The Fault in My Stars

Almost ten years ago, I met the woman who I would eventually marry.  Of course, at the time, I had no idea that was going to be the case.  We had a very long first date (partially helped by a bus strike, partially because we were having a good time talking to one another).  There was attraction.  It was the beginning of what would help me begin to realize some of my dreams:  to find the love of my life and to start a family.

I have always been a hopeless romantic,  From childhood and well into my college years, I was an idealist when it came to matters of the heart.  Not that I was very successful at finding women to date me.  Yes, I had some girlfriends, and yes, some of those relationships lasted for awhile, but no one really wanted to give me the time of day while I was coming up through school.  I was the resident nerd, the outcast, the unpopular.  I was “friend zoned” a lot, not because I wasn’t a nice guy, but because I was too much of a nice guy.  I hung out with the girls, but the girls weren’t interested in dating me.  Still, through it all, I held on to the idea that romantic starry-eyed love was attainable in my lifetime.  I finally lost my virginity at 23(!) on a memorably awkward night.  I had girlfriends that were both much older and much younger than myself.  I did not restrict my love to any age or type of woman.  And despite my repeated failures at relationships, I still held out hope that the one for me was still out there in the world.  So, on that fateful night almost 10 years ago, while I didn’t know it would be her, I found success, and we married almost three years later.  I was happy.

My wife and I were inseparable.  We did everything together, which as it turns out, may have been a bad thing in the end.  We were so wrapped up in each other, that we did not maintain our outside friendships, and now we find ourselves in a position of having few friends.  We promised we would be newlyweds for five years, but while the first five years resulted in two amazing children, it also brought affairs and heartbreak, as we began to pay less attention to each other.  We heard all of each other’s stories.  We shared daily experiences together.  There was nothing new to share because we were always with each other.  Communication suffered, as did our love for each other.  That ideal of lifelong starry-eyed love was lost, and we have been picking up the pieces ever since.  While our relationship has been pushed to the brink on multiple occasions, so far we have stayed together.  At the core of us is a deep connection.  That love of a lifetime, that hope of 50 years of blissful marriage and watching the children grow, that romance novel-style happy ending… it is something I still hope for despite our issues of the past, and I believe it is something she wants as well (even though, she is admittedly not as romantic as I am).

But despite our efforts to repair the pain we have both caused each other, neither of us seem to be happy.  Something is clearly missing in our lives that keeps us from attaining that happiness we both seek, and that we want to find together.  It is this deepening sadness that caused me to begin reflecting on myself—something I have never done exceptionally well.  Why is it that I am married to the love of my life, proud parent of a family I helped start, and in-and-out of a career I once enjoyed, but yet I am not happy?  After being unemployed for over a year because I could not find work in my field, I began to realize I was coming to a crossroads in terms of my career goals.  Unable to get off the bottom rung of my industry, what was I to do?  I took a retail job to bring in some money, but that is not my passion.  But what is my passion?  What do I want?  What would make me happy?  What happened to my dreams that I always promised myself I would pursue?  These are the questions I began to raise to myself in my head.  The self-realization process was beginning.

As I began to to try to answer these questions, I considered the obvious:  change of career, return to school, take on a hobby.  Surely something would interest me and increase my happiness levels.  But I realized that changes like those would help treat my symptoms, but they are not a cure.  What was the root cause of my unhappiness?  Where was the fault in my stars?

My analysis forced me to look at my core.  Who am I really?  This is when I began to pour over my past and come out to myself.  I began questioning my very identity, and it is what has set me on my transition path.  Over the years (decades), I feel I have suppressed a lot of myself.  I used to wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I was caring.  I was the shoulder to cry on when my friends were hurt.  I was the stoic one when loved ones died.  I was the driving force behind my wife being treated for depression.  Then, I put up walls.  I had to rise above and be the dependable male.  I had to be the planner, the organizer, the leader.  Not that I was ever macho or a stereotypical male.  Still, I was the torchbearer for my family, the executor to my mom’s “estate,” and the phone-a-friend for anyone who needed an ear.  But is my purpose just to be a helper to others?  I don’t think so.  I need to consider my own health as well.

As I continued to try to figure myself out, I came to realize the femininity inside of me that I had unknowingly suppressed.  The caregiver side of my personality was a testament to some of that femininity.  Another big clue was Halloween.  For over 20 years (beginning in high school), I have dressed as some sort of female character.  I told people that I did it for the reactions of others, since I always received great comments since I took time and effort to do my costumes well enough to win small contests.  But was that really the reason?  20+ years of reactions?  Why is it I don’t want to consider a male identity when given the opportunity to dress in anything I choose?  Is it because I don’t really do it for the reactions, but instead I do it for me?  Why did I secretly jump at the chance to try on a wedding dress when dared to in high school?  Why did I steal my mom’s slips and sleep in them at night?  Why in my later years did I wonder what it would be like to breastfeed… or even more dramatically, consider what it would be like to carry and bear a child, despite the pains of pregnancy and labor?  What about my wedding?  Why is it I wanted to be so involved in the planning and have the desire to walk down the aisle like a bride?  I began to question my core identity:  am I more aligned with being a woman than a man?  Could this be the source of underlying unhappiness?  The signs have been there; I just didn’t see them for what they were.  Is this the fault in my stars?  If true, can I repair the break and return to a path that leads me closer to the happiness of my dreams?

I still do not entirely know if becoming a woman is the answer, but the more I reflect and move down the transition line, the more sure I become.  I have been on this questioning path for nearly nine months now, and it has not come without its share of trials and tribulations.  Part of my ideal world continues to involve a loving partner and a stable family.  That portion of my core identity has not changed:  I am still a romantic.  I still want the storybook ending.  But beginning my transition puts a serious wrench in the equation.  My wife—the continuing love of my life—will not stay with me if I become a woman.  Our relationship is a rubber band that is stretched to very near its breaking point, and I am not sure how much more she (or I) can endure.  The dreams of a never-ending love are shattering, as is our family.  The stars are dimming.  I hope I can find the answers soon.

But still I hope.  I hope that I can find happiness and peace withing myself.  I hope that my wife will support me in any decision I make, and that even if she does leave me, it will not be in anger, for I want the best for her as well.  I hope that my walls will come down, and I will accept myself in whatever form is my authentic form—whether that be female, male, or somewhere in the middle.  I hope to once again fill my heart with love and romance, replacing the sadness that currently resides there, and I hope to be loved in return.  At my core, I am still a dreamer and an optimist.  I still look up at the stars and dream of what may be.  Now, I need to take the actions to make those dreams a reality and repair any fault that exists in those stars.

Hormones: A Beginning… to What End?

My awesome shopping day seems like an eternity ago, yet it was only a week ago. Since then, the world has seemingly crashed, yet I’m still somehow surviving day to day.

When I filled my hormone prescription, my wife was ready to leave me. That was her line in the sand. Many a tearful and angry discussion and fight later, and it was delineated that if I start taking the pills, the marriage was over.

For those that haven’t followed me, my wife does not believe I am ready to start hormones since I have not made a full-time decision. My take is that I want to use HRT as a “diagnostic tool.” That is, since I already feel more likely than not that transition is right for me, I want to start the slow process of chemically changing my body to see how well I accept or reject the changes. At the same time, I seek more Real Life Experience (RLE) in order to see how comfortable I feel in the world as my femme self. Together, I hope to use the internal and external experiences to finally come to terms with my identity and make a decision as to whether or not womanhood really is my path. I have mixed reactions to this among my trans friends and followers of this blog. Some think I need to do what I need to do to figure myself out. Others believe HRT is something that should not be started until a full-time decision is made. I have reasoned out both sides and the side effects, and came to my conclusion that I am OK to start the hormones and that I can live with the short list of irreversible effects I could experience in the first 3-6 months.

No amount of reasoning or rationalizing however can overcome the fears and pain my wife experiences over all of this turmoil and change. Just having the pills in the house caused great pain, and despite my waiting to take them in favor of more RLE (her advice), she still broke down and felt as if we were done. She wanted me out the house, but I refused to leave. In fact, I became paralyzed by the instant thought of losing my wife, children, and home all in one fell swoop. Where was I to go, a shelter? I don;t have friends close enough to crash on their floor, nor is my immediate family in the area. Truly, if I left, I am on my own. I cried and shook uncontrollably for more minutes than I could comprehend at the realization of the end. And then came the compromise. Instead of kicking me out, she would stay (and let me stay)—and even start the hormones—if I agreed that if I decided I needed to make a full-time transition, I would voluntarily leave her. In fairness, she has been adamant that she doesn’t want to be married to a woman, and as much as I love her, I can’t expect us to stay together if I do change. So, I took the offer. Two days later, I started taking my hormones.

Now three days into my E/Spiro combination, we have continued to have incredibly lows and some rebounds off those lows. I have spent one night on the couch. I have been screamed at and threatened. But she also has moments of softness: taking my hand, snuggling up to me in the morning, even giving me “I love you”s. She is trying, and she freely admits some of it is “faking it until she makes it.” I do not deny that the pain she feels is great, and unless I stood in her shoes, I’ll never know the full extent of the damage I have caused. At the same time, it is imperative that I work through my internal pains and struggles. Minimizing the impact to her is a nearly impossible task, and I don;t always know how to handle it. There will be days of screaming; there will be days of tolerance, but this is where we stand now: in an uneasy compromise that could shatter in an instant. Truly, I ride on an emotional roller coaster.

Now that I have started hormones, I begin to wait for the short and longer term affects they have on me. I expect nipple pain, weight shifting, skin softening, etc. I am both anxious and nervous to begin this part of my possible transition. Each step I take seems to be a positive one that helps clarify my identity, but each one of those steps divides my marriage. There’s no avoiding the cuts this double-edged sword causes. I can only hope to keep things together by minimizing the bleeding, but I am no medic.

Hormones & RLE are a means to an end for me, but that end is still not defined. I feel more likely than not that this is the right path, but I have no guarantees. Every experience is different, and my journey will not be like any other person’s story. I am doing my best to find my answers. My methods may be imperfect, but these are my choices. I only ask for support. Luckily, my support circle is beginning to grow. In any event, I have begun HRT. I am comfortable with my reasoning to make that decision, and now I wait for some results. Moving forward in the face of adversity to find (as one of my support group members puts it) my “authentic self.” Knowing what that is, will make me happier and more content with myself. Finding out sooner rather than later would be appreciated so that the pain can end, and I can on with my life as soon as possible in whatever identity I was meant to be. In my ideal world, I keep my marriage. In the realistic world, who knows what the end game will be?

A Beautiful Day

After an emotionally draining week, today was a rare, beautiful, positive day.

Putting the issues of HRT aside, both my wife and I believe I need more Real Life Experience (RLE) in order to truly learn whether my feminine feelings justify a full transition to womanhood. I’ve wanted more opportunity to increase my time out of the house, but logistics and my wife’s uneasiness about the whole situation have made that nearly impossible. With our recent falling out over my filling my hormone prescription, increasing my RLE has become even more important that it ever has been. To that end, even before the HRT appointment got moved up, my wife agreed that I could have a girls’ day with my new friend from my support group. While my wife has since wanted to change her mind about me going out for the day, she never rescinded the offer, as she knows I need these experiences. Today was that day.

In an interesting twist, my friend picked me up from my house, meaning she briefly met my wife and children. While a little awkward, my wife took it well. It was one of those “I want to meet the person I’ve never met but you are going out with, but I don’t really want to meet her either”-type moments. My wife even offered her some food. Nice start.

The plan: Side-by-side makeovers, then clothes shopping at the mall

I have never had a makeover before. I was in theater growing up, and I hand two left hands when it came to applying my own makeup. Twenty-plus years of crossdressing for Halloween has afforded me some quick-and dirty ad lib makeup, but I was never truly taught how to do it. Finally, today I was getting some of my own makeup for me, not my costumed self. I was excited sitting down for our Sephora appointment. My makeup artist seemed a to be working a little slower than my friend’s artist, and I was a little nervous that it wasn;t coming together quite tight until the it was all done and I saw my entire face. It was awesome! I had smoky eyes. I had color in my cheek. My shadowy, always slightly furry face was covered under foundation. I looked good—even to myself. I was impressed! And while my budget did not allow me to purchase all of the things applied to my face, I did walk away with some basics that are going to make me a happy girl who wants to start applying her own makeup when she goes out. Our artists were very kind, too. Our 45-minute appointments ran closer to 90 minutes, and it was glorious.

Now that our faces were made up, we were ready to shop! This being my second en femme shopping trip, I went with a little more confidence than before—and it certainly helped that I had a friend by my side. We went to Lane Bryant and helped each other pick put some clothes. I went to the dressing room, and that’s when the magic started. First, I learned that I have dropped a dress size (nice bonus). Next, I learned that I can rock all manners of styles. I tried styles I never thought would work on my 6’1″ frame, and to my surprise, they all worked. Skater dress with a keyhole back. No problem. My back didn’t look weird, and the length was perfect. Asymmetrical dress with a flowery print? Check. My bony shoulders can actually support spaghetti straps and not look masculine? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. I never thought that would be possible. Skater dress. No problem. Pencil skirt with my hips? Amazingly, not an issue. I can wear a pencil skirt?!? Every time I came out of the dressing room, the sales associates were fawning over me (which, I half expect from a sales associate), but so was my friend. Random other women who were in the fitting rooms commented that I looked good. I still cant believe that one. Cisgendered, middle-aged women sharing a fitting room with me were not only comfortable with my presence but went out of their way to compliment me and the clothes I was trying on! I’m sure my awesome makeover helped the sell, but still! OMG! I am still floored. What an experience! Compliments, clothes that fit me well, and warm fuzzies all around. I put some clothes on hold (still wanted to compare to other stores), and we left the store. I nearly tackled my friend with the big hug I gave her thanking her for coming with me and making that such a memorable experience.

Off to lunch, or so we thought. Thunderstorm in California? Odd any time of year and especially in our drought conditions, but the cloudburst was enough that it caught us off-guard and without umbrellas, meaning getting to our planned restaurant a little challenging. So… time out for a mani/pedi at the nearby nail salon in the mall. In deference to my wife and the fact that I would have to remove any polish I put on my nails before I got home, I decided to forgo a treatment, but I did enjoy watching my friend get pampered. She needed the relaxation. When she was done, we took a quick detour to Forever 21, a place I never thought I’d be shopping. I like the prices. Quality might be questionable, but I still almost walked out with a nicely-priced skater dress. The problem: The line to the dressing room was a mile-long and a quick hold up to the body test made the impression that the dress may have been a little short, so I passed. At least my friend ended up with a necklace she wanted, so that was a win! I might be back to the store sometime in the future to check it out again. There’s potential there, and since I am now a skinny version of my former self, I fit in the sizing scheme of the store much better than I might once have.

Now off to a yummy lunch, then back to Lane Bryant to make decisions on my holds. I was only going to take two pieces, but I got talked into getting the asymmetrical flowery dress when presented with a decent coupon offer. Such a girl! I never used to succumb to upselling like that, but it was hard to argue, especially since I want more clothes in my wardrobe. In the end, I walked away with an awesome makeover (and product), a great shopping experience, a dress, a top, and a skirt.

The icing on the cake came on a unplanned trip to CVS. Because I cannot dress in front of my children (or really my wife yet), my awesomely done face could only be a temporary thing, and I was going to need to take off the makeup before coming home. That also meant I needed to get some makeup remover pads in order to fo that, so we made a stop into CVS. I ran in while she waited in the car. I grabbed what I needed, then stood in line at the register. While I was standing third in line, a random woman who was first in line, not only told me I looked beautiful but that she also liked my dress! I thanked her and almost wanted to fall over. Again… this wasn’t a sales associate. It wasn’t someone looking to flatter me to boost my ego. It was someone who wanted to take the time to actually compliment me and my appearance. Beautiful. She said beautiful. And my day might as well have been complete.

After a quick train ride home, I cleaned up my makeup and moved back to father mode for the family. We had a good dinner. My wife asked if I had a good day, and I said yes. It was great to be with her and the kids again, and everything was pretty calm. Before she went to bed, she told me she was happy that I had a good day. She doesn’t know much of the details yet. I don’t know if she really wants to fully know. Any positives I had are ultimately negatives to her, as it means I am finding myself more content and comfortable presenting as a woman. But for now, it is calm, and I have memories of an absolutely amazing, special, beautiful day. At least for a day, this is one very happy girl.

Pushed to the Brink

So I haven’t posted in over a week.  That is not because life hasn’t been moving along.  In fact, quite a bit has been happening.

Last week’s post mentioned that I was considering starting HRT as a diagnostic tool. This idea has received mixed reactions among my trans friends, and it drew an interesting commentary from Miss Caden Lane. What I realized is that I have not provided a lot of information to my handful of followers about the early part of my journey, and this seems like a good time to provide some clarification so that you know a little more about me.

I am now eight months into my exploration. I introduced myself to you at the new year with very little information, simply mentioning that I am married with young children. My second post alluded to the fact that I attend therapy and a transgender support group. Weekly therapy has been an important place for me to share my feelings in a non-aggressive setting. After being initially apprehensive about seeing a therapist, I now look forward to my appointments. While therapy gives me the opportunity to talk one-on-one about me, my support group allows me to hear other people’s stories and gain some perspective regarding my place in the world and how other’s have dealt (or not dealt) with their transitions. This two-pronged approach is the basis of my small support circle, as there is little to none at home in the form of my wife.

After taking several baby steps in the transition process and rationalizing what-ifs and the endless permutations and possible outcomes of my story, I finally came to the point where I felt like I needed to do something more actionable to help resolve my questions. I weighed the pros & cons of HRT and resolved that I wanted to know how hormones would change my body. Will they make me more emotional? Will I feel more womanly than I already do? Will I not like the changes and react negatively, indicating transition is not right for me? These are questions I feel I cannot logically reason out. Everyone’s experience is different. I won’t know until I’m there. I described this previously as using HRT as a “diagnostic tool.” While I have had support from my circle that this is a valid method, others were not so receptive. Some people believe I should have more Real Life Experience (RLE) before making an “irreversible” decision to start HRT.

Irreversible? Yes and no. I’ve done my research. I accept the risks. My wife is in the camp of No, which should not shock anyone who has been following this blog. She believes my doctors are crazy for allowing me to pursue hormones. She believes I am not ready for hormones. She is also in defensive mode. I have slowly been wading through red tape in the attempt to get an appointment at a transgender clinic. My wife was unhappy but aware of this fact. What she was not prepared for was the fact that my primary doctor decided she would be willing to take on the task of prescribing me hormones with guidance from the clinic. What did this mean? It meant that I suddenly had an appointment within a week that could result in me walking out with hormones. This made for a very tense week. I detailed some of that in my most recent post.

That brings us to the meat of what happened this week.

Over my wife’s objections, I went and saw my doctor, and yes, she prescribed me hormones! I walked out of her office nervously excited. Finally, after months of waiting, I had prescriptions. I had what I had been pursuing. At the same time, this is not what my wife wanted at all. She was extremely upset that the scrip was written. She was even more incensed when I filled the prescription. While I did not take any of the pills, the mere fact that they were now in the house had crossed the line for her. Several days of verbal fights (unfortunately, in front of the children) broke out. Threats of divorce and taking the kids were stated. She was insistent that she would flush the pills. Tearful admissions that the marriage might be over were levied by both of us. Bleakness. Sadness. And I had to go to work in front of the public in a retail job…

We did come to an uneasy compromise. She thinks I need more real life experience before making a “final” decision (Again, she’s in the HRT is a not a diagnostic tool camp.). I have long agreed that I needed more RLE, but the restrictions placed on me don’t allow that to happen. So, I am trying to work with her on what other steps I can take. She is resistant to many of my ideas. If we can come to some sort of agreement on the next steps (that will allow me some more RLE), then I have agreed to delay on the pills. If not, then I am fully prepared to start HRT, which might well lead to our separation. I need compromises at this point. I am tired of the baby steps. I need actionable progress. So whether it be more RLE or HRT (or both), I must move forward. This question of identity cannot linger forever. Neither of us can handle that.

While we work on details of what kinds of additional RLEs she is willing to allow me to attempt, she agreed not to dump the pills if she could have control of them, even though I had already agreed I wouldn’t take them yet. As a sign of trust, I handed them over. As a sign of trust on her end, she left them on the kitchen counter instead of hiding them away. So there they sit… Basically, it comes to this: If I take them, she’s done with me. This is her line in the sand. It doesn’t matter how slowly hormones may take effect; the fact that I would be taking them is too much and, to her, is considered a final decision (even though I don’t see it that way).

We have been pushed to the brink of our limits. We evaluate our tolerances and make our decisions. We are trying to work with each other to save what’s left of the marriage. The outlook looks bleak, but we are still together, at least for now. Lots of tears. Lots of talking. This week was a rough one, and the standoff continues.