My First Major Misgendering

On Wednesday, I had a laser appointment for my face.  It was my fourth appointment, and I have been seeing good progress to this point.  In fact, I look forward to each new treatment as it means I am a step closer to eliminating the shadow on my face that never seems to go away.  Makeup goes a long way for me, but it’s so hard to hide the male shadow.  So annoying.

The office I got to for my treatments is actually a plastic surgeon’s office.  They have always been very respectful of me, and have treated me well.  I present female to these appointments as part of my real life experience efforts.  No issues.  They even sometimes feminize my male name without asking.  I have come to treat this office as a protected space.

At this past treatment, I had a new technician.  Everything went well through the process.  She was respectful and talked with me the whole time.  At the end of the treatment, we walked up to the front desk, and the technician started talking to the receptionist about my next appointment and how I should receive a free treatment in the future because of a technical issue.  The problem:  While I was no more than three feet away, she used male pronouns to describe me and my face.  I was dressed in a lace tank top and a black pencil skirt.  I am stuffed to a B cup.  Clearly, I was presenting as a female, as I had always done in this office.  Yet, the tech chose to use “he” and “his” while standing directly in front of me.

I didn’t say anything in the moment.  I politely scheduled my next appointment with the receptionist and left the office.  But I sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes, and I could not shake how bothered I was by this clear misgendering in my direct presence.  Generally, “he” and “his” don’t bother me because in most aspects of my life, I present male, and I do not expect others to identify me a transgender.  But in this instance, I was clearly presenting as a female.  Being transgender is the reason I was in the office in the first place.  I wouldn’t have necessarily considered laser hair removal if not for transition, even though I would totally be happy losing the scratchiness even if I stayed male.

After sitting there stewing over what happened, I decided to call the office to inform them how uncomfortable I was leaving the office.  The receptionist apologized and said the office manager would call me back the next day.  An hour later, the technician, herself, called me to apologize.

The whole incident weighed heavily on me for the rest of the day, and it still bothers me a day later.  This is the first time I have been misgendered in such an obvious way.  Sure, people on the periphery that I don’t realize might stare or snicker privately or out of my earshot.  But never before has it been so blatant and obvious to me.  Considering I’ve been still technically on the fence about whether to consider a full-time transition and whether or not living as a woman is right for me, the fact that I am so bothered by being referred to as a male is resonating in a big way.

Why is it bothering me so much?  Is it a signal that choosing womanhood really is what I want?  Have I actually made the decision but refuse to accept it?  My wife recently asked me how sure I am that I will become a woman.  I said 90-95% (when forced to give an arbitrary percentage).  What’s left?  Why am I holding back, and does an incident like this along with my natural reaction indicate where I should be headed?  I spent a lot of time in my head over this, and of course, there is no answer there.  The answers lie in my heart.  Once my head and heart align, I should hopefully be able to accept my path.

Now I have a real taste of some of the hardships of transition outside of the struggles I face at home.  I have had very positive experiences to this point, which have made things maybe a little too easy.  Most people are accepting of me.  Encouraging even.  This incident was a wake-up call that not only woke me up to the real hardships of the transition journey, but also to the fact that I may need to finally accept that I am a transgender woman that needs to get off the fence and deal with the consequences I fear so much.

A Year of Heartbreak and Discovery

Tuesday marked one year since the day I came out to my wife and told her that I was questioning my gender.  One year I have been on this journey, and somehow I am still standing and in one piece.  I’m not really sure how I got here, and I’m not sure what comes next.  What I do know is that my life continues to be difficult.  That I deal with issues I would not wish on anyone—or their significant other—or their significant other’s enemy.

One year ago, I remember sitting in a restaurant hearing about my wife putting together resources for her church to share with her congregation to ease their adjustment as one of their members announced her transition.  I was already generally unhappy with life, and I had been trying to figure out what the reason might be.  Was I unhappy in my marriage?  Frustrated with my children?  Toiling over the fact that I had been unemployed for over a year?  The general state of my unhappiness had already caused me to start taking a hard look into myself and what I needed to be happy.

My wife?  No… I loved her.  Despite the very tumultuous times we had been through over the years, that wasn’t it.  She was the love of my life.  The one is chose with which to spend the rest of my life.  She was pushing me to find a new job (even a crappy one) so that I wouldn’t mope around the house.  She has always wanted me to be happy.

My children?  No… I loved them, too.  Super young, super cute.  Despite their annoying habits, they have the power to bring a smile on a cloudy day by doing something silly or just flashing an amazing smile.  Family is hugely important to me, and there is comfort in the fact that my kids love me.  They were not the source of my problems.

Unemployment?  Sure.  No one is happy being out of work—especially after having a job that was actually pretty cool.  But when the contract runs out and you have nowhere to go for over a year after that, one gets a little sour over the job market.  But there was more to it that just being out of work.  There was something more.  Something at my core that was just wrong and bringing me down.

While I do not credit my wife’s church member with putting the idea in my head to consider questioning my gender, it was certainly a catalyst to my self-analysis.  As (the few) readers of this blog know, I have identified several times in my past where feminine thoughts and tendencies have entered into my head and controlled my actions.  As I began to look deeper at the core of who I am—to answer that question of “What makes me happy? (similar to the “What do I want?” question)—I started to focus on what makes me happy on the inside.  Who am I really?  What direction am I headed in?  Those questions led me to really reconsider my fundamentals, the basics of what and who I am. As I sat in the restaurant listening to my wife talk about transgender resources for the community, I found myself wanting to read these resources.  As I got more in touch with my feminine side and saw how not macho I truly was (which was never a big secret in and of itself), I wanted to see how feminine I really was.  I had never allowed myself to truly consider those feelings.  I knew I liked to wear dresses at Halloween.  I knew I was very empathetic of my wife when she was pregnant, wishing I could take over for her to relieve her pains.  These were fleeting moments in time, but when I finally started putting them all together and really seeing the feelings I had suppressed over the years lined up next to each other, I could not help but wonder if I could be transgender myself, and it began the process I’m on today.

After great nervousness, and after much trepidation about whether or not I should say anything, I told my wife soon after that I was questioning my gender. When I came out with this news at the time, it did not actually say that I was transgender, that I wanted surgery, or anything like that.  I just said I was having “gender issues” and meant it as simply that I was questioning and that she needed to know.  However, my comments were not received that way, and I was quickly forced to really face myself.  I couldn’t just say I was questioning.  That was not enough.  I was going to really have to find out if I really needed to be a woman.  And so it began.  That was one year ago.

This year has been an incredibly difficult one, full of soul searching, crying, and pain.  I began therapy, started attending a support group, and starting making body modifications.  Almost 16 weeks ago, I started my hormone therapy, and I feel both the physical and emotional effects taking hold.  Sometimes I feel like this process is painfully slow, especially when I take baby steps to test the waters.  However, when I look at the sum of all the changes I have made in the past 365+ days, they add up to quite a bit.  I have discovered that each time I push myself and try something new, the change seems comfortable, as if it is what I should have already been doing and there was no reason to fear it.

As I run out of “experiments” or things to try and the puzzle pieces come together, it is difficult to see myself stopping transition.  Nothing during this journey has indicated that becoming a woman is not right for me.  I’ve presented in public.  I tuck daily.  I have dreams where I appear as a woman.  Nothing repulses me.  A friend of mine recently asked if I could maybe make an agreement with my wife to stop HRT for 6 months to see how our relationship would be affected.  I instantly balked at that scenario.  Why?  Because deep down, I don’t want to stop—even though I love my wife and risk divorce.

I have so much fear around losing my family, about not seeing my beautiful children on a daily basis, about not waking up next to the woman of my dreams.  All my life I dreamed of marrying and raising a family.  I am doing that.  I achieved that dream.  Transition blows that to pieces.  Why would I do such a thing?  Why would I risk everything good to make this change?  Am I crazy?  Am I delusional?  Or am I simply finding clarity in my life?  I have discovered that each time I consider turning back, I don’t see a rosy outcome there either.  As I am reminded frequently, I cannot unring this bell.  The part of me that yearns to be female will always be present.  It cannot be held down, especially now that it has been brought to light.  The real question that lies ahead is this:  Does my feminine side need to always be present?  Do I need to present as a woman everyday of my life?  Do I need to relinquish the title of “dad” for one of “mom”?

I have a difficult time fathoming a life in the “middle,” where I would be genderfluid.  No knock against gender nonconformists; it is just not what is comfortable for my life.  I see the binary decision for me:  it is either female or male.  My mind could be changed on that in the future, but for now, that’s where I stand.  This year has proven to me that I also stand closer to the pink flag than the blue one, which is why I started transition.

My heart breaks on a daily basis.  My ideas and notions of love are ideal and flowery.  The everyday state of my life does not reflect the hopeless romanticism to which I have dedicated my life.  I watch my children grow, and I am immensely proud of them.  Even when they drive me up the wall, I feel honored and blessed to have them in my life everyday.  The idea of losing them devastates me to no end.  Despite our difficulties, my heart breaks when I think of separating from my wife.  At her best, she is caring, supportive, loving.  She’s everything I wanted in a wife and love.  Now, she could very well be leaving my life (other than required to keep the kids sane).

In my ideal world, I would pursue transition while maintaining my family, having us all adapt to the changes together.  However, that it too great an ask of my wife, but to her credit, she still sticks around for no real good identifiable reason.  Sometimes, the fact that she stays even through the most difficult times gives me a sliver of hope that my ideal could become reality.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But that’s not the reality of the situation.  The reality is that she is likely to walk at some point (or force me out), and my heart will break again.

For one year, I have been struggling with my identity.  Along the way, I have experienced a lot of heartbreak, both mine and my wife’s.  At the same time, I have discovered a lot about my authentic self, my inner me, and I have found that person is very likely a woman.  There is still more discovery to take place (mainly in the form of more Real Life Experience) to finalize that decision, but very much seems where we are headed.

What a year it has been.  What a life yet to live.