Leaving my therapist on Monday I was struck by the thought that I had inadvertently lied when answering one of her questions. The lie was unintentional, and in the moment I had come to believe the lie so well that I believed I was telling her the truth.
She asked me if I had ever been depressed or suffered from depression. She also included the typical signs of what my man suit would consider the calling cards of depression: suicidal, substance abuse problems, the inability to function, etc. My answer, was, “No, I don’t really get depressed. Sometimes I might get the blahs, or feel a little down, but not depressed.” In my answer, I had dropped Allie, and put back on the man suit to “Man Up” and downplay any suffering that I’ve endured in my life.
For all I know, she saw right through it. I mean, she is good at what she does, and I’m sure I’m not the first girl in a man suit to sit down on her couch and downplay a personal struggle. After all, boys are taught from a young age to toughen up, man up, rub some dirt on it, and carry on. Men wear their scars with pride, and love to talk about how they earned them. I’ve participated in such discussions on more than one occasion. However, what men are taught about mental wounds and scars is a far different thing…You don’t talk about them…ever. You downplay them, or as my father likes to joke, “Karate men cry on the inside.”
I took those lessons to heart as a child, and by the age of twenty I had learned to lock those feelings down tight. Crying was to be fought at all costs, and if you got choked up, swallow that shit back down. Even to this day, I find it very hard to cry. I get choked up, I can want to cry, feel the need to, but a painful lump in the throat and a few tears is often all that I get to come out. This is definitely an area I need help in.
As for mental health/depression? Well, I definitely have depression, I just have never thought of it that way, but upon further reflection I have come to understand how mine presents, and there is no doubt it is real.
Let me be clear, I don’t have the kind of depression that leaves me incapable of action, or with thoughts of suicide. I’ve never been addicted to substances, other than cigarettes (quit 5 years ago), and while I did dabble with drugs, it was purely recreational, and it’s been over 18 years since I last used.
My depression is more subtle, and I always thought of the way I dealt with it as a badge of honor. I hit a major pocket of it at the beginning of the summer, and my wife would tell you that “I was there but I wasn’t there” all summer, as I hid away in my office at home. Being alone is one major way in which I deal with depression. Sitting here, I realize that I may still be suffering from it to some degree. Many of the things I enjoy doing saw me lose interest this summer. I just stopped caring if I did them. This isn’t the first time this kind of behavior has come up, but just the most recent and best example. I have often thought, “well, I just need alone time, at least I’m not depressed!” No, bitch, you are depressed big time, and obviously this summer’s depression walked hand in hand with the realization and acceptance that I was transgender.
Wait! You mean you weren’t excited to realize who you really are? No, I was scared shitless! Sure, I had moments where I’d start to daydream about how my life could change, but when you only come to realize who you are after forty years? You can’t help but think about how much time you’ve missed, how hard it will be to transition, and what you might lose in the process? It would take one cold mother fucker to not be scared. Accepting and embracing my femininity requires me to be honest with myself in all things. My man suit would never admit being scared, but the real me? She’s still scared, and I don’t know when that fear will entirely go away. I also don’t think it is entirely a bad thing to have a little fear along for the ride.
This summer’s depression was the result of the little girl in me crying about what all the changes that would have to occur might mean. Would I ever pass? Would I ever be able to find a female voice? Would I lose my wife, my family, and my friends? What will happen with my job? How will I pay for surgeries? My mind ran away with me, and started focusing on things that are months, if not years off in the future. These things began to depress me, and having my father in law in my house still does. I want to start to express, to feel free to talk, but I always have to keep an eye out for where he’s at. Some would say, “Do it anyways!” While, that’s a great sentiment, in many ways as I’ve already suggested, I’m a little girl. I am uncertain, afraid of how I will be perceived, and how any changes, regardless of how subtle will be received by my wife. As for my father in law, well his presence simply heightens my dysphoria as it reminds me that I constantly have to be “On”, and that I can never let down my mask. It’s exhausting and depressing.
I haven’t even talked about my life-long way of coping with depression/dysphoria (I see them hand in hand), which is obsessing on hobbies by spending lots of money on said hobbies. Whether it’s needing a GoPro to film and edit my backpacking adventures, or the nine pairs of soccer cleats (can’t wear heels!) I’ve purchased in the last two years…this is a behavior that has been around in me forever. Talking with other girls, I know what it is now, because many have similar stories of doing anything they could to distract from the feelings they had inside them. I was doing this as well, and I have spent probably close to $20,000 over the years to keep trying to fill the hole in my soul, but nothing has ever been able to do so.
My first memories of this behavior was taking money from my dad to buy Dungeons and Dragons books. Dungeons and Dragons was great, I could throw myself into the worlds, and role-playing was a way to ignore the storm inside of me. Eventually, I would give up gaming for other hobbies such as video games, backpacking, writing, yoga, soccer, etc. With each new hobby came the need for things I just had to have. Fighting my inner female meant that I had to throw money at her, and for brief periods I would think I was ok, but then a new obsession would emerge and the cycle would repeat itself, until this summer.
This summer, I broke the cycle, because this summer I accepted who I am as a woman. With no more misdirection, I couldn’t sink money into my depression, and so instead I withdrew, letting the anxiety and anger build until I finally started to share who I really was. Sharing helped to alleviate and make me more aware of the my poor behaviors. However, I’m also a work in progress, and I’m not entirely out of the woods yet.
My therapist convinced me to join her support group sessions, and I will attend my first tonight. Aside from meeting others in my area, I also see it as a chance to be myself around others without fear of judgement, or being made fun of. I’m not there with my wife yet, and it may be some time before I’m comfortable. She knows I’m dealing, but I don’t think she is capable of seeing Allie yet. Don’t get me wrong, she is handling this better than most wives from what I understand, but I haven’t changed much at home yet. I have gotten a couple little comments which I feel further confirms she’s not seeing the real me, but I also admit I could be overly sensitive about things right now. The reality is I don’t think my wife will be able to accept until I feel ready to begin physically presenting, which will mean several months of HRT. I also can admit to myself that with issues currently facing my son right now, it is real easy for me to simply sit in dad mode. My needs are important, but I’m a parent and can’t help but put my kid first.
I also accept that a little of my depression may be from unrealistic expectations. I’ve shared with my wife that I may want to fully transition, that I have a female inside of me, but aside from an offer to talk if I want to, she has shown zero desire to engage on the issue, although we may go out and talk on Saturday night. She hasn’t gotten the message that I think more like her than a man. When she continues to speak to me, or to react to things as if I am a man, all I can do is sigh on the inside, and try and understand that it will take time. My desire was that she would start to try and engage with me on a more female level, but realistically, can I expect that to happen overnight? I have played the part of husband for eighteen years, and I’ve known her even longer than that. Just as my process is my own, she has a right to hers as well.
My urge to spend money has dwindled to almost nothing at the moment, unless it has to do with transition. I’m not interested in my hobbies right now, but I’m also not looking to find a new one either. Accepting who I am, has finally forced me to stop running from my truth, and without the need to run, the need for new hobbies has also gone away.
Accepting that I have suffered from depression throughout my life is a big deal for me. I have no more reasons to “Man Up” and power through. It’s OK to admit I need help, and to ask for that help. It’s even better to see my depression for what it is, and to begin to work on those parts of me that will help to make it go away. I’m not saying I won’t ever be depressed again. I’m almost certain with transition and dysphoria that there will definitely be moments of depression in my future. However, I can deal with that knowledge, because I can now see that what I’m entering isn’t a cave, but rather a tunnel, and there is light on the other side of that tunnel. I have to go through darkness to get there, but with help and one foot in front of the other I will emerge on the other side.
Yesterday was another turning point in my life, and perhaps one of the most significant yet. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted going into my first gender therapy appointment (a letter for HRT), but I walked away with further self awareness, feeling good with how the session went, and happy with my choice of therapist. I also walked away far more emotional than I thought I would, and so I spent a good portion of the afternoon working through those feelings and why they came on so strong.
I woke up excited about therapy, and excited at the prospect of finally beginning to officially move forward. Now, I know that I have been making inroads, and having revelations on my own, so please don’t think I’m not aware that I’ve been moving forward this entire time. Every day I wake up and accept that I am a trans woman is a step forward, especially on those days that dysphoria is minimal and thoughts creep into my head about how I am “o.k.” with being a man. That alone is a significant realization for me. The fact that I can admit on a “good” day I’m not good or great with being male, but just “o.k.” It will never get better than that, no matter what I do, staying in my man suit will at best give me moments of o.k. At worst? Well, I don’t want to think about that because dysphoria has become my constant companion, always there in the back ground waiting to jump out and startle me, or waiting to jump out and shock me to my core. It’s a shitty way to live my life, and one I am determined to change.
I found myself in the waiting room of the therapist for about fifteen minutes, and I was far more nervous than I thought I would be. It was like the feeling you get when you go on a first date with someone you really think you like. My therapist finally came out, introduced herself and we went back into her office to talk. One of the things that struck me about her was her immediate acceptance, warmth, and affirmation of who I am.
As someone who has lived a life based in fear, her office was a safe place where I, Allie, could be honest with myself and begin to admit out loud who I was, and where I need to go. I admit, I rambled about my past quite a bit, which I know is probably normal for most girls as we begin to peel back the layers of male masking that we’ve built up over the years. I’ve built my life around others’ expectations of who they thought I was, or who I thought they wanted me to be. I admitted that I simply learned to mimic my father’s mannerisms and male behaviors, but they were never really mine. My father is typically liked by most that meet him, a successful business man, now retired. He was my ideal of what I thought a man should be, and even as I write this I fight back tears as I think how the revelation of who I really am is going to hit him.
See, in my man suit, I’m the guy who takes care of his shit. I’m the oldest, smart, highly educated, and I’ve always forged my own way, adjusted to life’s roadblocks without asking for help or bailouts, and I’ve earned my father’s respect and admiration, which is something all kids want from a parent they admire. Now, I’m having to accept the fact that while I think he will accept and love me, because he’s my dad, and he loves his children like it’s a biological need. There is a chance he won’t accept that I’m really a woman. I’d like to think that he’ll listen, do his best to hide his shock, hug me, tell me he loves me, and that he wants me to be happy. As a kid, I never felt safer than when he’d wrap me up in his arms, and to this day, his hug still brings those feelings back. The strength of his embrace, and the smell of his cologne a comfort to a child scared, afraid, or just needing comfort from her father.
I don’t mean to leave my mother out, but knowing her, she’ll be afraid for me, how the world will treat me, but she’ll accept who I am faster. Don’t get me wrong, it will be a shock to her as well, but I know her well enough to know she’d never reject or stop loving me.
As to when I’ll tell them? My therapist actually agreed with me that just as I need to see changes in my body to physically begin presenting female, so too will my parents need to see changes to accept who I really am. If I were to tell them tomorrow, they wouldn’t be able to see it, wouldn’t be able to wrap their minds around it, and I can’t blame them. I’ve done an excellent job of playing my part, and while I’m working to remove the man suit. It’s still there, and it will take time to completely get it off.
As for my wife? She is my best friend, and while we’ve had some rough patches the last few years, I don’t want to lose her, but I have to accept to become Allie, that I have to be willing to do so. I have to be willing to accept that she may not want to be with another woman. I can’t be mad at her for that, or blame her. When we married 18 years ago she thought she was marrying a man. To her credit, she has made an effort to be supportive, regardless of what she might be feeling on the inside, and knowing her I know there has to be elements of shock and fear. She is trying to be there for me, and I love her all the more for that, knowing many wives would not be so kind, or willing to accept me for trying to be the real me. We’ll see what the future has in store for us, but for now I’m sharing information in spurts to allow her to adjust and accept.
My kids, I don’t worry about, we’ve been through this once with my daughter, and so I know they can adjust, and that while my daughter will actually have a hard time with losing her daddy, she will also gain another person in the house who understands how she feels, and knows what she is going through. She will always have me to talk to, to share with. In short, she will always have someone close by that “gets it” as only another trans person can. I’d like to think our bond will only grow stronger. And as for my son, it may be hard at first, but he will gain a more connected, understanding, and plugged in parent. Once again, the topic of sharing, and in this case it would have to be around the time that physical changes begin to emerge, after all, they live with me.
“HRT” It’s like my holy grail, a beacon on the hill. In it, I see an answer to the emptiness in my soul, and so I went after it in session with tenacity, but still I hedged my bets when being asked about it. I told my therapist that I knew I wanted it, that I needed it, but as far as transition went I would reevaluate what I wanted after a few months. She stopped me at that point, and looked me in the eye. “Let’s be honest. You already know what you want, don’t you?” I looked at her for a moment, and then sheepishly looked down at my hands in my lap before speaking. “Honestly? Yeah, I guess if I take it all the way, I see myself transitioning fully.” Wow! Did I just say that out loud to another person? She just called me on my shit, and I was honest with her. This might have been the emotional moment of the session, my breakthrough. I had admitted it online, or in my head, or when alone, but never to another without the hedging of “we’ll see in a few months.”
We ended with scheduling another appointment in two weeks time. I could have scheduled one next week, but she isn’t cheap ($150). I’m ok with that as she is regarded as one of the top gender therapists, and I don’t need someone who will rubber stamp my assertions. I came away impressed, and really liking her. She told me she usually won’t give out HRT letters until after 3-4 sessions, and I guess that makes sense if she really wants to be certain. I know who I am, but admit I will benefit from our sessions moving forward. She has also asked me to attend the group sessions she facilitates on Thursday nights, and I will make the effort to show up, as I could benefit from getting to know others in my area, and to talk about what I am going through in a face to face setting.
Everyday there is something new or different that goes through my mind. Emotions, realizations, and acceptance of certain facts come daily. An honest person can admit when she can’t deal with it all on her own. Yes, that’s the other realization, my brain often is now defaulting to thinking of myself as a female. Instead of thinking, “women do this,” I think, “other women do this.” It might seem a little thing, but the realization of it was huge, and just as my therapist brought a smile to my face by calling me Allie, the first time I thought “other women” brought just as big a smile to my face. Moving forward I know there will be ups and downs, but yesterday was a good day that I want to remember.
New video: Still on my Hole kick…this one I love for it’s opening verse which I have pinned on my twitter feed:
Oh, make me over
I’m all I want to be
A walking study
Feel like it resonates with me these days…Celebrity Skin…check it out.
What does soccer have to do with my transition? Nothing, except that I love the sport, and along with it I realized the other week that nothing I loved was exclusively male. There is nothing I like doing, or of the material world that I cannot also like and enjoy as a woman. Most men would not say that, but then again, I’ve also come to realize that looks can be deceiving, and my book cover most definitely is.
So, I’m really doing this? I’m really going to start a blog to chronicle my transition journey? The short of it is, yes. To get it out of the way, my daughter transitioned last year on her seventh birthday, and no I didn’t push her towards it…I was still in deep denial…thirty plus years of it. However, what it did do was blow the door off my closet of skeletons like nothing else could.
I began researching transgender issues, and as I did so I found myself gravitating more and more to transgender women, and specifically what transition entailed. Now, I made excuses to myself that I wanted to get an idea of what my daughter would face as she got older, but that was complete bullshit. I was looking into it for myself, without even realizing it at the time.
This went on for a few months, until I started to begin to make other connections within me, but the first big one that stands out was my realization that I suffered from dysphoria, the same as my daughter does. We went off on a backpacking trip in early April of this year, and she had been suffering badly before we left, but what I didn’t realize was that so was I. Oh, I felt what I called the “yuckies” because that’s what strong men would call it, but it was more than that. This realization came as we were dropped off with two young women where we would start our hike. While it was freezing, one of the girls was wearing running tights, and I found myself staring at her legs and crotch. Now, this wasn’t the first time I had ever done so, but it was the first time the realization hit home that I was staring because I wanted what she had…and more to the point I accepted that in a normal way…and over the next two days of walking I thought on what it might mean.
Being born in the seventies meant that you knew the binary, and you knew what was allowed and what wasn’t. I had a penis…so I had to be a boy…case closed. I followed those rules to the T…except I didn’t, I mean not really, or maybe I did when people were watching, but when they weren’t?
Every girl (and I’m talking trans, so keep up) has her stories. At five, I would play girl characters in make believe, and like it in ways I shouldn’t have. Watching Disney movies I found myself wanting to be Ariel or Belle. I was enamored with my mother’s clothing, the materials, the colors, and the smell of her perfume.
After the hike in April I began remembering my past rapidly, all the things I had pushed in the closet and locked up tight. I had convinced myself that my love of pretty underwear and lingerie was a sexual fetish or kink…and then I remembered I had started trying on my mother’s things in the 3rd or 4th grade…long before I was sexual. Puberty only confused me, and made me bury it down. I stopped dressing up as I grew out of her clothes, and other than pretty underwear, I stopped dressing. The wearing of pretty underwear would come and go in spurts, depending on if I was dating, etc. My parents even caught me a couple times, and I’m sure chalked it up to horny teenage boy, and there is no doubt I was horny, but the other element they didn’t catch is that I did it because it made me feel pretty and feminine. The thoughts, those never really went away, but the behaviors I learned to hide, or block completely.
I also remembered my love affair with Playboy. My dad had a subscription, and I loved to read them cover to cover (what boy does that?), and while don’t get me wrong, the girls within could arouse me, there was something else that went along with it. Looking back, I often realized that I wanted to be those girls, to wear the pretty things they wore in the spreads. I wanted to have bodies like theirs (although, never cared about big boobs)…I would just chalk it up to fantasies, but nonetheless, I don’t think my friends were having similar thoughts.
Freshman year of high school, I was told by a friend that I held my books like a girl, and I swung my arm like a “bitch.” I fixed that shit immediately, but I still found myself daydreaming of being a cheerleader, or pom girl…I rationalized, “they’re hot!” No, dipshit, other guys think about fucking them, and while you did that to, they did not also fantasize about being them. Boys don’t want to be girls. I also learned in high school that sharing was dangerous, and that boys didn’t share how they felt like girls did. I still screw this up from time to time…I can’t help it, it’s who I am.
High school didn’t see me date much. My best friend from kindergarten to around junior high had been a girl, but she moved, and I was stuck with only boys. It was easy to hide because of my size and strength, but I missed my girl friend. I did become friends with girls in high school, but always thought there had to be an ulterior motive, that I must be attracted to them. Again, I was way off, and lost good friends as a result. I hated having to ask girls out, I wanted to be the one asked out, but that’s not how it was done, and so I didn’t begin really dating until almost the end of 11th grade, and even then it was pretty weak.
College I got to remake myself, and boy did I become the man…kind of. I still made friends with girls more easily than getting them to want to be with me, and often this would lead me to self-destruct and ruin friendships. Honestly, looking back the closest friendships I had in college weren’t the guys in my fraternity, but those girls who I was friends with, who I’d hang out in dorm rooms with, and even sleep over in their rooms. My fraternity brothers would always assume I was getting laid, and sometimes I even corrected them…ok, most of the time, but still I found value in those friendships.
It was also during college that I realized I approached sex more like a female as well. I turned down several girls because the situation wasn’t right, and guys definitely don’t turn down sex, especially at 19 or 20, but I did. I would turn down the girl if she was drunk, or if she was offering out of pity, or just because we didn’t know each other well enough yet. I had to know she wanted me as much as I wanted her…I had to be desired.
Half of college I spent with a girl I would become engaged to, and I even started to share with her my secrets. She was great about it during the relationship, but when things eventually fell apart, she threw it all in my face. It was after her that I decided no more sharing, and locked it all up tight.
I didn’t even mention crying…and boy was it easy for me up till around the age of 20. I’d cry if sad, hurt, or happy. I’d cry if I got too nervous, but it was the last time, begging my dad’s friend back for a job at 20 that was the last time I would lose control of my emotions. Nowadays, I have problems letting them completely free, and I hate that I’ve become so twisted.
I was also a gamer, video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and I found myself as I got older playing female avatars and characters more and more…as the woman in me sought ways to express and get out…I always made excuses for it, but at times I would secretly admit or rationalize that it would help me get in touch with my feminine side…right? I was deluding myself…but I let it go one for years.
Fast forward to this summer. In July, I began to realize and put name to the dysphoria I suffered from, and I finally came out while being interviewed as being nonbinary, because I was too big a chicken to admit the next step. However, that would quickly change as I became friends with more and more transwomen online. I began to realize how much my childhood mirrored theirs, and that in many ways I still felt the same way. In addition, I was amazed at how easily I was accepted by them, and that also prompted deeper thought on my part. Girls have an ability to sense fakes and chasers, but that never came up once with me. I admit, I did use my daughter to get close initially, but why was I sharing about my past? Why explore it with others? In short, because I already knew the truth, but was looking for someone to tell me I was wrong, that I was a fraud…but it never happened because I am not, I am transgender. They knew it, and deep down so did I.
Men don’t start a twitter as a woman to explore their feminine side. Men don’t pick a female name that they would use if they were to transition…because men don’t think about transitioning…men don’t think about what their “girl” name is.
The funny thing is that once I admitted to others that I was “nonbinary” I began to take my mind further, and that’s when I realized that I had never really been happy, and that I really wanted to go on HRT, that I needed to know how it would make me feel. I still say that, and use it to qualify that I need to know before I can commit to transition. In reality, I can admit that I want to transition,that I think I need to, and that HRT will make me feel whole…because if it doesn’t then I don’t know what I will do.
My life has been driven by one thing…FEAR! Fear of being found out, fear of failing, fear of stepping wrong, fear of not being loved by those I loved, but I can’t let it rule me any longer. I have to own it and move forward. I harbor no illusions about how tough this will be for me and those I love, but it is the right thing to do. I almost feel a biological need to move forward, to be the real me.
I begin gender therapy next week, and at times feel like a little girl waiting for Christmas. When the therapist used my female name in her reply email, my heart skipped a beat…it just felt right, and so I’m pretty sure just based off of that I have chosen the right one. I’m hoping when we sit down to talk that I can leave the male in the lobby, and let Allie do the talking. It would be a first for me, I do it online all the time, but face to face…that has yet to happen. While nervous, I look forward to speaking as myself…even if my body, face, and voice are nowhere near where I want them to be yet, it doesn’t mean that my mind and soul are any less female. After all, who you are is dictated by what is on the inside, and not on the outside.