The thing about being trans and not knowing it is that I constantly felt to some degree or another like I was in a play. I felt like an actor, trying on a part or wearing a costume and that one wrong move or one wrong line and everyone is going to see through the act. And no matter what I did to try and fix this feeling it persisted.
This has been my experience for decades.
Even when someone told me what trans was, I wasn’t sure. It fit It fit too well. How could something this simple be right there in front of me. It was too easy. So I rejected it the first time I heard it. I chalked it up to trying to be part of a crowd, looking too hard for something. I kept looking for reasons that this wasn’t what was happening. I hunted down research articles about PCOS (poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome) thinking perhaps that I had been pickled by too much testosterone while going through puberty. (Note this isn’t the case, there is a correlation between PCOS and Trans men, but not a causation, so yes there is a number but not all and there is no way literature on why. the stats are roughly 25-35%).
So in an effort not think about what was happening I really tried to up my acting. I went deeper into the costume closet. Grew my hair out, started wearing really feminine things and really tried to extol the glories of the binary. I started hating any signs of masculinity within myself and I kept trying to force this idea of femininity.
This is what happens when we’re stuck within a binary. I couldn’t see a way out. I couldn’t find a way to adjust my world view to incorporate anything beyond the binary.
The problem, the really big, epic huge issue with acting out this role is that you cannot handle anything else. There is no such thing as future planning. There’s no such thing as goals. Oh sure you can have them. I had tonnes of dreams. I had epic dreams I’d day dream through for weeks before shelving them for something else. I went to college and I got a job. and I did things I thought I supposed to do. But if anything happened the threw off my routine, or upset my planning I couldn’t cope.
I had no coping mechanisms left because I was using them all to keep the act going. So anytime I showed that I could handle things to my professors I would worry that they’d figure out I was a really a fraud so I would subconsiously and sometimes consciously fuck something else up to show that I was truly a fuck up don’t put any hopes in me.
I’d skip class because I’d be too stressed to handle the class, and then I’d get more stressed because I was skipping classes. I couldn’t handle financial things, or phone calls, because I couldn’t make decisions in the long-term. What is this planning for the future? I can’t see beyond tomorrow and you want me to plan for six months from now? Fuck that shit.
My brother asked my mom once why I seemed to scared of everything. She couldn’t answer. But it’s always been this weird thing. I’ve watched cousins, younger family members, surpass me. I couldn’t move out, I was stuck and there was always an excuse. I’d plan to move out but just before I really had to make the decision something would come along, and the plans would get shoved under the rug. I fell into most of my jobs, either through luck of family (first and second job I had interviews foisted upon me by a family friend, and then an aunt) or friends pushing things at me (third job my friend sent me the online application and talked to me on the phone until I filled it out).
Literally I went into becoming an LPN because my best friend at the time yelled at me to fill out the application. I would not have done it otherwise. I spent months panicking that my funding would be taken away and I nearly fucked that up by missing a couple of classes near the end of the first semester.
This was the first time I fought back and pushed to prove I knew material but seriously I spent two hours in a counselors office sobbing because I had no ability to cope outside of the routinized functions I’d given myself.
I applied to the hospital I received most of my training from full of intention that this was going to change my life. And then proceeded to nearly give myself an ulcer with worry about fucking up. Even when I became an LPN I had several barriers and things that prevented so much. I couldn’t accept shifts that were sprung too quickly on me. I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t handle that. I had trouble paying off my debts because I wasn’t getting enough shifts.
When I took onus and got a second job I ended up fucking up my taxes the following year. And as a result I received letters from loans that stated my income tax would be garnered and that I had to start making payments.
The anxiety continued to build, and the role became harder and harder to play. I got a temp spot at work, I worried about losing it. I received a permanent part time spot. I panicked about losing that. And so on and so forth. I continued to do things that had to be done because they fell into my lap but any deviation from my original routine would potentially upset the entire apple cart.
I withdrew from friends and family and started hiding online again. I started day dreaming again. Dreams and plots of being kidnapped and having my transition either magically or surgically foisted upon me. I couldn’t be held responsible for that decision if it happened to me, and people would be must more accepting of such things if I hadn’t sought it out myself. Like really, this is the level of my denial. This holding pattern of days dreams, and writing with a couple of friends online. Hiding on tumblr and worrying day in day out that I was a fraud, a fake.
My cousin called to tell me she was getting married. I was so happy for her, and I knew what question she was going to ask. I’d been prepared for that moment since our early twenties. So of course I accepted and was all set to be her Maid of Honour. Now before this happy announcement I had been promised that I would be dressed in an alternate colour to any other brides maids, that colour being black, the accent pink. At this point int he game, she had decided to change her mind. This was entirely in her purview, but now I was expected to not only wear a dress but to wear pink. A Maid of Honour, in pink.
Alarm bells went off in my head so loudly I thought everyone could hear them. I was going through absolute hell at the same time because of really bad periods that were lasting in excess of three and four weeks. I started birth control thinking this would help. None of it did and masked any and all symptoms of what I was really hiding.
I continued to freak out. I had to start a course that was mandated to take as part of getting my part time spot. My dad was diagnosed with lymphoma at this time, and I was still going through panic regarding my cousins wedding. So I chopped off 13 inches of hair and dyed it red to avoid wearing pink on my cousins wedding day. This work splendidly, and I did have a really good time and I was able to enjoy her wedding. But I was still taking Birth control and it was still doing massively rotten things to me.
On News years of 2015 I was curled up watching movies with my dad all the while dealing with a shit tonne of anxiety and it at least centered around the whole, “I’m not a woman, I don’t want to be a woman, this is not what I want at all.” Most things that caused anxiety and panic were the result of unrecognized and unacknowledged dysphoria.
I didn’t realize this for what it was. I assumed that this was once again my January “I’m supposed to hate my weight so this is all weight and appearance related” freak out. I got a membership to the gym and started exercising. It helped with the anxiety. It really helped with a lot of things. I was feeling better about myself; I was feeling better in my body. But when I started feeling better and started acting more authentically and started being more assertive, those around me took it as aggressive and fought back.
There was an incident of potential bullying at work and I started freaking out and my boss seemed to have it out for me. The whole thing was totally fucked up, and cleared up by some really good coworkers who had my back.
But this is what happens, again I was still in the middle of the act. And what are women not allowed to do? If they’re too assertive they’re bossy, if they’re too shy, they’re welcome mats. It became harder and harder to play this role, and while reading and exercise were helping they weren’t enough.
Then I started writing. I was pouring all of myself into this fic and I loved it so very much. But something kept bothering me about it until someone mentioned what I was writing was really transphobic. I absolutely panicked. How could I write something transphobic when I was trans?
Let me tell you the answer. REALLY FUCKING EASILY.
When you are constantly inundated by media and society that is transphobic you pick up on those cues and internalize them. This is why it’s so fucking hard to come out to even yourself.
I tried to come out when I was 28. I came out to three people and said ‘no this is enough I’m never doing anymore and since I’m not transitioning so I don’t need to go further.’ That was enough for a while. But then when faced with this question of you do realize this fic has some real transphobic rhetoric, I had a crisis of identity and for a weekend I freaked out with the “How can I fix this? Can I write a trans character? Wait I’m trans. Am I trans enough? Will I get caught? Is this just another role? Am I just trying to fit in again?”
Yes this was my thinking. This was my fucked up thinking at this point. And I wrote a panicked thing on tumblr about coming out again and then decided on writing this story with a main character who was trans. Well suddenly his narrative made sense and as I started writing his experiences things fell into place. At the same I met someone who’s become my very best friend. I’m so so so grateful to have met her.
I identified to her as male with they/them then he/him pronouns. She was the first stranger I came out to. Ever. There’s an anonymity of coming out on tumblr/livejournal, and a safety to coming out in a post because you’re not speaking with someone one on one.
Her support has been invaluable. She has always been the first and biggest champion I’ve ever had. And she has a habit of asking the big questions. She also helps edits my writing so she’s really good with the big questions. She’s the first person to ask the question why I hadn’t moved out. She asked what was stopping me. And even as I was listing all the reasons why, I knew they were excuses. I never felt put down or that I was being judged. But when you a friend that is so no holds barred supportive there’s a certain need to live up to their ideals perhaps? You want to become better for them. Then you realize you’re becoming better for yourself, they just happened to know the right combination to help unlock the potential.
With her and other friends I was making around the time I could put the costume away. I no longer had to hide who I was internally. So after a few weeks, little better than a month knowing her I made a rather sudden decision to tell her that I’m thinking about telling my DR I wanted to start medically transitioning. I’d never let myself consider that step. It was terrifying to consider because that would mean coming out or moving. But the more I was writing this story, the more that I was talking to her and to others and they were using my pronouns… the more it felt right. The act was falling away in bits and pieces. Not all of it, and the dichotomy between my online life and my real one were closing in until it hit a head with Caitlyn Jenner coming out and my mother misgendering her several times in one conversation. I was getting angrier and angier each time it happened.
I’m staring at my mother while she asks me again why I’m reacting to a simple thing the way I am. If there’s something wrong and why can’t she help me. I now had a choice, hide in the closet, open the schism between her and I more and make life immeasurably harder to bear, or bite the bullet and come out.
So, accidentally and with no intention I came out. There was no yelling, there was no screaming, and things seemed to be going very well and I wasn’t kicked out and the world didn’t end. A weight fell off my shoulders that I had no idea was there, and I slept better than I had in a while and even when I woke up I was shakey and things were really odd for a bit.
I had to come out again, and it took a while to really help mom and dad understand what was happening, and what I needed from this. I found a support group nearby and I found even more supports. Slowly I came out to friends. With each coming out I felt a bit more myself. I was taking off the mask. Removing the costume.
Let me tell you right now, each time I came out it was terrifying. I faced the possibility of rejection and pain at every turn and I was in a state about coming out at work. But the more I came out the less I could stay hidden. The more I felt like I was lying to others.
Obviously this was not the case. Not coming out is not lying. You are, and never will be obligated to tell anyone your gender or sexual orientation. That is not something owed to people. Media will have you believe that coming out is done all at once and happens in a big and glorious display of rainbows.
It’s not. It’s a piecemeal thing that happens in dribs and drabs. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there are a lot of questions, but there’s acceptance. I was very fortunate to have a very good support system and very supportive friends. I’ve had a very supportive work and while my parents have been odd, they’ve never been cruel or withheld or forced anything upon me and are now coming around to everything better.
Since I’ve come out, I’ve handled my finances, made medical decisions easily, faced things with little or no anxiety. I’ve handled routine upset much easier than I’ve ever been able to handle it in the past.
I’ve moved out. I’m living on my own and I’m able to handle the stress that comes with that. I’m handling my financials properly. I’m planning for the future because I can finally see one. This isn’t a hundred percent and I have good days and bad days. But I can recognize them for what they are. I can see what the dysphoria is doing and I can handle that by talking to good friends, writing, hanging out or working out.
I’m not dependent on one thing anymore. I’m able to do handle my life because it is mine now. I’m in control. Not my fear. Not my need for acceptance. Would I like to be accepted? Who the fuck wouldn’t? But I’m at the point now that I’ve made the decision that being me on my terms is more important than being the me other people assume I should be.
I’m three appointments finished with my mandatory gender therapist and he’s writing my letter of recommendation now. With luck I should see the rough draft at my next appt and have the letter a week following. This means that unless my blood work or something indicates anything untoward. I should be able to get started on testosterone as early as September, as late as mid 2017.
I’m really hoping for September. I’m making plans for mid 2017, and I have an appt with my family dr to discuss hormone blockers in the meantime to help the process along. I’m no longer a passive participant in my life.
And while yes, this was in my control the entire time, I have to credit my best friend. Because of her and her unwavering support and trust that I could not only do better, but be better. I’m a better man because of it.
At my last appt with my therapist I tried to explain the pain that misgendering causes me, and the condition I was in before I came out. And while I had the beginnings of this, the light came on when I came home and found a comic on my facebook. It’s created by this lovely young woman, Sophie @ assignedmale.com
I know this has been a long one, but thanks for reading. 😀