Celebrating a Milestone Birthday on Vacation in the Face of Uncertainty

I turned the Big 4-0.  I’m not happy about that, but I am a happier person overall since transitioning.  While on a family vacation, I am reminded that while my family supports me, there is a limit and a continued uneasiness that lies under the surface of that support.

In October 2015, I wrote a piece about how I was grieving my marriage.  At the time, I had just determined that I needed to live the rest of my life as a woman, and I went full-time three months later.  In order for me to take that giant step, I had to resolve that my relationship with my wife was effectively over without any kind of reconciliation.  I realized I needed to give up on the idea of staying together if I was going to be able to become my authentic self.

Since then, I have taken some steps to become more independent and separated from the person with which I still awkwardly share a bed.  I allowed myself to be be wooed (to varying levels) by two different women.  I tried not to be angry when my wife reconnected once again with her best friend of 20 years who has always been a toxic influence on her life.  I have tried to create a little distance knowing that we are not meant to be together in the long-term.  However, neither of us rush out to file divorce papers.

Since I went full-time, my wife’s level of support of me has been exponentially stronger.  She had defended me in public and in private.  She has encouraged me to pursue surgeries (one of which is only 2 months away!).  She has allowed me to embrace the title of Mom with the children.  When I wrote that entry about grieving my marriage, these are things I never thought I would be writing about today.  In the last 1 1/2 years, we have taken huge strides in repairing our friendship.  In my opinion, we make a great team, even if she does not find me attractive anymore.  This growth and new bonding has made me question whether or not we could survive together as a non-sexual couple buoyed by mutual love and respect.  I have allowed myself to fall back into a comfortable place I once felt when things were better between us.  By doing so, I am fooling myself.  Things simply cannot be that way, and that reminder was soundly presented to me this evening.

I am on vacation with my family in Orlando.  We are here 10 days to primarily visit family in the area.  We are also taking the time to visit the magical Walt Disney World and to celebrate my 40th birthday.  That was not always the plan, though.  Back in January, my wife’s aunts began planning a trip out here for February that only involved my wife and children–not me–all without asking me.  It was very rushed and felt secretive, and ultimately I felt like my children were going to be taken away from me involuntarily for a week.  The thought of that crushed me.  Because of some technical issues with the booking of flights, the trip was postponed to June, and alternatively the family travelled to Washington State to see my wife’s father.  To avoid conflict, I was invited on both trips, so I would not be forcibly separated from the children.

Washington went fairly well.  Her father and stepmother frequently travel to our area, so they are well-acquainted with me at this point.  The Floridians, however, took a defensive position when I transitioned and staunchly supported my wife.  They influenced her to move to the East Coast.  They nearly cut off communication to me.  While they have seen pictures and followed my transition on Facebook, they are still uneasy about my presence, and so I naturally bring tension to the current situation by no real fault of my own.  In addition to two aunts, my wife’s grandmother lives out here, and—as Murphy’s Law would have it no other way—she shares my birthday.  Grandma is in her 80s; her health is poor.  This may be the last time my children get to spend time with her.  However, she is old school and completely against my transition.

I came out to Florida fully willing to share my birthday, to show respect and extend an olive branch in an uneasy situation.  The plan:  My birthday would be celebrated at a breakfast, while her birthday would be celebrated at a dinner later that night.  My wife chose to keep my breakfast closed to just me, herself, and our children.  Dinner was to be an all-family affair.  The night before it was to all happen, the plans changed.  Grandma was now requesting only my wife’s presence without myself or the children.  This behavior upset me greatly, as I felt the move was a premeditated, disingenuous act.  My wife decided to agree, and after all of my day was done, our immediate family was separated, while my wife and her family could talk about me while I was unable to speak for myself.

It’s not that I do not trust my wife to defend and support me, but at the same time, this was the first time in a long time that I felt that support fade away.  She chose to allow me to be excluded in a situation where we could have presented a united front demonstrating that we have been working well together.  Instead, my wife did not see that opportunity.  While she felt I had a right to be upset by the changes, she chose to walk out that door and wish me “Happy Birthday” while leaving me alone to babysit our children in our hotel room.  When she returned, she could not understand why I had been stressed and upset while she was gone.

The conversation that resulted was a tough one.  She reminded me that she still wanted a divorce.  She complimented me in the sense that she felt we make a great co-parenting team and that she wants me to be nearby when she eventually is offered a job in the future (probably over a year away).  However, that is as far as she would go.  The tone was different than the cooperative and friendly tone I had started to which I had become accustomed.  She was redrawing the same lines she had drawn before:  a future divorce due to unhappiness with me and our situation.  Her taking the kids when she moves.  Following this talk, I fear an ultimatum and a child custody fight in our future.  That is something I certainly want to avoid.  Our children mean to the world to each of us individually.  They keep us safe and alive.  They are a reason to live and a reason to love.  From my prospective, my children are why I did not attempt suicide when I was in my darkest moments.  My attachment and love for them was why my fight to be called Mom was so important to me.  It is why I am on this vacation instead of allowing my children to travel 3,000 miles away without me.  It’s not that I do not trust my wife to take care of them.  It is that they are an essential part of me.  She feels similarly.  She reiterated tonight that she would die without her children.  If we are not to stay together, then there will be some extremely difficult negotiations ahead at some unpredictable time.

Part of what made this conversation difficult was because I care too much for someone that ultimately does not want to be my partner.  I thought I had grieved our marriage.  I thought I had moved on, but I have not.  I have misinterpreted her increased friendship and support as symbols of love—a love that simply is not there for me anymore.  I have allowed myself to slip and become dependent on this relationship again.  However, doing so will set me up for failure and increased personal pain.  I feel I need to grieve some more, separate some more.  How can I when my love is still there?  I can suppress those feelings but then I am the one being disingenuous.

An uncertain future faces me.  The decisions and events of the next year or two will determine the fate of my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of our children.  My 40th birthday was filled with Disney magic (and even some Universal enjoyment), but I will always yearn for the magic my wife and I once had.  It is so difficult to let go.  I thought I cleanly broke that dependency a year ago.  I was sorely mistaken, and now I do not know what to do about it.

This vacation will go on, and I will continue to be my authentic self in front of the family.  I hope they will begin to accept me a little more, but I am also not hear to twist arms.   I am not holding out hope that Grandma will see the light, but I am not going to alter my being for them.  I will continue to love on my children and respond to “Mom.”  I will wear a cute dress, which is my definitive style.  I will be me.  Thankfully, I have not been asked to act differently around the family.  We shall see how this goes.

The hamster wheel in my head will turning, though, as I start my 40s in an uneasy place.  I grieved, but it was incomplete.  I slipped and became complacent.  I will need to grieve again and ask myself another time:  If not this marriage, what do I want?

Alone & Keeping Busy

For the last six weeks or so, I have begun to fall on a downward emotional turn as I have begun to feel more isolated.  There have been moments of happiness, yes, but they have been tempered by a feeling I cannot shake.

I am lonely.

June was a busy month.  Early in the month, I finally had my day in court, where I officially was recognized with my new name and proper gender.  While the hearing itself was a formality, the significance of the day was incredible.  I longed for members of my family to be present, but alas, I only had one friend and no family present at the hearing.  And even that friend had to reorganize her day a bit to be there so that I was not entirely solo (and I do thank her for that!).  Still, while I had someone to celebrate with, I was still disappointed that no one else took the time to recognize the importance of what was happening.  Had my mom still been alive, she would have moved heaven and earth to be there.  No one else seemed to understand.

A few weeks later, my birthday rolled around.  For the first time in a very long time, I was actually excited about my birthday because I could celebrate it as my “first.”  My wife said she wanted to get me a pink balloon shaped like a “1” for my birthday.  I thought that was actually kind of cool (although, she didn’t end up doing it).  I expanded on that idea and came up with an idea for a birthday party themed like a one-year-old’s princess party.  I could wear a princess dress and a tiara, and we could make the party fun and childlike.  But that never happened.  My wife ended up away at a conference that weekend, which will be a benefit to her résumé.  She also took the children with her, which made sense she was running a children’s program at the conference.  That left me all alone to figure out my birthday.  I got a good friend to go out to dinner with me (split check), and then on the day I had reserved for my unplanned party, I ended up taking myself (with my tiara) on a solo day trip to San Francisco.  While I made the best of it, the day ended up a long way from the princess party for which I had got myself so excited.

Later in the month, I attended Pride.  I attended Trans March with a the same friend that went to my hearing with me, and we had a good day.  But she needed to leave when the march was over, so I ended up latching on to another group with my best friend, who I ran into while I was there.  It made for a good evening, but it certainly wasn’t planned.  When I returned to San Francisco for the big celebration and parade on Sunday, I had no one to go with me.  When I left the house, I had no plan.  Miraculously, on my way to the festival, I ended up running in to a former co-worker who I had not seen in years.  He was meeting up with friends in the City, too, so that’s how I spent the rest of my day.  Again, it worked out, but I much would have rather been travelling with a group of my closer friends.

At the end of the month, I told my story publicly for the first time.  Again, this was a significant moment for me, but there was no one to support me in the moment.  My wife was worried I was going to make her out to be some monster (which I don’t), and she did not stay to hear me actually give my talk.  Granted, she had to entertain the children, but again, I felt alone and solo for a milestone moment for me.

July was simply full of the stresses of life.  I feel like I walk on pins and needles at a job that underpays me for the amount of work I perform.  Money is tight for the first time in years.  My eldest child continues to show behavioral signs that highlight his lack of focus, which is especially problematic since school starts again in just a couple of weeks.  Family health issues, a minor car accident, volunteer commitments, complaining children, paying a babysitter more money than I earned at work that day, jealousy over my wife’s bachelorette getaway weekend…  It’s just getting to be overwhelming lately.

On the transition side of things, I am almost 7 months into full-time status.  I continue to remain comfortable and confident in myself—for the most part.  My dysphoria has been highlighted lately as I continue to stare in the mirror at the shadows on my face that continue to haunt me.  I had to stop electrolysis in June because of money issues, so I continue to have to shave.  And no matter how closely I shave, the shadow remains.  I have become very adept at applying makeup to hide and blend the shadows into my face, but it can be a chore.  I cannot simply wake up in the morning and leave the house without at least a foundation on to mask this blue undertones.  And the more I look at my face, the more I start to see the more male features that still exist, despite a significant softening of my skin.  My square jaw line and my large nose take away from the femininity I feel and I attempt to express to the world.  Combined with my unaltered voice, and I start getting in my head that no matter how awesome I look in the dress I am wearing, I still out myself as as trans simply by having my facial structure and my voice.  I am working on trying to find ways to get insurance to cover speech therapy and maybe even facial feminization surgery in the future because the longer I do not continue moving forward, the more I chip away at the confidence I have built up in myself.

Through all the issues I am encountering, I have found little solace in the majority of my friends, who all seems to have there own issues right now.  They do not seek me out as much.  I barely talk with my best friend these days.  My dad has not talked to me since my birthday, and my stepbrother still has trouble dealing with my transition.  My wife continues to do her best to support and shield me, but with the pain I have caused her, she may never be able to fully be ready to be there—physically nor emotionally—in those highly significant moments because she has more than enough to sort out on her own.

Combining the stresses of life with the distance I currently have with my friends and family, I am feeling more alone.  I am falling into an old trap of feeling like I need to solve my own problems and power ahead.  I have been so successful during my transition reaching out to others.  I really do not want to backtrack there.  But I also want to feel important enough that my friends and family actively include me in their plans and in their thoughts.

Life goes on, and so shall I.  I just need a little help from my friends and family to continue looking on the bright side of life in the face of challenges I still must overcome.