In the early days when I was still questioning and trying to figure myself out, my wife would tell me that by living as a woman, I was a different person. I retorted that I was not different; I was the same person presenting in a different package. We were both wrong.
Many of the traits that make up my personality continue to be present. The intangibles—my ethics, sense of morality, kindness, sense of humor, sense of direction, empathy—are largely unchanged. These are qualities that were once cherished by my wife and help define who I am. Transition did not take them away from me. I am still all of those things, hence I am the same person at my core. Historically, I have always described myself in these ways because I had great difficulty accepting my physical appearance. I recognized I was a special person by what was inside, not the nerdy, lanky frame that housed those traits.
From my wife’s perspective, she saw changes that resulted in less attractive things. Beyond the loss of the sexual aspect of our relationship (she is not attracted to women), she also saw me as a more emotional, less stable person. When we met, she appreciated my ability to perform in more stereotypical male ways: Make decisions, treat her like a princess, offer unwavering support without thought to my self-care. As time went on and I learned more about what I needed for myself, I pulled back in some of these areas. Sex became less frequent because I did want to initiate as much. I was more interested in balanced decision-making because I felt I was forced to make most of the decisions without help. While I continued to treat her and surprise her, I began to want more treats, too. And while I always offered her support, I began to make attempts to figure out what I needed to do for myself to improve my personal happiness. Transition bore out from the last point.
Before I began questioning, I was in a depression I did not admit to being in at the time. We were having trouble in or marriage, and I was without a job for over a year. When I finally took the time to start analyzing how things had gone off the rails, I began to realize that maybe I was not living my life authentically for myself. I was living it for the family, for my wife, for others. I largely ignored me, which was unhealthy. I looked at those qualities that made me Me, and I also considered things I had not allowed myself to experience. Many of the missing pieces were feminine in nature, and I began to consider that maybe something was fundamentally wrong with me. Maybe, even though I was living the dream of a wife and a growing family, that my dreams lie elsewhere. To get there, though, I had to find and nurture myself.
My transition has shown me that the Me I was looking for, that I was missing, was not the person my wife married. I still hold to the idea that my core qualities are largely still intact—if not enhanced. I continue to be empathetic and loving, kind and moral, friendly and awesome. I can still treat, surprise, support, and love with all of my heart. But I cannot ignore the physical changes my wife has experienced through the years. Hormones and facial surgery have dramatically changed my body. My hair style has changed; my skin has softened. My voice has been trained to be higher on the average, and I talk with my hands with greater frequency. I have breasts that nearly fill a B cup. I am markedly femme. Indeed, this is not the person my wife married.
What does exists is something neither wife nor myself saw four years ago: an authentically happy woman. How did I get there? I struggled mightily. I fought my inner demons. I endured my wife’s pain. I found myself. I had to ask myself the basic question: What do I want? Then, I had to honestly answer that question for myself, not for anyone else. Navigating suicidal ideation, threats of divorce, and extreme financial hardships, I used therapy, support groups, and a newfound confidence in myself to overcome frequent challenges. I have learned that self-care is more important than I ever realized. Had I not taken the time to improve myself and take active steps to escape my depressive state, I may not be alive today. My children and my wife would be likely be forever damaged.
In many ways, I am the same person I was when I was younger, but in many other ways I am not. Yes, I am still emotional, caring, and full of love. I am not male, depressed, or fully other-serving. What is left is a more well-rounded, stable person with a more confident head on her shoulders. This person is a good mother, a top of her class worker, and a solid friend. She’s not perfect, and there are things she is working on, but that is the important point: She is actively working on them!
I encourage everyone to ask themselves, “What do I want?” Granted, most of the population will not answer that they need to live in a gender different from what they were assigned at birth, but for me, that is exactly where I needed to start. From that foundation, I know that I want to be the best mother I can be for my children, the best friend I can be to those I care about, and the best human I can be to help others. And, of course, I cannot forget that I need to be the best me I can be, which requires continued focus on self-care.