I Am Falling Apart, and No One Seems to Notice

I have been told that this blog is sad.  True, much of the time I have the urge to write it is because there is something on my mind that I need to share.  Tonight, it’s not much different.  Why?  Well, I have difficulty finding a reason to celebrate, even though my transition is going well.

I am have been on HRT 18 months.  Next week will mark 8 months full-time.  I legally changed my name and gender 3 months ago.  I have come along way since I started my transition, and to accomplish these major milestones has been incredible.   Reflecting on those achievements should make me ecstatic, but still I find myself crying on this Labor Day holiday, sitting alone in my living room, with no one to talk to while my children sleep.  The weight of the world seems to be resting on my shoulders.  My resolve, which typically is quite strong, is failing.  I would cry out for help, but I don’t know what I can get help with.  So I write, hoping to at least make myself feel a little better by converting thoughts to words.

As the summer winds down, I realize that the season has actually been quite a difficult one for me.  I work as a retail supervisor, so that in and of itself has raised my stress level.  Now that kids are back to school, I am hoping crowds will simmer down until at least the Halloween rush, but still… I certainly do not get paid enough for what I do.  I put out fires and solve problems all day long, 5 days a week, but that does not give me adequate time to troubleshoot my own issues.  At the same time, I am also actively looking for a new job that pays me more than what I make, which adds to my to do list.

Working in the daily scrutiny of the public eye does not help my mood.  I am already at odds with myself over my voice and face, both of which I feel are too masculine and prevent me from “passing” everyday.  With thousands of eyeballs on me, I feel like I am constantly being judged.  While those that speak up are generally flattering (a month’s worth of compliments on the dress I wear to work has been nice), the negative moments linger in my head.  Just today, I had a woman ask, “Your name is Gabrielle? (seemingly pronounced correctly)  That’s my son’s name.”  In my head, I thought, “No, it’s not.”  Not two minutes later, I was called “sir” by another guest, despite my lace overlay red dress, make up, and earrings.  It is soooo frustrating, and why my mind is so focused on vocal therapy and the possibility of facial feminization surgery (FFS).  I cannot continue to endure these types of moments.  It won’t matter how long I have been on HRT or full-time if I cannot pass, because each “he” and “sir” I hear grinds me down that much more each time I hear them.

But even getting vocal therapy and FFS is turning into a chore that I just do not have time for.  I finally have an appointment for vocal therapy, but I have to wait an agonizing 3+ months before my first appointment.  Both my therapist and my wife believe I should get a consult for FFS.  That is a relief to some extent, but in the other hand, now I am searching for a skilled plastic surgeon who also accepts Medi-Cal.  That’s no small feat, and the longer it takes, the longer until I get the consult I desperately need.  I am open to suggestions if you know of doctors that meet this criteria.

My health is further affected by my emotional eating, which has caused me to regain 40 of the 90 pounds I lost last year.  I have also had a low-grade headache for the last month.  I do not know if that is related to a hormone imbalance or the fact that I am just a big stress ball these days.  I am checking the hormone situation very soon, though, so hopefully I can solve this problem, too, because I am tired of hurting.

That’s a powerful statement:  I am tired of hurting.  My head, my arms, my brain.  They all hurt.  My heart hurts from what seems to be isolation from my friends and family.  I feel like my body just cannot handle the 15 things I am asking it to juggle.  But much of what I am dealing with cannot be easily delegated or helped by others.  My wife cannot find me a job or a surgeon.  Money will not fall out of a tree.  Even though I have solved so much, there seems to be an infinite number of other things I have to control, and I am just wearing thin.  I am overworked, lacking sleep, and always “on.”

Tonight, after a long day at work and after my wife rushed off to the neighbor’s apartment to have a fun time, I collapsed on my bed and began to cry.  Non-specific reasons, really.  Maybe it was a co-worker’s news of a possible pregnancy which made me think how much I wish I was making a call to an advice nurse on how to manage my nausea (because I would take her place in an instant if it was medically possible).  Maybe it was the nonstop guest issues I have had to deal with all holiday weekend.  Maybe it was being misgendered.  Maybe it was the fact that I was left alone with my thoughts.  Maybe… maybe it is just too much for me to handle.

What compounds my issues is that my friends have seemingly faded away.  My transgender support group is now populated with many new or questioning people, which is great, but at the same time leaves me lacking for a people in a similar situation as myself.  I have turned into more of a mentor to help others.  There are fewer who share my issues which are related to more complex transition issues.  My trans friends are in their own worlds these days, and I find I do not talk to them as much.  I am feeling out of touch with my community, and now I am beginning to feel out of touch with myself because I cannot triage all of the problems at the same time.  I need help and advice, and I do not where to turn.  I am falling apart, and no one seems to notice.

Throughout my life, with very few exceptions, I have been strong and resolved when challenges face me.  I take things one step at at time, and solve my issues one at a time, usually with little help.  I became much better asking for assistance and seeking guidance, and that approach served me well at the beginning of my transition.  This time around, I just feel like I am left on my own to figure it out and there is no guidance to be had.  My issues are for me to solve by myself, for better or worse, and this time—this time—I am not sure how well it will turn out.  I am trying to stay afloat, but it is awfully hard and isolating walking through this barren desert.  I need an oasis.  I need a vacation and maybe a little help from my friends.


Announcing Gabrielle, Part 3: Coming Out at Work

Telling my children I am transgender started the snowball rolling down the hill. Doing so allowed me to start presenting female in front of them, and by extension, out in the world on a more regular basis. I still was not ready to go to work or present to certain other groups quite yet, but for the first two weeks of the new year, I was able to face a few fears: mainly, presenting in places that already knew me or my family.

[Update: Did you arrive at this page from an autogynephelia blog? My response]

For quite sometime, I have been able to go to very public places like malls, stores, restaurants, and the movies without having any confidence issues. In fact, the second time I ever presented female in a major public area, I was more confident than the friend that joined me on that adventure. I try not to have rabbit ears or scan the area around me to see what people are saying about me or to see if people are staring at me. I walk as if I belong in the space I fill, as if there is nothing different about me. In a space that in not near home, that is easy to do. No one knows me. With very few exceptions, though, I always made those trips away from my home. That definitely helped put me more at ease. However, if I was going to go full-time, I needed to be able to face the people that knew the male me, and prepare for their reactions. Now that the kids could come with me, I had to face the everyday challenges: the grocery store clerk, my sandwich makers, even my pharmacist. Somehow, this was more challenging than hundreds of eyes on me walking through a mall. But much like my experiences where people didn’t know me, I received fairly non-reactive responses to my new look from those that remembered me, and that helped boost my confidence once more, and it helped prepped me for the big reveal: work.

I gave myself about two weeks between coming out to my kids and coming out at work. In that interim period (kind of a “soft open,” if you will), I very much lived in the middle ground: female at home, male at work. That was awkward, because just as I was beginning to adjust to everyday life as a woman, I then needed to flip the switch and return to “male mode” for work. But, I was being very cautious about how I was going to reveal myself to my co-workers, and I had a plan—even though that plan took a long time to formulate.

For the last 10 months, up to three people at work knew what I was going through because I just needed people I could talk to when I was having a bad day. I kept the circle incredibly tight. I work in retail. Anyone who has ever worked retail knows that that kind of environment is an active rumor mill, and I was not going to allow anyone to share this secret about me without my controlling the situation. It was my secret to tell in my terms. But how?

Unlike an office workplace, I did not have the option of telling small groups of people. I couldn’t come out to my team, and then my department, and then the company. I work in front of the public, as a supervisor no less, and there was no way to really tell people in groups like that. For guidance, I asked my HR contact to ask how others in the company had transitioned at work, and to my shock, we were told that no other employee in the San Francisco Bay Area had transitioned at work. Really? None? That certainly didn’t make it easier for me. Without that kind of help, the ball was put in my court as to how to do it. No pressure, right?

I had a scheduled weekend trip out of town in mid-January (the last days I would ever present male for a variety of reasons), which set up that two-week window I referred to earlier. I decided that management could inform my co-workers while I was away that weekend. This would relieve me from being present so that people could naturally react to the news, and also give me some separation between the last time they saw me present male to the first time they saw me as female. I went over with my HR contact exactly what words and phrases to use to tell my story as accurately as possible in my absence. Employees were asked to use my new name and use female pronouns when referring to me. The discussions were intended to be short and sweet.

Upon returning from my weekend, I officially began full-time status. I took two personal days to change get ready to go back to work. I finally pierced my ears for the first time in my life. I did some shopping (including finding new work clothes), and I got my hair and eyebrows done. I was prepared as I was going to be. On a Wednesday in mid-January, I took a deep breath and walked into work as the female, authentic me. My supervisor was waiting for me because she wanted to see what I looked like and immediately approved with a big hug. I received compliments throughout the day. And while co-workers weren’t perfect with their pronouns or my name, they were clearly trying and correcting themselves when they caught their error. Everyone was very nice to me—even those I worried I might have problems with my change. And to the public’s benefit, again, most reactions were non-reactive. The exception there were little kids. Confused by the makeup & chest juxtaposed with the soft (but still male) voice, a few of them asked their parents whether I was a boy or a girl. Parents handled the question in different ways, but none of them embarrassed me, and that was comforting.

In the month since coming out at work, I have found that my fears of non-acceptance in the public eye and my co-workers were largely unfounded. Yes, there are people that give a glancing stare every now and then, but generally speaking, most people just want to be helped in a friendly way, and I continue to provide that service. I am still an effective manager. I can still help people find things or complete their transactions efficiently. And then there are the people that are complimentary. I very much appreciate these guests. I have been called beautiful; received compliments on my clothes, makeup, and jewelry; and one person even called me peaceful. I am confident enough at work now that I even wear a skirt on a regular basis, something most other women at my store do not even attempt.

Everyone’s story about coming out at work is unique. For me, I felt like I had an additional challenge because I not only work in front of the public, but I am also a front line supervisor. There was no hiding. I had to make myself vulnerable and take whatever came my way. I am thankful that my company is very accepting of LGBT employees (e.g., they protect my right to use the women’s bathroom) and that my co-workers have been so accepting of me. The public has been more or less not cared, and negative reactions have been minimal.

Being out at home and out at work helps me mentally. Now, there are no restrictions as to how I present myself (except in deference to my wife on a few pieces I own). My kids think I am pretty. I even think I look decent on some days. Now a month full-time, life is easier. There is still plenty of brutal hardship to face, especially on the home front. Still… I am more confident. I am happier. I am me. I am Gabrielle.

And that is how it is supposed to be.

Announcing Gabrielle, Part 2: Coming Out to My Children

After almost a year and a half of coming to terms with being transgender, I finally made the decision that I needed to go full-time.  Those that have read my posts know that was a tedious and complex process full of grieving, emotions, ups, and downs.  But as 2015 was approaching its conclusion, my path became clear:  I am a woman, and I need to live my life that way.  It was time for my secret to come out.  But how?

There are several community circles I swim in, and I did not want to necessarily shock any of them by just showing up in a dress.  How was I going to come out at work?  What about my community involvements?  What about even walking around my apartment complex?  But first and foremost, how was I going to tell my children?

When the decision was made to go full-time, I felt it imperative that the children needed to know before I went public.  Being 5 and 3, I was aware that once I told them, there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  It would be unfair (and unrealistic) to ask them to keep my secret until I was ready to tell the world.  Little children are storytellers by nature.  My story was going to be told one way or the other.  I had to be sure before telling them, and I was.

A big question came up before I even had the chance to have the conversation:  What were the children going to call me?  My wife an I fought over a month over this point, when it became clear that full-time status was imminent.  I felt very strongly that I wanted a “motherly” title.  I mean, how can I be a woman in the world with children and not be called “mom,” or something similar?  How would I feel if I was out in the world with the kids in full make-up and a dress and my kids get my attention by calling me “Dada”?  The idea of feeling outed by my children on a daily basis sounded terrifying.  So did not having a maternal parental title.  Unfortunately, I was accused of trying to “steal” a title than did not belong to me, as the kids already had a mama.  I countered that I was not trying to steal a title; I merely wanted to share.  But my wife was adamantly opposed to allowing me mom, mommy, Mama G… it didn’t matter.  She laid claim to them all.

When it was finally time to tell the kids, an agreement on parental title still had not been reached.  I was supposed to tell the children on December 29, but it didn’t happen because my wife and I had fought earlier in the day about my title, which caused me to be upset, and I was unable to get it together to tell them before I went to work.  The next day, it was time.  No more delays.

I the morning of December 30, I put my 3-year-old daughter on my lap and my 5-year-old son on my other leg, while my my wife sat two spots away on the couch.  I did not have a pre-written script.  I didn’t know exactly what to say.  I was highly nervous.  I only had one shot to really get this right.  I proceeded to tell them  that I was a girl.  My head and heart did not match my body.  I would be changing my name and wearing girl clothes from now on.  I kept it as simple and accessible as possible.  In the initial conversation, I never used the words “man,” “woman,” or “trans,” or “transgender.”  I kept it terms of boys and girls.  The discussion mainly went over the 3-year-old’s head in the moment.  My son was super accepting.  One of his first questions was (without prompting), “Does this mean I have two moms now?”  Inside, I was ecstatic.  I wanted to answer with a resounding Yes!, but I count not.because the fights over this question.  With no agreement in place, I answered, “Kind of, but we will need to find something else to call me.”  He told also told me that he just wanted me to be happy.  Amazing empathy from a 5-year-old!  Clearly, we have done something right in raising him.

To my wife’s credit, she immediately began switching over to female pronouns to refer to me after the conversation was over.  Apparently, she had been practicing while talking to people that were in the know.  While I appreciated that move, without a maternal title, a weird juxtaposition occurred that made me feel uncomfortable.  For example, my son would do something I told him not to do.  My wife would say something like, “Dada told you not to do that.  She told you five minutes ago.”  My brain had a lot of trouble resolving Dada & she/her in the same breath.

The next day, New Year’s Day, my wife came home after having the kids out in the morning.  For the first time, they came home to see me dressed as a woman, something they had not seen outside Halloween ever.  My son walked in, paused, and said, “Oh yeah.  You’re a girl.  I forgot.”  But then, it was nothing had changed.  My daughter called me “beautiful” and “pretty.”  My wife went to work.  The kids stayed home with me as they do most every Thursday, and we had a good day.  Still, hearing Dada wasn’t working for me, so my son and I had a discussion about it.  In the end, we agreed to that they would call me Amma (basically, “Mama” without the “M”).  This was a suggestion my wife had previously made, and I had rejected, because I was opposed to non-maternal, intermediate type names.  But with the bitterness and the need to not be called Dada anymore, I begrudgingly accepted I would need to accept a new title, and Amma was the least objectionable choice.  At least it sounds close to Mama.  My son agreed, and ever since that day, I have been Amma to the children.  It has taken time for them to adjust, but in the six weeks since we had these conversations, I cannot remember the last time I heard Dada.  We are still working on pronouns, but hey, he’s 5, and that’s not easy anyway, but he is getting there.

While I kept my transition as positive as possible, I also needed to brace my son for possible negative reactions in the world.  I asked, “What would you do if someone said some mean to me because they didn’t think I was a girl?”  To this, he again had the most supportive answer he could come up with:  “I would block them (using his arms and his body to shield me from the offender).”  I told him he did not need to do that.  In response, he said he would hug me and tell me that he loved me!  That melted my heart.

That night, we spent New Year’s Eve as a family, with me in a dress and my kids surrounding me.  It was wonderful!  I could finally be the real me with my children!  A great way to start the new year.  Of course, there was still plenty of tension in the house, but at least now, the ball was rolling.  I could start walking outside of my apartment dressed as a woman.  I began dressing everyday around town, and getting into the rhythm of everyday life.  While not technically full-time yet, I treated it kind of as a “soft open.”  I still had to change for work and to see certain people, but the time of getting the family and myself adjusted had begun.  I even began dropping off and picking up my son at kindergarten. Parents (and his teacher) were taken a little off guard at the beginning, but there have been no real major incidents to speak of, as parents get more used to my presence at school.

In the end, my children are young enough that they seem to be adjusting to my transition and having an “Amma” really well so far.  I could not ask anymore from my son when it comes to how he treats me or how he refers to me.  He has been absolutely amazing.  My daughter is not having too many problems either.  She is more interested in the makeup I wear each day.  I was nervous, but really it has been a very positive experience coming out to my children.  I love them so much!

So… kids the children were finally told.  The avalanche was about to begin.  Next, I needed to come out to work and a volunteer community in which I am highly active.  More on that in future posts.

Announcing Gabrielle, Part 1: Prologue

A lot has happened since I last wrote in this space.  There have been several holidays (even a new year!).  Oh, and I announced to the world that I am a woman named Gabrielle.

To catch up my long-time reader (OK, maybe readers, if I am lucky), I last wrote about how I was grieving my marriage back in October.  To this day, I still mourn the loss of what once was in terms of my marriage.  At the same time, life moves forward, and so did my transition in spite of the consequences.

Early in October, I began to seriously consider the idea of going full-time.  A few weeks earlier, I had experienced my epiphany moments, and I was coming to accept myself and who I truly am: a woman.  I started talks with my HR contact at work to see how we might think about getting the ball rolling there.  My wife and I began fighting over my parental title, as she adamantly opposed me taking on any type of motherly moniker.  I go shopping with my friends with the intention of beginning to expand my wardrobe.  The blocks were beginning to be laid.  A plan was forming.

On Halloween, my wife and children attended a combined birthday/Halloween party for the one-year sister of my son’s T-Ball teammate.  For the 23rd year in a row, I dressed as a female character.  For the first time ever, I was Cinderella, and I showed up at the party as such.  I generated stares and the attention of children.  My wife was very receptive to the attention I was receiving, and it made her uncomfortable—especially given everything we were going through with my transition.  Later that night, I went to San Francisco with a trans friend of mine (dressed as Elsa), and we walked the city.  We had a great time walking and talking, and during the night, I got a little education on womanhood:  a man, probably a lot buzzed, came up to the two of us and began seriously hitting on us.  While flattered, I really didn’t know how to react.  This was the first time a man actually saw me as a woman and called me gorgeous.  Granted, I was in costume and he had been drinking, but still… this was new for me.  We eventually got rid of the creeper, but now I knew what it was like to be pursued.

November was filled with anxiety as I continued to contemplate a timeline for going full-time.  The month was also punctuated by continuing fights over my future parental title.  For me, this was a major sticking point that needed to be resolved before I could come out to my children, and I felt they were the first major people to talk with about me before I shared with wider groups.  I work retail, and so I also had to balance home life with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as well as my new promotion I had recently received.  I resolved that with all of the business in my life, and the fact that December would be crazy, too, that I there was no way I could really go full-time before the new year, despite my growing desire to do so.

December was full of retail work, my wife’s church work, her birthday, my daughter’s birthday, and of course, Christmas.  I tried to plan time out with my wife for her birthday, but she wasn’t having it.  The Christmas season was difficult because we both know that this is likely our last Christmas as a complete family.  Divorce is imminent, as is finding a way to restart our lives individually.  I also had to figure out how to tell the kids.

The three months between October and December were deeply unsettling.  I finally stopped waffling as to whether or not transition was for me.  For the first time, I took active steps to figure out what it would it take to go full-time and start putting a plan together.  But now that I was ready to move forward, the pain those decisions caused my my wife were like new wounds, and she lashed out at me several times.  Arguments and disagreements ranged from the minor to the major, many if which I really don’t want to rehash now.

By the time Christmas came, the plan was in full motion.  I had selected a new name, informed work of a timeline to come out there, resolved to increase my estrogen to maximum doses, and mentally prepared myself to come out to my children.  Once I told the kids (which I will write about later), the ball began to roll.  I told the last remaining significant groups in my life so they would not be surprised when I went public to the world.  I began to dress almost daily in early January with a few exceptions as I spread the word and prepared for my final reveal.

On January 11, I officially began living full-time as Gabrielle.

In future posts, I will write about coming out to my children, my first day at work, and my first month as a full-time woman.  But for now, I wanted to catch you up on my life and share the news with you as well.

Grieving My Marriage

I have been on my transition journey for over a year now, and throughout it all, I have remained married.  The process has been an incredibly difficult one for both myself and my wife.  Spouses and partners are oft forgotten people in a transgender person’s transition.  So much focus is placed on the person—the bravery, the celebration, the support… even the selfishness—but the plight of the significant other (when one exists) is ill documented but quite painful.

I do not wish the pain of transition on anyone.  Being transgender is not a choice.  I do not choose to cause pain.  I do not choose to complicate my life and completely rewrite my future.  I do not choose to have this deeply indescribable conflict inside me.  At the same time, my wife did not choose to have this emotional pain inflicted on her.  She did not choose to be married to a transgender person.  She never had intention of having a wife.  She married a man who was the one who was supposed to be her husband for the rest of her life.  As she has always clearly stated, this is not what she signed up for.

Throughout my path, I have tried to empathize with my wife and continue to be as supportive as possible when it came to everything else in her life.  The hurt that my transition causes has impaired my ability to be supportive, because honestly, how does one draw support from the source of the conflict?  My intentions may be clear to me, but they frequently are misinterpreted on the other end like a game of Telephone.  Things are frequently lost in translation due to misinterpretation or simply because emotions get in the way.

I know that life for her is extremely difficult.  Without being in her shoes, I can never truly know how difficult, but I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy either.  Truly, I love my wife, and I have done everything in my power not to sell her short, be overly critical of her, or bad mouth her to my friends, therapist, or support group.  She is the love my life—the one I chose to marry.  I have never regretted that nor would I be the person I am today without her influence.  I have tried to keep our marriage together in the face of impossible odds, and ultimately, I have lost that battle.  And that’s not anyone’s fault.  Most marriages cannot survive one partner’s transition.

Now that I have found clarity and need to move forward toward embracing womanhood, I must also let go of my marriage and the life I built up to this point.  Divorce is imminent.  We cannot survive together.  We both suffer unspeakable pain caused by my need to transition, but again, it is not a choice.  I do not want to separate.  I never have.  But as the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and she doesn’t want to dance with me anymore.  I cannot blame her for that.  She will feel pressure from society to support me and stay with me because it is the “right thing to do,” but that is faulty advice.  The best thing for her is to follow her heart, just as I am following mine.  I cannot expect her to stay in an unhappy marriage.  As much as I claim that I am basically the same person, it will not ring true for her.  She has lost her husband, and there is nothing I can do about it to change her mind.

My wife has removed her wedding rings.  She has changed her last name on Facebook.  She is done, and she seems more or less emotionally ready to get plenty of space between us.  Not to say she isn’t hurting.  She feels I have been dragging my feet trying to figure things out, that I somehow intentionally hurt her.  The reality is this:  It has taken me time to figure myself out.  There is no set timeline for solving when and if to transition. In my case, it has taken over a year.  Some say that’s actually fast, but when you live the daily drama, a year seems like an eternity. To her credit, she has stayed this long, but now that my questioning is done and my path is more clear, there is no reason for her to try to continue living a life with me, except as it pertains to our children.  Any support she had for me has ended, and she is setting me off on my own.

My wife has resolved that divorce is the answer.  I don’t know how she processed that decision.  For me, it is a great emotional loss.  A death, if you will.  While the consequences of transition have been clear and fairly well-defined, it doesn’t mean I am ready to actually experience those consequences.  My love is deeply rooted.  I cannot simply throw it all away, but now I am asked—neé forced—to let it go, and that is not easily done.  While on one hand I am happy to have confirmed my path, I am greatly saddened by the result that comes with it.  She asked me to take off my wedding ring, and I am not ready to do that.  It is my choice when I make that choice.  I must grieve in my own time.

By her own admission, she does not understand me, and there is probably not a capacity to do so.  This is because she is not the one transitioning.  She cannot feel my pain.  Apparently, I am doing a good job hiding my pain because in her eyes, it’s easy for me to be doing everything I am doing.  She does not understand the distances I have traveled to arrive at my conclusion, how much much stress and grief and loss I have already processed, and how there have been times that I wanted to end my life.  The last part is hard for me to admit, for I am a rational, reasonable person.  I know suicide isn’t the answer.  However, I have never experienced depression to this degree, and I would be lying if I said it has not crossed my mind.  In the end, my children are my saviors.  My wife may have chosen to let me go, but I have a responsibility and a great desire to be the best I can possibly be for them.  At their young ages, they do not yet resent me or judge me.  They have not formed opinions on the world, and they have no idea what transgender is until the day I share my story with them in the near future.  Simply, they love me for me, and I know they will love me whether my title is father or mother.

That’s all I really want:  to be loved, be important in someone’s life other than my own, and have the freedom to be authentic to myself at the same time.  I cannot have that with my wife anymore, and again, I will not fault her for that outcome.  Without my children, however, I might not have survived this most incredibly difficult thing I have ever had to deal with in my life.  I have strong resolve, but even I have my breaking point.

She has reached her breaking point, and as she cannot understand my pain, I cannot fully empathize with hers.  To complicate her life even further, there do not exist many support groups for significant others as they do for the transgender person.  According to my wife, even the groups that do exist tend to encourage partners to stay in their relationships, and that is not the type of support my wife needs.  I feel for her.  I really do.  I wish I could ease her pain, but I the only way to do that is to deny myself.  She asks if I still want to be her husband, and I claim that is an unfair question.  Yes, I want to remain married and be supportive and do all the things a loving partner does, but I need to do that as a woman, which by definition, does not make me a husband.  I wish it could be as straightforward as that:  Love conquering all.  The dreamer and idealist in me longs dearly for that notion, but the reality of the situation is that love does not always win, and it is no longer my choice.  I must move forward in both my transition and what is soon to be a single parent lifestyle because that is how how it has to be.

I grieve the collapse of my marriage.  I cry over the evaporation of nearly 10 years of love and dreams.  I will eventually remove my wedding ring.  All with time because it must be done.  I am forever changed by my wife, my children, and my transition.  Life goes on one day at a time, and I am doing the best I can through a period that paradoxically combines great relief & joy with great sadness & loss.  I welcome the birth of my authentic self.  I mourn most everything else.  All I can hope for is a peace at all levels when life settles down.  I wish peace for my wife as well, for I will always love her.  Despite the pain she feels now, I hope she never loses sight of that and one day can forgive me for the unintentional and non-malicious torture I have caused her because, truly and honestly, I did not have much choice in the matter.

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.

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.