Finding My Happiness Again

In the quest to find my authentic self, there has been been an additional goal: to find my happiness. Now 3 years into my transition, I am proud to have found my womanhood, my motherhood, and once again found my heart—all of which contribute to my happiness.

When I began questioning my gender, I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life (even though I was not admitting it to myself). I had realized parts of my life’s dream. I had found and married the love of my life. I was the parent of two beautiful children. Something was missing, though. I was missing.

Growing up, I was full of emotions, empathy, and love. While my family was fractured due to my parents’ divorce when I was two, my sense of family was strong. On my mom’s side, I had… well, my mom, who was the most important person in my life. As she raised me the best she could, she encouraged me to be accepting and respectful of all people. She frequently expressed how much she loved me and how she would go to the ends of the Earth to make sure I was safe and healthy. On my dad’s side, there was a large stereotypical Sicilian family headed by a grandfather. Holidays were always fun and loud, with 30 or more people crammed into a 2-bedroom apartment and a dinner table that extended into the living room. Teasing, joking, and brutal honesty were the name of the game, but all comments were heartfelt and full of love. Influenced from both sides, I developed a strong sense of family. By extension, I treated friends as if they were family and gave most people the benefit of the doubt.

I was an emotional child. I cried at movies. I was super sensitive to having my heart broken. I was easily taken advantage of as the nerdy, outcast kid. I had very few romantic relationships, and even then, many bordered on the friend zone. Still, I was happy being me—or so I thought. College brought a different set of friends but also increased personal hardships. My family broke apart further as the older set passed away. My mom and I suffered a rift when I suddenly moved out of the house after being disqualified from school. Eventually, I was on my own without a degree or a sense of purpose.

I eventually started turning my life around in my own time, but I effectively wasted 10 years before doing any real work on myself. I found some happiness when I met the woman who would eventually be my wife. She accepted me for who I was at the time. She found my nerdiness endearing, my loyalty infectious, and my commitment to love irresistible. She had strong connections to family, as well. We were seemingly a good pair. That pair resulted in the births of two amazing children. I thought my life was turning around. The dreams I had as a child were being realized. I should have been realizing happiness, too.

But there was a hidden, unrealized dream.

The dream of being a woman was one that I feel was suppressed for most of my life. I did not know when I was 3. I did not know in school, the 10 years I wasted, or even after I started my own family. I did not realize it until three years ago. In hindsight, there were signs. I missed them. What was really missing, though, was a love for myself. I had all of this love for my family, my friends, my children, my wife… but not for me. The individuality I expressed as a child was muddled. The emotions I once wore on my sleeve were now hiding behind emotional walls. When my mom died, I thought it would be the most horrific moment of my life because we were so close to each other. I barely cried. I remained stoic, as I had with every other death I experienced in my lifetime. That was not right. That was not the real me. I was lost and did not know it.

When I finally turned the focus on myself, I began to see these things. I missed the emotional, loving person I was as a child. I also came to see that unrealized dream I had not even known was there. Transition made sense. Identifying as a woman made sense. My head and my heart read woman—emotional, sensitive, loving, empathetic—the same as my child self. My jealousy of my wife and her pregnancies made sense. My desire to want everything a bride wanted at my wedding made sense. The emotional ties to my children were more motherly than fatherly in my mind. This is who I was supposed to be all along.

Transition has opened my eyes to my true self. Living as the authentic me has brought out the woman, the mother, the person I was meant to be. I am full of love and emotion that I am free to express and not wall off to the world. I am not depressed because of who I am or what I represent. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am loving, accepting, and wanting more. I am happier. I am me.

Of course, life challenges still exist. Financial, career, and relationship problems are squarely in my purview and need addressing. But I am once again on the path to dreaming, for that is what I truly am: a dreamer.


The Paradoxical Roller Coaster of Wait

Over the last two months, I have felt like life has been moving quickly and slowly simultaneously.  I feel like I am racing towards a goal, and yet the wait is eternal.  I am both in control and not—at least emotionally.  A perfect storm of emotions is weighing heavily on my soul, but I cannot always identify what is causing the waves.  It’s like riding an out of control roller coaster.

After many two consults and some insurance wrangling, I was approved for facial feminization surgery (FFS) and now have an August date with a plastic surgeon.  I am nervously excited about this development.  Looking at my face each day is like flipping a coin.  Some days, I feel cute.  I see the authentic me with beautiful eyes, cheeks, and wavy hair that falls in front of my face.  Other days, I cannot help but focus on the squarish jaw line, the facial hair I still must shave and color-correct out with make-up everyday, and the nose.  OMG, the big nose.  I can appreciate the positive qualities of my face, but I focus so much on the remaining masculine features, it frustrates me and affects my mood.  I am not looking for a whole new face, but I am anxious to put it in the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon.  However, I have never had major surgery before.  I have never had to lie in a hospital bed attached to IVs while in pain, hoping for company, and eating bad Jell-O.  The idea of recovery is a scary one, but any fears I have regarding the logistics of surgery and recovery are easily eclipsed by my need for FFS, and thus I am excited.  Still, August seems so far away…

I have also begun the process of seeking consults for gender reassignment surgery (GRS).  Now 2 1/2 years into transition and over one year full-time, I am beginning to struggle with the anatomy between my legs.  For awhile, the idea of GRS has been a fleeting faraway thought—something I may or may not do in the future—but the need to make that change is becoming more relevant in my mind.  I am tired of tucking on a daily basis.  I am nervous on the rare occasions my young children share a public bathroom stall with me, as I fear I may need to answer uncomfortable questions.  And while I continue to be attracted to women, I cannot help imagine what penile penetration would feel like from the receiving end.  These thoughts are in my head more often than not these days.  With the added political pressure that my insurance could be jeopardized by a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the time is ripe for me to begin seeking GRS.

My anatomy is not the sole focus plaguing my transition.  My voice has long been a sore point for me, no matter how much friends and family say I talk closer to an average woman these days.  For the last few months, I have been working with a vocal therapist who specifically works with me to train my voice to stay in the average feminine range.  She has confirmed that I do not actually have far to go; I just need to practice more to keep consistent.  Each of these appointments is affirming that I can one day full present as a woman without the need for extensive additional surgeries.  Woo hoo!

As I wait for FFS, move the needle on GRS, retrain my voice, and re-evaluate my hormone regimen (I keep my care team busy!), other things keep me both excited and on edge.  This year has been a roller coaster year, and I am only about a third of the way through it!

Work has been troublesome lately.  In the last few months, a new supervisor was hired into my equivalent position.  While we need the help, rumor had it that his starting pay was significantly higher than others at the same level.  This caused me great concern, as I already feel undervalued in my role.  After bringing my concerns up to management, an adjustment was made for me, but for the first time since I began working there, I feel like I am being low-balled and lied to.  The actions they took were not sufficient, and I now have to look at other options.  With all of my medical needs, I am fearful of changing jobs, but I also know that I cannot remain in an environment that is becoming more toxic.

Then there is the mater of dating.  I mentioned in my last post that I had begun thinking about dating and what relationships might be like since my wife has shown no indication she is reconsidering staying with me.  Recent experiences have opened my eyes to the difficulty I will face pursuing any relationship.  I feel an internal pressure to have more experiences and to test my limits.  I feel external pressure to push those limits a little faster and farther than I might be ready for.  And then there is the uncertainty of how actively dating others would affect that fragile balance my wife and I have formed.  My body and mind are being pulled in multiple directions, and I am alone to sort it all out for myself.  I have very few people to offer guidance in this department.  Is this what a 14-year-old girl would be going through if she had no one to talk to about her sexual feelings?  How would I know?

I feel focused and lost at the same time.  On the medical side, I have plans and a timeline.  The logistics of physical transition are taking shape.  On the emotional side, I am without direction and a destination.  The uncertainty, combined with the sheer quantity of things I juggle in the air on a daily basis, is overwhelming and stressful, and I cannot always identify which thing is causing that discomfort on any given day.

The twist and turns of this emotional roller coaster are unpredictable.  The track directly in front of me is visible, but I have no idea what is around the next curve.  Is it a corkscrew to upset my equilibrium?  A dark tunnel to cry in?  Am I about to drop uncontrollably 250 feet screaming the whole way?  I don’t know.  It’s all so complex.  The months feel like they are going quickly, but I do not feel like I am resolving enough to be happy and get all of the things off my plate that I need to deal with.  August really is not that far away, but it still feels like an eternity.  I love roller coasters, but this one is rough.  Everything and nothing is in my control.  Lots of highs.  Lots of lows.  Lots of twists and turns.  All just to hurry up and wait.  Such a paradox!  Such is life—an authentic life.

My Epiphanies and Their Consequences

It is hard to believe that it has been two months since I wrote an entry. My transition was relatively stagnant for awhile. Yes, I continued my hormones, and I have been feeling both their emotional and physical effects, but really, I wasn’t doing much more to either continue or stop my transition.

When I get into these lulls, I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should do something else to move forward, but I have always feared the consequences of any action I take—especially when it comes to my wife’s reaction. Still, with each step I take on the transition path, I feel more natural and at peace with myself. At no time I have done something that I did not like or that did not feel right. Everything I do confirms that I am on the correct path. But for months now, I have been hitting an emotional wall that I have been unable to break through. I have checked off a lot of proverbial boxes on my journey. So much so, that I am running out of boxes to check off before actually becoming full-time. I have been unable to make that jump, however, because of this wall. I have been waiting for something. I just didn’t know what something was.

For months, the “Am I Trans?” question I have been asking myself really morphed in to the following question: Do I fear transition, or do I fear the consequences of transition? That is, do I actually still question that womanhood is what I want and need, or have I actually already accepted that fact in the back of my mind but have not allowed myself to move forward because I fear the inevitable consequences of that realization? The consequences are huge for me: divorce, the breakup of my family, the loss of realized dreams of raising a family with the love of my life, the idea of starting over. I kept beating my head against this wall and was not moving forward.

In my trans support group, I hear stories all the time about how people had epiphanies that finally set them on the right track, when they realized they could not go back. I have been waiting for my own personal epiphany to occur for a long time to confirm my feelings, and I was starting to lose hope that it would never come, signaling a problem or a regret. However, a couple of weeks ago, I had a pair of significant moments that have finally helped me move forward and accept myself as a trans woman.

The first actually came quite unexpectedly from my wife. She is on a journey to eventually become ordained in her church. To that end, she must meet with a mentor every so often to guide her in her journey. My wife met with her mentor for the first time, and told her story: how she always knew ordination was a goal for her; how she started, stopped, and second guessed that process on several occasions, and how she had taken steps out of order on her way to where she is now. The synopsis of this meeting immediately rang in my ears, as I could hear her describing my transition. How I stalled in the journey, how I had taken steps out of order, etc. What I finally connected was that, no matter how much my wife has waffled in her decision to move forward on the ordination path, to the rest of the world, the decision should have been clear to proceed. Paralleling her story with mine, then, should mean that the rest of the world sees that I should be moving forward in my transition journey. I was the only one getting in my way by not fully accepting it.

My second moment came days later in a dream. Being a dream, things were weird, of course. I won’t even go into the first part of my dream, because it is irrelevant to this discussion, but the second part involved my family going away on a trans retreat (for lack of a better word). During this trip, I was frequently separated from my family as was being attended to by a nurse, who had gained my trust. At one point, she told me to nap, and she cradled me in her arms to make that happen. I resisted the nap, but I ended falling asleep anyway. When I awoke from the nap (in the dream), I found the nurse forcing devices onto my eyes, similar to eyeglass lenses. In front of me, a team of psychiatrists were sitting at a long table. The doctors started asking me very pointed questions about myself and my transition. Each time I gave a waffling answer or said something that wasn’t true to my heart, the eyeglass devices forcing my eyes open would beep loudly, as if they were lie detectors that could see into my soul to know how I really felt. Quickly, I began to give more full answers and by the end of the inquisition, I was practically trying to convince this table full of doctors that I was transgender and that I needed to transition, as if they had the power to tell me yes or no. A vote was taken, and the results were split down the middle. Half said I continue; half said I should stop. The deciding vote sat at the end of the table. In a weird twist, he was Matthew McConaughey’s religious scientist character from “Contact.” After staring at me in silence for what seemed like an eternity, he finally told me me that he owed me $100 and then he smiled. Somehow, this was his way of approving my transition. Then I woke up.

As odd as that dream was, the key thing pointed out to me was that, despite my waffling and fears, my heart and soul were pleading to be allowed to transition in front of the doctors. The detector glasses forced me to speak from the heart. I was not allowed to lie to myself in the dream, and I should not be lying to myself in a conscious state. I am breaking through the wall I put up for myself. I am accepting that I am a trans woman. It is what I want and need.

Those moments of relief that I was finding my way were quickly squashed by my wife. These epiphanies, combined with an ultra femme hair style and eyebrow shaping later in the week set her off. Now that I have decided that I need to be a woman, she wants a divorce and me out of the house. These are the consequences I feared I would face when I reached this point. In the span of three days, she demanded a divorce, took off her wedding rings, and even publicly changed her name on Facebook (which while not outing me as trans does begin to air out that we are having problems in our marriage).

Days of tears, screaming, and separation followed. Nothing is settled; although things have quieted a bit. Still, I have been put through the emotional ringer. I have never been more depressed in my life than I have been the past week. An old friend of mine even asked how suicidal I am. I told her my children mean the world to me, and we need each other, so I’m probably not jumping in the bay anytime soon. But I would be lying if I said it hasn’t crossed my mind a few times.

But… now I have accepted who I am. Ultimately, this is a positive thing. I have even come out to more of my friends. Four in the last week, including someone I have been wanting to talk to for a long time about all of this. I am even receiving more and more positive comments about my appearance! It’s amazing and ego boosting. With divorce imminent, things are clarified when it comes to my transition. It’s continuing, and full-time might not be as far away as I once imagined. Once that happens, work will learn, and the world will meet the authentic feminine me. A snowball effect could be on its way. I am growing weary of the secretive double life I experience. But first: I need to tell my children, and that’s a whole thing in and of itself. Also, I now have to truly deal with the logistics of a divorce, and that’s something I never ever wanted to have to do, and I don’t know where to start with that.

So, that’s my longish update: Life is extremely difficult. I am both depressed and elated. I am clear in my path, but I don’t know how to execute it. I am a woman, and I finally accept it. Time to face those consequences and re-evaluate my dreams.