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.



Telling My Story

A couple of weeks of ago, through a small world kind of connection, I was invited to speak at an LGBT program for a group of about 30 people.  At first, I did not know what to do with this invitation.  I mean.  Who would want to hear my story?  What makes my story so special?  What qualifies me to speak on behalf of the LGBT community?

I put off the request for a while as I tried to gather more information about what was being asked of me.  Fresh off of my experiences at SF Pride, I was asked again if I would be interested in speaking.  While I still was not sure I could accurately represent the community, I was more confident of my place within the community.  After much contemplation, I agreed to speak, as I was simply asked to tell my story and share my successes as a “minority.”  I could tell my story, right?  The problem was I had never really succinctly told my story in 10-15 minutes.  That, in and of itself, was a challenge and part of the reason I accepted.  I surmised that while it would be beneficial for a group to hear my story, telling my story would be helpful and liberating for me as well.  Therefore, there was a mutual benefit.

I have told pieces of my story here and there to my therapist, support group, friends, wife, acquaintances, and even in this space.  Transition is a many faceted, complicated journey, and each transgender person’s path is different.  There is so much to cover.  As a friend of my said to me after I gave the speech, a transition story can be told in 2 or 3 sentences or in two hours; anything in between is incomplete.  I was given 10-15 minutes of time to fill.  What do I say?  What do I leave out?  Channeling my inner college student, I wrote my speech overnight the night before giving it (mainly because of scheduling), so it came out as kind of a stream of consciousness.  By the time I was done, I was looking at about 20-25 minute story, but I really didn’t know what to leave out.  I also did not have a lot of time to edit.  So, I went with what I had.

To allay my own fears and to accurately put my story in prospective, I opened with, “Every transition story is different… This one is mine.”  I laid out how my story parallels others they may have heard and how it is different.  I told them how I did not know I was transgender when I was 3.  I shared my early experiments with crossdressing, my extensive Halloween history, how jealous I was of my wife during her pregnancies (even though they were difficult) because I cannot carry or deliver a child, and my depression & the fact that I contemplated suicide.   I told the story of my dream epiphany, how strongly I feel about having a motherly parental title, and how turbulent & rewarding the last two years have been since I first told my wife I had “gender issues” when I first started questioning.  I tried to highlight that some of what I have been through is commonplace; other feelings I have are on the extreme even in my community.  Again, this was my story, not the story of all transgender people.  I hope I got that point across.

In an odd twist of fate, I gave this speech two years to the day I came out to my wife.  In my mind, transition has felt both fast and slow at times, and it is difficult to adequately express those feelings.  Telling my story on this day and putting it down in words forced me to reflect on my transition in a way I had not done so far.  I live in such a day-to-day world that I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.  I am learning that my story is worth telling, and I need to find ways of sharing it in concise ways so that people can understand my journey and by extension gain insight to what other transgender people go through.  I am a full accepted member of the community.  Being a member of the community does qualify me to speak because I am always qualified to speak about my story and my life.  I have become much more confident in the last few years, so I am more likely to take on this type of engagement.

The group to which I spoke seemed engaged during my entire talk.  They even laughed a few times.  Several people came up to me afterward to thank me, for being candid, and for mentioning specific resources where people can learn more.  Positive reactions were relayed to me after the fact, including how genuine I came across.  My audience seemed to get where I was coming from. Success!  However, there was a second success that day:  I learned a little more about myself.  I learned that I have a story worth telling, and telling that story is good for my health and the world around me.

Returning from Hiatus

Have I not posted since February?  Oh my!

When I first started this blog, I mainly began writing as a means to get my feelings out and share my experiences when I felt I had very few options available to me.  I think my recent hiatus is as a result of my ever expanding social circle.  That is, I have more people to talk to!  This is especially true since coming out as a full-time in January.  Prior to that, I had to pick and choose who I talked to and when, for I did not want my secret getting out any sooner than I desired.  Those restrictions melted away when I went Facebook official.

I soon came to realize that I had an enormous amount of people who supported me, even those I had not talked to in decades.  On significant posts like my transition announcement, photos of my after a professional photo session, or even my birthday, I can receive up to 120 reactions, and for a girl like me who is happy to get 10 likes and a few comments, that’s huge and esteem lifting.  With all of the outpouring of love, I found that I did not need to post to my blog as much, but that doesn’t seem right either.  While there are a minuscule amount of people that actually read my words here (including my wife), I should continue to document my feelings and journey.  If I can help even one person with my words, if someone can be inspired or guided in their journey because of my experiences, then I am doing a service for others.  And I do myself a service by continuing to express myself. So while there will be hiatuses in my writing in the future, I am still resolved to write in this space, and I hope you find me interesting enough to read.

So, what has happened since I came out (which I documented in 3 separate posts before my hiatus)?  A lot of life, really.  My son graduated kindergarten(!), and his teacher and fellow parents came to accept me, as far as I could tell.  I even accompanied my son’s class on a field trip as a chaperone, and no one questioned it, not even the kids.  I felt like such a mom, and I felt empowered.  I feel it is important for me to play an active role in his learning, and I do not want to be a parent who is absent in the classroom.  That doesn’t mean I need to be teacher’s pet or hover over my son in class, but I need to know I can freely participate in his learning and his activities without barrier, and chaperoning this trip help prove that is possible.

Work has kept me busy.  I work as a front line supervisor in retail for that company–the one that recently informed the world of its already existing equal opportunity employment program that reiterated employees and guests were invited to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.  That statement put me in a bit of a spotlight–more than the one I was already in after coming out only a few months prior–but I am lucky to work in a very progressive area, and it really has been a non-issue so far.  Lucky me.  That’s not to say it’s been all rosy.  I have been harassed and offended at least twice in 5 months, but overall, guests have been incredibly accepting, and that makes my life easier.  I am even bold enough to wear a dress at work now, something no one else at my store does.

On the volunteer front, I have been bust there, too.  I’m not sure I have shared this before here, but I am a Little League umpire now finishing my 11th consecutive season on the field.  My transition caused waves in my local league, and I even considered resigning my position as Umpire-in-Chief based on the undercurrent that occurred when I came out.  As the season has progressed though, I believe I have settled most fears and both my league president and the district administrator acknowledge my skills.  We’ll see how well I have allayed fears when next year’s board members are elected.  Will they vote me in again?

I have also experienced some interesting things just being a girl.  People hold doors for me, compliment my beauty, and even flirt with me.  These are things I am adjusting to, for I never received that kind of treatment as a male.  It is definitely flattering, but I also find myself having to learn things that a prepubescent girl would have been taught at an early age.  Things like how to turn a guy down, avoid creepers, properly bending down when wearing a skirt, and using caution when walking alone night.  While I can take care of myself, I find I need to be a little more vigilant as I get more comfortable being in my body.

5 months full-time.  Really, that time has flown by.  A friend of mine projected her experience on me and warned me about how difficult the first year of full-time would be, but I feel like I am right in the groove.  I do not question where I am because I went through so much agony getting to this point.  I already have a sense of style.  I already have acceptance of most of my family.  My body continues to develop and change.  But ultimately, I am happier.  I am more comfortable in my softer skin, my attire, my makeup, and I continue to make improvements when I need to.  I am certainly not where I want to finish.  There is much to work on.  But, I am not in the dark place I was two years ago when I started this journey.  I am not as depressed or contemplating very dark things.  I am more optimistic in the face of financial and personal despair.  I am poor.  I will lose my wife.  But I am so much closer to the authentic me.  I have my children, and I have support of my family, friends, and even my wife (as much as she can offer through the pain she is suffering).  The authentic me can look forward, while the old me had given up.  The last two years have been unquestionably difficult, but the last 5 months have actually oddly been easier than the rest.  No secrets.  No hiding.  Just me being the real me, and I am a better, happier, more complete person for it.

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.