she was seeking.  I was aware she wanted a transgender mother, so I asked her what kind of person she envisioned for that story.  Her answer?  “You.”  I nearly dropped the phone.  She understood my hesitation, but she told me that she would really like me to be a part of the series, and if I was interested, I should get back to her.

I talked it over with my wife.  She was hesitant for all the right reasons.  What would this do to our family?  What kind of exposure could this bring us?  What would I say about her in my piece?  But after the producer shared a couple of the stories she had already been working on with us, there was no question that I had to be a part of this series.  The stories were beautiful and special, and even my wife said that I could not not turn the opportunity down.  So, I called New York again and agreed.

Just two weeks later, the producer booked a recording studio and flew across the country to meet me.  Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, I sat in a chair with a microphone inches from my face and told my story of motherhood.  A surreal experience to say the least, she let me talk and talk, occasionally asking me leading questions to have me open up more and more.  Once my recording was done, that was it.  She would edit it down my audio to less than five minutes, and then she would then send it to an animator to interpret my story.

In January, I received another unexpected call from New York.  Surprise!  All six parts were ready and they were going to press ahead of schedule.  All six animations were released simultaneously, with one video featured each week.  Mine was featured in the third week.

I was incredibly nervous.  I did not see my edited video until it was released to the public.  But there it was live on the New York Times’s site:  My animated story complete with my edited voice-over.  My motherhood story was out there to the world.  My inner circle responded positively.  In a tweet promoting my story, the producer even called me “perhaps the bravest women I’ve ever met.”  Wow!  As expected, the trolls came out, too.  Don’t read the comments, they say.  But how could I not?  Still, despite the negativity, I am happy I put my story out there, and I am proud to be part of a very special series.

The best thing about being a part of this project was the ability to tell my motherhood story.  I have been asked to tell my transition story a few times (most notably to a group in 2016), but this was the first time someone wanted to hear my motherhood story.  That was significant to me.  Being recognized as a mother among these other women helped validate my status as a mother in the greater world.  I love being called Mom by my kids.  I refer to myself as a stage mom.  But outside of my inner circle, I find that some people have trouble connecting the dots.  Recently, I was talking to my son’s principal, and he introduced me to a colleague.  “This is Gabrielle.”  Then he paused for a notable amount of time before calling me my son’s parent.  I really wanted to reintroduce myself as my son’s mom, but I resisted.  Still, I felt slighted.  With this video, I am out and proud as a transgender mother.

I do not necessarily embrace my trans status.  I identify as a woman, not necessarily a trans woman.  However, I do feel I need to advocate a bit for the trans community, and this was a nice way of telling a part of my story without necessarily revealing all of the details of me.  Sometimes I have trouble seeing how special my story is seen to some people.  The fact that I am transgender puts me in a single-digit percentage of the general population.  Transgender people also exist on a wide spectrum:  from non-binary to genderqueer to everywhere in between.  I find myself on one extreme of that line:  very femme.  In addition, I am a parent.  Not all trans women identify as a mother.  Some keep their masculine parental title, others go with a compromise or blended title, still others simply have their children call them by their first name.  Me?  I strongly identify as Mom, and it was of great importance to me that I share a maternal title with my wife.  That makes me a minority of a minority of a minority:  an ultra-femme trans woman who strongly identifies as a mother.  The only thing that would make me more special would be if I was a person of color, but I am not that cool.  Still, with all of the combinations out there, maybe my story is more unique than I think.  Maybe my story is important.  Maybe I am worthy of telling my story to The New York Times.

Then again, maybe there are others like me out there who have not had their stories told.  Maybe telling my story can serve as an inspiration to others.  Maybe telling my story shines more light on the stories of other transgender people, moms and otherwise, and continues (or starts) a conversation.  Maybe this helps me embrace my trans status a little more.  If I have helped or inspired even one person, then telling part of my story has served a greater purpose, and for that, I can be thankful.

So, that’s the story of how I ended up in being part of a New York Times video series—the most public thing I have done to date.  I hope you enjoy.  If you watch my story, I highly recommend you take the time to watch the other five incredible stories.  They are incredibly special.

New York Times “Conception” Series Landing Page:  nytimes.com/conception
My story:  https://www.nytimes.com/video/well/family/100000005335167/conception-becoming-mom.html
My story on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/NmZsw3ba0bM
My story on Vimeo:  https://vimeo.com/251691789

Looking Ahead After Holiday Depression

After 2 years of being full-time and a one foot in front of the other approach, I am still battling depression. The holidays didn’t help. In the new year, something needs to change.

In the first few weeks of the year, I found myself in a period of immense depression. In my State of Me: 2 Years Full Time post, I said that I was “spiraling into a dark place where I am isolated and lonely.” Unfortunately, I continued to tumble down that rabbit hole. I continued to talk to my therapist. I have reached out to friends. Some of them remind me how inspiring I have been to them. A few have reached out and told me I can call them any time. Still, as I wrote in State of Me, “the depressive feelings that could potentially lead to [suicide] are ever-present.” Why? Because the love of my life wants nothing to do with me, and I simply cannot shake her from my heart even though she shows every sign that she respects me less and less.

I tried my hardest to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I listened to Christmas songs at every turn. I decorated the Christmas tree as brightly as I ever have. As tradition has it, the children stayed up to help decorate the tree once the lights were on. My wife baked a ton of cookies. There was even a neighborhood Secret Santa. But no matter how much I tried to ignore the problems and the sadness, there was no joy in any of it.

Buying a present for my wife was hard. In the past, I have showered her with amazing gifts. Since beginning transition, those presents have not been as grand, but I continued to try to gift well. I still tried. I did not want to try this year. In the end, I gifted her some Disney earrings, which as usual, were a great gift for her. I think she wore one of those pairs every day from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day. In return, I received some earrings from Claire’s and a new skirt for work, which does not really fit my body shape. While we do not have lots of money to be buying presents, I kind of feel like she did not put a lot of effort into my gifts because her heart was not in it.

Christmas Day was awkward. There was no verve to get up and wake the kids to see what Santa had brought. Even Santa’s gifts were a family miracle. We received a last-minute donation of food & toys the week days before Christmas. Both children received brand new, assembled bicycles and assortment of smaller, cool toys. The adults received a food basket with an entire turkey and a bunch of canned food. I was incredibly grateful and humbled that we received such a blessing that truly save Christmas.

After the children opened presents, my father showed up for about an hour. In that time, he showed me pre-transition pictures of myself (at my heaviest weight, no less) and commented on my weight and hair length in the pictures. He then spent about 30 minutes talking to my wife about theology. While they both have progressive Christian philosophies, they are different enough to make for a strange conversation—and one I had very little interest in.

Once he left, we then proceeded to a hotel to visit my wife’s dad, stepmom, and their friends. For the second year in a row, we had Christmas dinner in a hotel room with people I barely know. These low-key gatherings are so much different from the Christmases I grew up with. We went home with overtired children and an underwhelming set of gatherings.

I was looking forward to the neighbors’ Secret Santa exchange a few days after Christmas, but even that was a sour point. I did not have a lot of time to shop with my busy schedule, so my wife helped me shop for gifts while I worked. That part worked out well (except for her telling people she did not know what to get my gift recipient). The person who drew my name really knew nothing about me. He arrived three hours late to the party, and then when I finally got my gift, I opened up a bottle of alcohol. For anyone else in that room, that would have been an OK hurried gift. However, I am not a big drinker. Anyone that even remotely knows me realizes I am only a social drinker at best. I am the last person to buy a 1/5 of anything—especially when the idea of the gift exchange was to give thoughtful gifts under $20. While I had fun at the party, I was very disappointed. The whole situation did not provide a silver lining to my downer of a Christmas.

After the holidays, I put out what amounted to cry for help to Facebook. While I acknowledged some of the positives that occurred this year (mainly FFS—despite the infection—and mostly successful vocal training), I also made mention how much this year has felt like an “unmitigated disaster.” Why? Because my support system is so weak. Yes, there are people I rely on and people who step into help me, but I can only rely on those people so much. I am not good at asking for help as it is, let alone going back to the well to people that have already assisted me. I do not want to be manipulative or overly-needy. I received a few nice responses to my post, but there was notable exception: my wife.

I know she has read the Facebook post because she reacted to one of the comments, but she did not mention it, comment on it, or reference it in any way to me. The same night I posted that message, I came home from work and had to endure her talking to her “friend” on the phone for nearly an hour. Rarely does she talk to him while I am around. This felt highly disrespectful. She knows how I feel about him. However, what does she care? She has her fantasy boyfriend, and I am a glorified babysitter and paycheck earner. This, even after I made the breakfast she requested earlier that morning.

She is tired with dealing with me and my emotions, even though I never complained when I helped her through her issues at the beginning of our relationship. I was there through every twist and turn. I drove her to group therapy meetings. I made sure she filled her prescriptions. For 12+ years, I have been there for her. Now that I need the help and support, I am apparently too much for her. I am not worth the effort. The romance is gone. The attraction is gone. If we did not have the kids, I might be subjugated to roommate status. Maybe we should set up a chore wheel.

Admittedly, that’s my anger coming through, but it is hard not to feel the way I do. No matter what I do, I am still the one taking care of the finances, making things work as best as possible for us as a family. ‘Family’: That word has taken on a weird context lately. There has to be a more appropriate word than that to describe what we have going here. Because families love each other, do anything for each other, respect one another. That’s not happening here, and it repeatedly breaks my heart. My heart is so shattered that is difficult for me to put one foot in front of the other. I have been plodding along, but I am tired of going it alone. I am tired of bearing all of the stress of trying. Trying to love. Trying to feel good about myself. Trying to be a good worker. Trying to be a good mother. I can’t bear it alone.

On New Year’s Day, we sat down and talked for about an hour while the kids played in a park. During that conversation, she admitted to pulling away from me. She also said that she was upset because she felt she was having to do everything by herself—the same complaint I have had. Clearly, we are at an impasse if we both feel we are doing “everything” without the other’s help. This is a broken family (or whatever we are), and how we keep sane without continuing to upset each other is a Herculean task.

When I officially reached my 2-year full-time anniversary, I made it a point for myself to celebrate even in some small way. I did not make a big deal about it. I was kind of curious to see if my wife was going to acknowledge it in any way. It was even written on the large family calendar in the living room. For her, it was a work day, which meant I was responsible for the kids. Before we picked her up at the end of the night, I put on my tiara (which my daughter loved) and went to the grocery store to buy myself a Boston cream pie. When we picked her up, she asked, “Were you wearing that all day?” I answered, “No, but why might I be wearing my tiara today?” She paused, then responded, “Oh, is that today?” quietly adding, “Happy Non-Birthday.” Later, I shared cake and Martinelli’s with her after the kids went to bed, but honestly, had I not chosen to celebrate this milestone myself, it probably would have gone unnoticed and uncelebrated.

I am trying so hard to propel myself forward and keep up the one foot in front of the other approach I’ve been plodding along since I started my transition, but after 3+ years of grinding through life, I am so tired. I am tired if feeling like I am working towards a goal that I cannot define. Don’t get me wrong: That goal has nothing to do with transition. I am living the authentic me, and that’s a huge thing. I just don’t have vision for the rest of my life.

Despite the incessant pressures I faced in 2017, I was able to accomplish my face and voice goals. In my best effort to move forward, I feel I need to set some goals for 2018. While the odds of me getting GRS in the upcoming year are slim, I need to accelerate that process. To that end, I have a friend helping me create a GoFundMe page to crowdfund for the surgeon’s required deposit and to start needed electrolysis. As I get that long-term ball rolling, in the short-term, I need to learn to live for myself. I need to dream again. I have to find a way to separate myself from my wife without further injuring my heart. To that end, financial security is a must for myself and my children. I seek new, better paying employment. I also must solve the housing dilemma. Depression or not, I must find a way through, to keep my will strong and positive, or I may not make it through 2018.

Womanhood Without Girlhood

Transitioning in my mid-life means that I have still have time to experience womanhood to its fullest, but a piece of me will always be missing:  my girlhood.

My mom was the most influential person in my life.  She was my hero, my protector, my teacher, and my confidant.  As a single mother, I was her world.  As an only child, she was mine.  We had a very close relationship, and she did her best to raise her quirky, highly intelligent child the best she could.  We had deep conversations about everything.  She knew (nearly) everything about me (as any good mother should about their child).  Had she been alive when I began transitioning, she would have been unfazed, probably said something snarky along the lines of, “Finally!”, and then asked what she could do to help and support me through the trying times of transition.

Assigned male at birth, I was raised as a boy.  Unlike some other transgender stories, I did not question that identity.  I did not know when I was 3 that I was trans, but early in life, I knew I was not like the other kids.  I was bullied early in school mainly for my appearance and my know-it-all attitude.  I played with the girls instead of mocking them.  I enjoyed making Valentine’s Day cards for the class with my first crush.  Yes, I still did traditionally boy things:  I played baseball & basketball (both poorly).  I watched porn at a friend’s house when that friend found a tape in his parents’ bedroom.  I played video games instead of playing with dolls.

It was not until high school when I made some first forays into even thinking about traditionally girl things, but at the time, I misinterpreted those feelings.  In retrospect, I did not want to marry Mariah Carey; I was actually jealous of her fairy tale wedding.  I was not Latina, but I was jealous of those that celebrated quinceañeras.  I wanted to know why society deemed it acceptable for women to wear dresses & skirts but not for men.  Why couldn’t I wear one?  Why was it that I had to ask girls to dances instead of them asking me?

My mom understood me in a way that others did not, and I think she saw things in me that took me decades to truly realize.  She did not pressure me to go to school dances because I was uncomfortable asking girls to go with me.  I wanted to be asked.  She did not get terribly angry when she learned that I had been sleeping in some of her discarded slips one year.  She was sure to celebrate my Sweet 16 by taking me for a memorable day in San Francisco, although she never called it that to my face.  She offered to pierce my ears in high school, but I regrettably declined.  She did not look at me askew when she learned I started wearing dresses at Halloween.  She did not question when I asked her to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.  All along, she never said anything, but I am confident she knew the truth about me, even when I did not.

There is one time I can remember when she cracked that silence.  She was present when I admitted to my wife that I had cheated on her with her best friend.  In the ensuing fight where my wife slung painful verbal punches in my direction, my wife accused me of being more of a girl than her.  I expected Mom to defend me against that accusation, but instead Mom asked me something like, “Yeah.  What about that?”  I was dumbfounded and had no real response.  I think I knew it was true, but it was the first time I had really heard it spoken aloud, and it was compounded by my mom’s confirmation.  Even then, I suppressed my identity—even to myself.  I had accepted myself as a feminine man.  I was raised in a way where that was acceptable.

I did not allow myself to explore the idea that maybe I was more than a feminine man for many years.  In high school, a friend of mine once called me a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.  I laughed it off at the time, but the phrase always stayed with me in the back of my mind.  If I had only known then what I know to be true now, my life would be incredibly different.

I am jealous of young trans people who realize and take action at young ages, because they will get to have life experiences I will never get to know.  I watch Jazz Jennings on her TLC reality show I Am Jazz.  She knew when she was a small child.  Her parents were accepting and placed her on puberty blockers.  While she leads a public lifestyle, she is also going through her teenage years as a woman.  She is experiencing a girlhood, complete with its awkwardness of dating, friends, and learning who she is and her place in the world.  These are experiences I will never be able to recreate.

Some trans people describe transition as a second puberty.  I am learning that there is truth in that phrase.  On the surface, there are physical changes:  breast growth, skin softening, hair growth slowing.  It is strange to be experiencing drastic changes to my appearance this late in life.  The emotional changes are distinct as well.  I am more emotional and once again learning my place in the world.  The difference here is that I have an established life, and much of it was lived in the wrong gender.  I am learning womanhood without ever experiencing girlhood, and that puts me at an emotional disadvantage.  And without my mother (who died several years ago), I do not have an active parent to guide me on this journey.

I do not want a second puberty.  I want to turn back time and properly redo my first puberty.  I want to transition from girlhood to womanhood with a proper Sweet 16 party.  I want to re-imagine my wedding and the perfect dress.  I want to learn to date, to have lifelong girlfriends I still talk to from childhood, and to play with dolls and tea sets.  I want my mother to teach me what it was like when she was growing up as a girl to prepare me for my life.  I would gladly give up the male privilege to be a girl from the beginning.  Here, take it.  I want to experience the awkwardness of a menstrual cycle, the joy (or terror) of learning I am pregnant, and the pain & satisfaction of labor.  Sadly, even if I had been assigned female at birth, my biology prevents much of what I want.

Instead, I find my self transitioning in my mid-life, not in my early years.  I need to learn how to be the woman I want to be without ever being the girl I was not able to live as.  I have to re-learn dating (not that I ever really learned it well).  I need to learn to protect myself and be aware of my surroundings.  To my great sadness, I have to give up the notion that I will ever be pregnant or bear a child.  (I might be able to get to a point where I could breastfeed, but do I really want to do that if it is not for my own child’s benefit?)  I have had to learn what is like to take on the role of Mom instead of one of a father—without really planning for it.

I am learning on the fly, and I am primarily learning it solo.  My wife has helped along the way, but she is not my mother, and at some point, she will not even be my wife.  She is also more manly than I in many respects.  She is a cisgender female, and while she had the girlhood experiences I did not, it is one thing to hear the stories and a completely different thing to experience them.  I will never get to experience them.

People may ask, “Why would you want to go through puberty?  My teenage years as a girl were terrible!”  Granted, there are negative experiences:  Peer pressure, horny boys, monthly bleeding, society’s inferiority complex.  For me, it does not matter.  I am a woman.  I should have been a girl.  I’ll take the bad with the good if it meant I could live  a complete female life.

That said, I would miss the few things my male life has provided me:  my children.  At least I get to be a mother, even if it is in a non-traditional way.  But I will always wonder what kind of girl I would have been if I had been given the chance.  One thing I do know:  Mom would have been supporting me the whole way as her daughter.

My First GRS Consultations

Earlier this week, two of my friends had gender reassignment surgery (GRS) on the exact same day.  What are the odds?  While I am happy for them both, I cannot help but be jealous—and that says something about what I need in the future.

My primary transition-related focus this year has been on my voice and my face.  Near the beginning of the year, I began working with vocal therapists specializing in feminization.  Luckily for me, there were qualities in my voice that meant I did not need to do a large amount of work to consistently attain a typical female voice.  I have since had my last vocal therapy session, and while I still need to work on consistency, my voice is in a good place.  In August, I had my first-ever surgery:  facial feminization surgery (FFS).  While an infection put me back in the hospital for a second surgery at the end of September, my face is noticeably improved.  I am less dysphoric on both fronts.  In those terms, I have been successful in my goals for the year.

Now that I am misgendered less and have been comfortably living as myself for nearly two years, I cannot avoid  thinking ahead to bottom surgery.  The visible features of my body read woman enough to “pass” a sufficient amount of the time.  I am frequently called “ma’am” or “miss.”  (Personally, I love when my daughter calls me “Princess Mom,” but that’s special to her, of course.)  However, the public does not see is what is under my skirt—something I see on a daily basis, and it is bothering me more and more.

I have not written much about gender reassignment surgery (GRS) because my focus has been elsewhere, but the time is now.  With my friends recovering from their surgeries, it is difficult to just ignore what has been in the back of my mind for some time now.  Now that FFS and vocal therapy are effectively completed, it is the next thing I can do something about.  That’s not to say I have not been thinking about GRS.

Six months ago, two things happened:  (1) I had a GRS consult with a doctor required by insurance, and (2) I set up a consultation with Dr. Marci Bowers.

Consult #1

Because Dr. Bowers is local to me, I asked my primary care doctor for a referral to see Marci.  Why not, right?  She is considered one of the best doctors in the world for this procedure.  It is her specialty.  However, back in June, I was still covered by Medi-Cal.  They originally denied my request to see Dr. Bowers because another doctor in the network who performed GRS.  So, I was referred to that doctor.  Being a good patient, I gave that doctor a chance.  I went for the consult.

Unfortunately, it was one of the worst doctor’s appointments I have ever had.  The doctor informed me that she had never performed GRS, but was about to begin offering the surgery.  To help her, she was bringing in another doctor to assist—but due to confidentiality, she could not reveal the name of the assisting doctor on his request.  She was very cold in her answers, and because of her lack of experience, she could not answer basic questions on complication rates, revision rates, etc.  Even the numbers she gave me were in conflict with the research I had done on my own.  Near the end of the session I asked her, “If you were a patient in my position, who was talking to a doctor who had never performed the surgery and was bringing in a doctor whose name cannot be revealed…” At this point, she began shaking her head anticipating the rest of my question.  I finished it anyway:  “…why would you choose that doctor as your surgeon for this life-changing and complex surgery?”  Her response?  “I do not feel I need to sell myself as a doctor.”  She went on to say that as a public practice doctor, she was doing these surgeries for the patients, not to make lots of money like the specialist private practice doctors.

After a quick physical examination, I left the office very unimpressed and a little upset.  Honestly, I do not care if you are private or public, whether you are performing something complex like GRS or something similar to a gall bladder removal, if you are going to cut me open, you better sell yourself to me!  My doctor needs to be my advocate and want to be my doctor.  I am not a guinea pig!

I used the fact that I had gone to the insurance’s recommended doctor and the fact that there was no other “in network” doctor available to appeal the initial denial to see Dr. Bowers.  I appealed on the grounds that I had unresolved questions and had the right to a second opinion under my plan.  With no other in-network doctor available, I asked once again to see Dr. Bowers.  I won the appeal.  I scheduled an appointment, but her first opening was in December.  Sigh.

Consult #2

In the intervening wait, I have since transitioned from Medi-Cal to a Covered California exchange plan.  I was forced into this change due to income requirements, and I have done my best to make due—and pay premiums, co-pays, and the like.  What it also meant:  My appeal to Medi-Cal and my previous insurer was moot and in order to keep the consult with Dr. Bowers, I would need to pay her consultation fee up front and be reimbursed by insurance later.  I was on the verge of losing this long awaited appointment because of my financial situation when an angel stepped in and help me with the fee.  I am so thankful to her!

Finally, after six months (and a one week rescheduling delay), I finally met Dr. Marci Bowers this past week.  Even though a consultation is not required to get on her surgery calendar, I treated this experience like any other trip to the doctor.  Famous or not, I wanted to meet her and have me tell me what she could do for me that another doctor could not.  Sell me like Doctor #1 did not do.  And sell me she did.  She talked about her low complication rates, her successes with a one-stage surgery (instead of two), her amazing ability to provide patients with a 90% chance to achieve orgasm after surgery, and her ability to satisfactorily answer all of my questions.  While she is matter-of-fact, I can project that her bedside manner is sound, and she cares about her patients.

When I walked out of her office, I was content.  She clarified a few things for me.  I know that I want her as my GRS surgeon.  Not because she is famous.  I want her because she is experienced and offers everything I need.  Plus:  She is local.  I can go home after a few days and recover instead of being holed up at a hospital for an extended stay.

When asked by my wife how the consult went, I gave her kind of a puppy dog smile.  She told me I was giving her the same look she gave me when we went to see the kittens at PetSmart, and we walked out with an adopted kitten after dating for only six months.

The Logistics

The downside to choosing Marci Bowers is the queue.  Her wait list is now approaching four years, and now that Jazz Jennings has publicly selected Marci to be her GRS surgeon, the wait will likely skyrocket to closer to six years soon.  (Because I am local, I could be on her cancellation list, which could potentially cut my wait in half, but that’s still two years at the very best.)  If I were on Medi-Cal, I could jump through hoops and get on her calendar without paying a dime.  Now that I am on an exchange plan, I will need to fork up a $1,000 non-refundable deposit with my surgery application.  I certainly do not have that kind if money right now.  As it is, the basics of rent and credit cards are a balancing act.  How do I come up with that kind of money?

My wife believes I need to find a way to get back on to Medi-Cal.  The only way to do that is to reduce my income.  Clearly, that would be a problem, as our family needs every dime.  But what if we were not a family anymore?  That’s her take.  I feel like she is using the opportunity to suggest a separation or a divorce.  However, even bringing that topic up makes me cry, and that is just what I did when she made that proposal.  I am not ready to deal with everything a separation or a divorce entails, and it is not as simple as merely dividing our incomes.  To go down that road, we would need to talk custody of the kids, and I am in no mental position to have that conversation rushed in order to reduce my income to get onto a Medi-Cal plan.

A friend of mine has an alternate plan:  crowdfunding.  She has offered to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for my deposit.  While I am at it, I could ask for money to pay for necessary electrolysis and my previous hospital stay.  This idea does intrigue me, but I also hesitate because I hate asking for money and assistance.  Feelings of bruised pride and guilt come to mind.  Also, to be effective, I would need to advertise my page, and the public nature of it all makes me a little wary.  What kind of position does it put my family in if I am actively begging for money in a public forum?

Now What?

GRS is the next step.  That is becoming clearer to me.  My friends recent surgeries will help me learn more about the recovery process firsthand, but in the end, this decision is a personal one, and my body is telling me that it is time.  I want this surgery sooner rather than later.  I could go with a lesser doctor and have surgery in a year or less, but if I want Marci, the reality is that I must wait four years (maybe two)—and that feels like an eternity!  Furthermore, the clock does not start until I either magically find $1,000 or find a way back to Medi-Cal.

I find myself facing another monumental decision that I must effectively make alone.  These kinds of major decisions have been weighing me down immensely.  I am so tired of having to do things on my own without much support.  My wife is excited that I got the consult with Marci, but she is also terrified of having to go through another surgery with me.  She wants to be apart from me but still be happy for me.  Who knows what the reality of the next two, three, fours years is?  How does one plan for the longer term when the short-term is such a question mark?  Do I crowdfund?  Do I wait for another insurance change?  Do I actively start considering a separation or divorce to see what the financial implications would be?  What about the children?

There are too many questions and not enough answers.  In that situation, it can be difficult to make any kind of decision and wallow in a depressive state.  I suffer from enough depressive thoughts; I do not need more.  But I need GRS, so I must find a way.

State of Me: 2 Years Full-Time

Next month will mark 2 years since I began living authentically full-time. I look back on how I have somehow made it it this far and how I feel today.

Transition & Dysphoria

Two years ago, I began living full-time as my authentic self. The decision to do so capped a year-and-a-half of torturous questioning, anxiety, and uncertainty. Since then, I have become much more comfortable with my identity and how I present to the world. Now four months removed from facial feminization surgery, I am less dysphoric when it comes to my daily appearance. I can actually see the femininity in my face for which I had longed. I have moved from crying at the mere reflection of my face to more acceptance.

However, dysphoria continues to rear its head at times. There is still the matter of some anatomy that needs to be addressed. More than 2 1/2 years of hormone therapy has encouraged the natural growth of my breasts but only recently have I been able to get my estrogen levels to a point where feminization can be well promoted. I hope to move to estrogen injections soon, as I fear the effectiveness of my sublingual method may have reached its maximum potential. I really want to avoid a breast augmentation surgery, but my breasts are not where I need them to be. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t need DDs to be happy, but an A or low B cup just does not help me connect to my femininity as well as say, a C cup would.

For years, I have been tucking my bits away, but that only alleviates the dysphoria so much. As time goes on, I am more and more sure that I will have bottom surgery. My sexual desire has actually begun to increase a bit. That may be a result of discontinuing my androgen blocker a few months ago. With my body acclimated on a high estrogen dose, I have trained my body to block testosterone with estrogen and natural progesterone alone, thereby avoiding some of the negative side effects of spironolactone. That’s a beautiful thing. The rise of sexual desire is a two-edged sword, as relations with my wife are a non-starter. I actually embarrassed myself a few weeks ago when I half-jokingly threw myself on the bed in her direction. Part of me wants to explore sexuality in this improved body, but part of me holds back. The next chapter in my life will include sorting out the types of relationships I want, and my approach to romance and sex needs redefinition.

While desire is part of the equation, I must reiterate that eroticism is not the central focus of my transition. Romance and relationships must be addressed as a part of life, and now that I am not questioning transition, I must look at putting the rest of my life in order, and that includes things like sexual orientation, dating, and the state of my marriage.

Marriage

Followers of this blog are well aware that I continue to be married with two children. My wife and I live in the same house, and we even awkwardly share the same bed. Our marriage was in trouble before I began questioning my identity; my transition put the nail in the coffin. Letting go of my marriage has been one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced, and it was made exponentially more difficult when coupled with my transition. I continue to love my wife, and if the decision were solely mine, we would find a way to save our relationship and repair our marriage. Of course, that is not how the world works. It takes two to tango, as they say, and my tango partner no longer wants to dance with me. She is attracted to men, and I am not a man. She is not attracted to me. Therefore, our marriage has an expiration date some time in the future. However, we are financially bound to each other, and therefore, we stay together for now.

She is still sorting out her future, but I believe if she had her way and had the financial means to do so, she would leave the house and file for divorce. She wants to be independent and free. She wants to live the rest of her life without having to rely on me. And while she has stated that she foresees being a cat lady for the rest of her life, I do not believe she would stay single long. She has a lot to offer—even if depression and low self-esteem prevent her from consistently seeing those positive qualities in herself.

While we were good for each other and probably could have been happily married long into our lives, the deck was unknowingly stacked against us.

My Wife’s Future

Even before she met me, my wife had a friend, who she has never met and has only communicated by email, phone, and texts. He was always problematic and was the source of many fights between my wife and myself. He is a tortured soul and has had his share of drama, much but not all of which has been self-induced. He has been a confidant to my wife for 20 years, but he also routinely denigrates her. Many times, she has attempted to cut off communication with him only to return like a battered spouse with nowhere else to turn. Their close connection was a reason why my wife hesitated to marry me in the first place. Later, she had a secret emotional affair with him, which I discovered at a time when I had access to my wife’s email and texts. Even to this day, even after swearing him off as a toxic relationship, she longs for his touch, his presence, and his manliness. She loves him more than she loves me, even if they never actually get together. They talk when I am at work. They text with each other late into the night. It is like an affair that never ended.

At this point, I am tired of complaining about him. The relationship truly is toxic. Yes, there are times she can go to him to vent about our relationship as her best friend, but there is more to that, and while my wife does not speak about it, it is clear as the light of day—and it always has been. If she were to go down that road after she and I split, I fear it would be truly disastrous not only for her but for our children as well. He is a negative influence more than a positive one. He has hurt her for decades, and he will continue to do so again. But if we are to truly divorce, it will not be my place to stand in her way of making terrible decisions unless they directly affect my children. So if she decides to explore a possible relationship with him (even though he lives across the country), that will be her decision. I will be immensely distraught and fearful that she will not find what she is looking for there, other than some possible temporary sexual relief. Their relationship has been built on lies and promises that are easily made given the distance. If they end up in the same room together, it will not be the fantasy they may have each built up for each other during those late night texts or in their dreams.

Beyond this guy, my wife has interest in looking more locally. We once had a falling out because I discovered she had created a dating profile. I am confident there are people in her church community she may have at least a fleeting interest in. Her friends and family encourage her to leave me and move on, and she is sexually repressed. All signs point to her getting more ready to find someone sooner rather than later. She may be scared to take the first real step, though. Or maybe she has already, and she just has not told me. Whatever the case, she has made it clear that I am not a part of her romantic future, and I am trying not to stand in her way, as painful as that is to do.

Beyond romantic or strictly sexual possibilities, she has a lot of other things to put in order. She is seeking a second job to pay more of our bills. She is sorting out her primary career objectives. She is working on self-care and actively dealing with her depression. Sometimes she asks for my help; other times she bottles it up and goes it alone. I do all I can to be as supportive as I ever was, but it is up to her how much she wants to lean on me for help as long as I am here.

My Future

I was not an angel in our marriage either. As much as I hate her “friend” and all of the trouble and chaos he has caused, I am not without my indiscretions. While she had an emotional affair, I turned an emotional affair (with her best female friend at the time) into a physical one when I got her friend to take a trip to visit us for a week. A month after the trip, I felt so guilty that I confessed to my wife what I had done, and while we ended up staying together in the marriage, she never truly forgave me for it. That indiscretion will always be regrettable to me, but unlike her affair, I cut off communication with her friend. I deleted email, lost phone numbers, the works. I worked hard to rebuild what we had, to be a parent to our son (and later our unplanned daughter), and to be an equal partner in the marriage.

But as I said, the deck was stacked against us. Six years into the marriage and almost nine years after we had met, I began reevaluating who I was at my core because I had fallen into a depression. My mom had died. The romance was fading from our marriage. Sex was infrequent. I was out of work for over a year. Things were very bad. As I looked ahead to my future, I did not see a doting husband with the white picket fence and a stable family. I saw the soft core of me, the potential woman inside, and I began a self-discovery journey that lead me to one of the best and worst decisions of my life: the need to transition. While I found myself and my authenticity, I destroyed any possibility that the marriage would survive. I have never been faced with such a challenge, a conundrum of epic proportions. After exhaustive introspection and therapy, I came to the conclusion that I could not live happily, married or single, unless I could live as the true me, and that meant living as a woman. Now two years full-time, I am a happier, better, more well-rounded person.

Even though signs existed, she was effectively blindsided when I told her I was having “gender issues,” as I put it to her at the time. She did not know how to react, and we fought for a year-and-a-half at the very minimum, all the while trying (and not always succeeding) to shield the kids from the pain and the anger. As a family, we have all come a long way in accepting me for me, but no amount of healing can rectify the sheer amount of damage that my transition caused her.

Much like her, my career is a big question mark. After dedicating almost 7 years to an industry I thought was my childhood dream job, I am not longer interested or dedicated to following that path. I would like to work with people to help others, possibly with a non-profit, but those jobs tend not to pay well or are difficult to acquire. I need a career that will allow me to simultaneously work, parent, and pay expenses. I need financial stability.

Romantically, I would be lying if I said I did not still love my wife. I do. But I have grieved my marriage once already, and I am trying not to allow myself to get caught up in the fact that “things will work out.” I have had some limited dating experiences in the last year, but I honestly do not know what I want or if I am ready. As I said earlier, my desire to be loved is mounting. My need for adult human interaction is eating at me.

Lack of Friendship

That adult human interaction need not be in a physical or romantic form. While that would be possibly welcome, I really find that I need more friends. My recent six-day hospital stay yielded exactly one friend visit, and after I came home, friends only visited after I asked for help on Facebook. I feel like I fished for friends to come see me instead of them genuinely worrying about me and actively checking in with me.

A large amount of my current friends are in the trans community. I met many at my support group. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend that group as much as I have in the past due to scheduling conflicts. Even then, many times I find that my situation is different from many of those that attend the group. They tend to not relate to where I am in my transition, the difficulties my transition brought to my family, or even acknowledge that I am feeling particularly down on any given night. My other friends all have drama going on in their lives, which leaves little room for me. Combine that with my working closing retail shifts until midnight or later 3-4 nights per week and it is easy to see that no one really has time for me, or I do not have time for them. I feel very isolated and cutoff from the world, and that has contributed to my recent slip into a depressive state.

Depression

Depression is not a stranger in my world, but for the majority of my life, I have always helped others through their battles without admitting that I was subject to depression myself. I have been the supportive voice on the other end of a potential suicide call. My wife credits me with being the main reason she sought help with her clinical depression, something she battles to this day but in a much more controlled way. I have known multiple people who have taken their own lives, and I have seen the impact those decisions have caused. I never thought I would be one to have to deal with depression. I was wrong.

Depression and isolation led me to my affair. I needed that connection I was not getting from home (partially caused by my wife’s postpartum depression), and I regrettably found it elsewhere. Depression triggered the self-evaluation that set off my transition. The constant fighting and feelings of hate that I routinely received from my wife in the first year of transition spiraled me further down the black hole to the point where I seriously considered suicide for the first time in my life. I credit my children with saving me from that end. While I felt my wife and extended family and friends could live on without me in the world, I could not imagine that irreparable and life-changing damage I would be inflicting on my children.

Today, I have made incredible strides to figure out my identity and relieve some of that dysphoria, but I am once again spiraling into a dark place where I am isolated and lonely. I feel cut off from the world, and it is becoming a dangerous place to exist. Combined with extreme financial struggles and stress from fear of the unknown, I am lost. In a recent therapy session, I admitted to some of this depression. I do not yet know the resolution, and I seek help figuring it out. I do not have many close friends or family, and that seriously hampers my ability to reach out. I can only ask so much of my wife.

Suicide

I should take moment here to address suicide. I have mentioned it in the past, and I again mentioned it above. There have been moments in my life where I have considered taking my own life. I never seriously considered it when I was younger. I faced some challenging, seemingly impossible moments during my school years. For example in college, I lied to my parents for almost two years about how well I was doing in school. Unable to right the ship, I was academically disqualified from my university at one point. As a result, I had to come clean to my parents, left my mom’s house to live with my dad (a very regrettable decision), and was without work or school. Suicide was briefly considered but only cursorily. I was able to work through my issues and turn my life around.

After my revealing my affair, my wife moved out of the house for a week and forcibly took my son away from me. She was moments away from filing for separation in a lawyer’s office. I felt like I had lost everything meaningful in my life and that everyone around me would be better off without me. Taking my life seemed easier than trying to fix my reality. Keeping my family together became more important than the loneliness and separation anxiety I experienced. I endured my wife’s constant reminders of what I had done. I even worked through another near divorce after I found about her emotional affair. I worked harder than I ever had before to take care of my wife and my child.

The closest I ever came to actually doing something was after I had come out as questioning to my wife. The daily anger and emotional powder keg that was our house—especially in that first year—is indescribable. I captured some of that in those moments in the early days of this blog. We were already having problems in our marriage when I began questioning my identity. After I revealed what I as going through, I became persona non grata. The one person I come to rely on was lost to me. She wanted nothing to do with me. Without a welcoming home and under the threat of losing the entirety of immediate family, I felt like I had nothing left to live for. There were times I stood in my kitchen and held a large chef’s knife in my hand contemplating what I could do with it. While I never actually put the knife to my wrist, the thoughts were never far away from me. I believe the only thing that stopped me from actually attempting harm was the love I had for my children. They truly saved me. I could not imagine what they would have to go through if I took my life. The irreparable damage would send ripples through their entire lives, more than the damage any transition would cause. Even though I did not have the title of ‘mother’ yet (nor did the kids have a real idea what I was going through), I still had strong motherly ties to my children, and I could not in good faith take myself out of that equation. I needed to stay alive and figure out how to handle my possible transition for the greater good of what was left of my family and deal with those repercussions instead of them having to deal with the consequences of finding my bloody body on the floor one morning.

Now three years after coming out as questioning and almost two years living full-time, my wife and I are in a better place. Still, we are not whole. We live under the same roof, but we are not together. Yes, we lean on each other for help sometimes, but because of the wounds caused by the deep-seeded trauma of my transition, we cannot support each other as much as we once could. There is separation, division, distance. Help is unintentionally given at arm’s length because while we need each other to function, we both look for way to live our lives individually. That leaves me to reach out to the few friends I have acquired, and that is a challenge because they are largely unavailable.

In the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, a teenage girl named Hannah blames others for her suicide. In audiotapes she left behind, she points fingers at both those who did her great physical and emotional harm, as well as the people who sat on the sidelines and did nothing while she was bullied, ridiculed, or simply ignored. While there are issues with blaming others for self-inflicted harm, I can empathize with her isolation and her complaints that those who knew her best were not there or took no interest in her. Feeling alone and powerless is a crippling feeling. The stresses in my life and the directionless movement in my career and family coupled with my lack of a stable set of friends to confide places me in a situation where I could be prone to do what Hannah did.

To calm some nerves of anyone reading this, please know I am not at that point yet. I am not in my kitchen staring at a chef’s knife or looking to jump into the ocean. However, the depressive feelings that could potentially lead to that type of end are ever-present, but unlike other times in my life, I am actively acknowledging them to myself and others, including my therapist and my wife. My children still need me. I still need them.

My Family

As I have inferred throughout this piece, my children are my world. With the impeding loss of my marriage, my focus is on them. I work hard to make sure our family does not go entirely underwater. I fought hard to have them call me ‘Mom,’ which helps validate my identity. Motherhood is an essential part of my being. I will be eternally distraught by the fact I am unable to bear children, so the best I can do is be the best mother I can be to the children I already have. They sustain me, even when they are frustrating me. My daughter’s hugs melt my heart. “I love you, Mom” is the best sentence I hear everyday.

It took a long time for my wife to allow me to take a motherly title, and it was one of the biggest sacrifices she could could have ever made for me. Even eight months since my official title change, she admits that she is not comfortable with it. I understand it will take time. I thank her for continuing to refer to me as Mom.

Even though my parents divorced when I was 2, I was raised with a strong focus on family. My mom was my biggest influence. She made sure we spent time with the only great grandma that lived during my lifetime. On my dad’s side, I attended huge gatherings of family at the holidays in a tiny apartment. With the death of my grandfather, those big holidays ceased to be. With the death of mother, that side of the family is a distant memory. I am effectively left with my father, who lives hours away, and my stepbrother, who does not talk to me because he does not how to deal with my transition. My family is effectively reduced to my four walls, and even that is falling apart.

I would do nearly anything for my wife, even to this day. Even after we eventually split are no longer living together, we will be in each other lives, as we co-parent our children. There will always be feelings of love, at least on my side. I still cry when I think of our past and the uncertainty of our future. The NBC show This Is Us makes me cry almost every week because of how it plays on my ideas of family. The highs and lows of family life are well-written, and I can empathize and sympathize with many of the struggles and celebrations those television families go through.

My family means so much to me, and the thought of breaking that family apart is heartbreaking. I really had to weigh that against the need to transition. In the end, I determined that I could not be an active and contributing family member if I was not the authentic me, so I risked the most important and solid piece of my world. To date, I still exist in the house, but there are palpable challenges which I may never be able to overcome. That hurts to think about.

When I move on, I will need to meet someone who will respect the fact that I am an active mother of two, with an ex who will need to be considered to an extent. Life just does not get easier.

I tell my children every day and every night that I love them. I wish I cold tell my wife that, but it would likely fall on deaf ears, or at the minimum, make her feel uncomfortable, so I don’t. I endure on my own, communicating when I need to. I internalize my feelings, my need for adult human interaction, and my emerging sexual feelings. I do not like hiding these things, but it seems necessary given the current climate of the house. Even so, my family is incredibly important to me. I am a mother. I am a wife (for now). I do my best in both roles.

A Look Ahead

Times are difficult right now. Finances are stretched thin. Hope sometimes feels fleeting. I know I made the right decision to transition. I do not really know where it will take me. I am sad. I am depressed. But there is still love in my heart for my children, my family, and myself. I do my best to remain hopeful in these dark, challenging times. I am thankful for those that listen and who care about my well-being. My authentic self is shaken and falling apart, but I keep it together with hugs from my children and friends who reach out.

Two years ago, I told the world who I really was at my core. Today, I do the same. I continue to tell my story. Thank you for listening.