A Turn for the Better

The financial struggles the family have been facing have been mitigated. Yes, we still have a significant hole from which we need to emerge. However, things are beginning to look up for once.

For those few that follow me, you may remember from my last post that my wife’s family had offered a loan with several strings attached. Ultimately, I rejected that offer. My decision brought some dissension from my wife and accusations that I was trying to keep us together, but her argument was baseless. In fact, I am working to make myself strong, which by extension, helps the family. While turning down the loan was difficult, a long-time member of my transgender support group I have attended for years offered an effectively no-strings-attached loan. In combination with a significant tax refund (due to my financial planning), the family suddenly had about what it required to float us through the beginning of my new job. After months of penny-pinching, now we could take a breath and pinch dimes instead. The rent can be paid on time.

Speaking of jobs, I resigned from the retail job I held for just over the last 3 1/2 years because I officially began said new job as a government employee. The new position comes with a major pay increase compared to my retail supervisor position and includes a detailed benefits package. Provided I stay in this sector, I could theoretically comfortably retire from here in the distant future (scary thought!). Part of me will miss my retail job—mainly the people interactions. Team Members and regular Guests were sad to see me leave on my last day. One of my Team Members even made me a cupcake cake, which she then hand-decorated! My new position is still very much people-based, though. Unlike retail, however, I will have the ability to change people’s lives in meaningful ways. Truly, the job is a good fit for my personality.

I am now in the fourth week of a 6-month training course. For the first time in years, I enjoy going to work. I feel valued for my opinions and questions; other students/employees approach me for help. Most everyone in my class is smart, engaging, and fun, which leads to a positive work environment. Further, this job has set break schedules and runs fairly standard office hours with paid holidays. The upshot for me: I get to come home and spend time with my children at dinner and before they go to bed, and the stresses of working busy weekends is a thing of the past.

This change is clearly positive. My work-life balance is normalizing for the first time in years. My commute is manageable. I am happier. The money and benefits this position provides and the expected increases in the future have the ability to put me in a position for not just short-term stability but long-term, too. Further, now that I have been entered into the “system,” I have flexibility for growth in whatever direction I want to go.

For my wife, this change to our dynamic is unsettling. She is happy that I have a more stable job. However, I now make more money than she does, will be providing benefits for the family, and have potential stability in my future. While for any other couple this all would be stellar news, as someone who wants out of the house, she feels all of these positives for me are a negative for her. Her effectively part-time job is not enough to support herself and the children (even half-time). My retail job put me in that same position; my government job might be a way out for me. As such, she has fears she will end up on the street. I do not believe that will be her end result, but I do know she will need to take action to improve her standing. That will be easier said than done given her history of depression. I will emotionally support her as much as she will allow, but ultimately, with a separation imminent, the decisions will ultimately be hers.

I have worked very hard to get to where I am today. Four years ago, I was depressed and unemployed. I was on the verge of coming out to my wife as questioning. Three years ago, I had just begun hormones and was going through one of the most tumultuous times of my life. Two years ago, I was officially changing my name & gender with the courts. Now, I am at a place where no one knows me any other way than Gabrielle. As I look to my future, I begin to see a way out of debt, which in turn, leads to further opportunities.

My focus this year has been on self-care and hopefulness. So far, so good. Things are looking up. People see the positive shift in my demeanor. I feel happier. Acquiring this job is most decidedly a turning point for me.

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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.