I’d like to start by apologizing to everyone up front for the fact that I’ve been even more socially absent and inept than usual this year (which I know is saying rather a lot). I’ve had a lot of chaos going on in my head, noise that dates back in one form or another to when I was four years old. I’ve faced a lot of ideas and emotions that were new to me and have had to re-conceptualize events from my past and my identity as a whole.
So, here’s the thing. I have come to realize over this last year that I’ve been dealing with gender dysphoria for almost my entire life – though I was very conscious of the symptoms, I never recognized the cause for what it was. I’ve been seeing a therapist for most of this year to try to work through what those dysphoric feelings mean for me, and what I might possibly do about it.
But I think the time has come to open up to you lovely folk as the next step for moving forward toward resolution of some sort. I can’t keep all of these thoughts and emotions up in my head forever without admitting that they’re a core part of who I am, without giving my friends and community I chance to get to know this aspect of me – and to help me figure this aspect of myself out.
I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a faux question-and-answer guide I call So What’s Up With That, Huh? Hopefully this will answer at least some of your questions, though I’m happy to answer any others you have to the best of my ability!
Gender dysphoria, huh? What’s that like for you?
That’s not an easy question to answer, since for so long much of what I now recognize as gender dysphoria was hard to pin down.
As with a great many people who suffer from gender dysphoria, the saying “I feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body” is completely inaccurate. I can’t say I know what it feels like to be a woman. Of course I don’t – certainly not what it feels like to be a ciswoman, and I never will. I’ll never know what it feels like to grow up as a girl in our society, I’ll never know what it feels like to have a period, I’ll never know what it feels like to be pregnant or give birth (among plenty of other experiences I can’t ever have).
But I do know what it feels like to be me. I know what it feels like to feel like society has you all wrong. To feel like I have myself all wrong. I know what it feels like to realize that not only are you uncomfortable with society’s expectations of how you’re supposed to act, to be, as your assigned gender – but to realize you don’t want to act or to be that way. (I suspect that point is one many, many people reading these words can probably relate to in their own way.)
I know how it feels to have never, not once since hitting puberty (that’s seriously not hyperbole) liked the way your body looks or feels, to have never liked what you see in the mirror. I know what it feels like to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, to feel out-of-step with the world and to feel unable to grab your place in it. I know what it feels like to “make your way through the world with mincing steps,” as my wife ever-so-accurately put it. I know what it feels like to experience crippling shame just for the way you’re thinking or feeling, just for being the way you are, for being who you are.
I know what it feels like to realize that the way you see yourself doesn’t line up with the way literally everyone else sees you, and to recognize that there’s no way to reconcile the two without serious pain and upheaval to somebody.
That’s what I know. That’s all I can know. That’s dysphoria for me.
When did you figure this out?
I’ve known forever – I can trace my first feelings of being the “wrong” gender back to when I was four years old –- but I didn’t truly recognize those feelings as full-on gender dysphoria until earlier this year. I knew I felt like I was different from all of my male friends for all those years, but I always assumed I was just weird had a clothing fetish. Turns out: nope, that actually wasn’t it at all.
I started having serious anxiety in January at Arisia, where I was surrounded by people feeling free and happy to be themselves (or to be who- or whatever they wanted to be) in a way I’ve never allowed myself. That anxiety persisted for weeks after, and I kept telling myself that, well, whatever was up with me, at least I wasn’t transgender, ha ha, right? (I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but c’mon, it’s just not me.)
Until one night, I asked myself the question: …are you sure about that?
And pretty quickly thereafter I realized: well, shit – just maybe I am.
Once I opened myself up to that possibility, so many things from the last 40 years of my life started to make so much more sense. I think once a thought like that kicks the door open and makes its way into your brainmeats, then if that thought has validity, that’s a door that’s not going to be closed. Acknowledging that possibility I had denied to myself for a long time led to therapy, and more questions, and more confusion, and more pain and angst, and then eventually to clarity and acceptance.
How’s your luminous wife taking this news?
Well, that’s ultimately for her to say, of course. I know that it’s been tough on her, especially when I first told her what I was figuring out about myself. She had a hard time early on reconciling the man she originally married with the…erm, not-man she’s married to now. I had to convince her that I hadn’t been lying to her about myself for seventeen years, that I legitimately didn’t know this to be true about myself.
She’s still working through her own stuff, but I will tell you that she’s been very supportive and loving (as you would expect if you know her) even if it’s hard for her to really understand what I’m going through, what with her being cisgender and all. She’s reaching out to people in similar circumstances, and I sincerely hope that will help even more.
How about the kids?
Still sort of TBD right now. The kids know their dad is gender non-normative (even if they’re unaware of that term) – they’ve seen me wear skirts and such plenty of times. But I haven’t had the “kids, your dad’s transgender” conversation yet. We’ve always raised them with an attitude of “you should feel comfortable being yourself.” We’ve told them repeatedly and emphatically that we will love them for who they are, regardless of who they love or how they present. I’m sure the girls will be fine; the boy might have a rougher time, but ultimately I think he’ll be OK, too, as long as I’m still willing to play video games with him.
(I’m not changing the sentences above, but I am pointing out to myself the irony of identifying my children there by biological sex. A thing to notice and work on.)
I’m sure all three kids will be embarrassed by me in public, but I also think that would probably be true regardless of my gender presentation. :)
You’re going to tell your family of origin, right?
HAAAA HA HA HAAHA HAHA AHH AHAAHA AHHAAHAHH HAHAHA.
falls to the floor laughing
can’t breathe from laughing so hard
Why are you telling us this now?
Honestly, because after having all of this in my head for most of this year, I need community here. I know that I’ve pulled back an awful lot this year from social engagements, and I’m truly sorry about that (especially to the people most directly impacted, and I suspect they know who they are). I haven’t been in the best head space for being social – it’s frankly disturbing how awkward and out-of-sync I feel in even the most basic social situations right now. I consistently feel like I don’t know how to be.
I need to feel like I can be me and be accepted. I need to be in the world as the me I want to be. I need other trans people (and I mean that in the big-umbrella sense of “trans”) I can talk to about their own experiences. In short, I need friends. I need you people.
Do you plan to transition to full-time womanhood?
I’m honestly not sure yet. I frequently think that I would like to, and sometimes I think that I’m fucking nuts for even considering it. But perhaps more importantly, I don’t yet know that I’m willing to – I don’t know that I’m strong or courageous enough, and I don’t know that I’m willing to put my family through the associated difficulties that would accompany my gender transition. At times I think it sounds wonderful and at times I think it sounds horrifying – and I suspect transition would actually encompass both of those qualities and a ton more.
At the very least, my coming out to you people is a precursor toward my possibly being able to present the way I’d like to in social settings, to be myself around people who will (I hope) accept me for who I am. I’d like to open that door, even if I don’t yet know if I’m going to step through it.
What should we call you? Should we use different pronouns with you?
This one’s a hard question to answer, to be honest, since I’m not intending a full transition just yet (if ever). I don’t know. Maybe with the pronouns? I think likely it would depend on context, but I don’t know that I’m there quite yet. We’ll see how things go, I suppose.
So that’s my news. That might be surprising news to some of you, but I strongly suspect that to a great many, it’s not surprising at all.