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.