To My Friends
I’m sorry that I disappeared for several months. It certainly wasn’t my plan to do so, but I dove headfirst into Lake Denial and swam hard toward the bottom. I’m finally working my way back to the surface now.
More than that, I’m sorry that I’ve kept myself walled off for so long from so many of you. From almost all of you, really. This feeling that I always had a Deep Dark Secret made it hard to really let people in because I was afraid of revealing the Real Me, afraid of having my friends judge me as harshly or think as little of me as I did myself.
But those times I did show parts of myself (so to speak), you were nothing but supportive and encouraging, and I appreciated it. I value so many of you so highly, whether or not I’ve let you know either through my words or my actions. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more of a chance to be awesome!
To My Father
I have a world of regret when it comes to you, Dad. You’ve been unwittingly responsible for so much of the shame and self-hatred I’ve long felt, but I can’t entirely blame you – you were very much a product of your own upbringing. I could speculate that part of the reason you feel such anger toward people not like yourself is because you yourself had differences you felt forced to hide from others, but yes, pure speculation.
I’m sorry that the person you seem to have wanted or expected me to be isn’t the person I am – not only am I not that person, I don’t want to be that person. I know you say that you’re proud who I am, but I also know that’s because I’ve carefully curated the version of me that you see. If you knew the real me, you wouldn’t be so proud; the level of disgust and venom you directed at Caitlyn Jenner while talking to my wife made your feelings about transgender people very, very clear.
Perhaps things would be different with your own child. Perhaps. I don’t know that we’ll ever find out.
More than anything else, I’m sorry that you are so filled with hatred for people who aren’t like yourself. As I said, I understand where it comes from, but understanding and forgiveness are totally different things. Your attitudes and your anger and your ignorance block you from knowing who your child really is, and you don’t even realize it.
You know the funny thing? You were hoping I was going to be a girl. You’ve told me you were ever-so-briefly disappointed when I popped out with an outie instead of an innie. And yet if I told you now that just maybe you shouldn’t have been disappointed after all…?
To My Mother
Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t come to these realizations about myself sooner. I think you would have been understanding and loving (after some time to adjust, anyway). You were much more inclined to let me be myself, to express myself in the ways that I wanted, but neither you nor I were able to stand up in the face of my father’s disgust.
I kept you at arm’s length (or worse) for the last twenty-five years of your life, mainly to protect my own emotions. I don’t honestly know if I would ever have revealed my gender dysphoria to you or not; I suspect probably I wouldn’t have, given the fraught and distant state of our relationship. But I’m sorry for my part in that, too.
To My Children
I’m sorry that up to now I haven’t been a better role model to you. All of your lives, I’ve said to you: “You can be whatever you want, whoever you feel you truly are on the inside. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t hide. Be yourself, no matter who that is – we will love you no matter what.”
Yet I haven’t lived that advice myself. I freely admit I have a terrible tendency to be kinder, more encouraging and more understanding to others than I ever am to myself. Despite the words I’ve said to you over and over again, I’ve let the deep, intense shame and fear I’ve always felt keep me from being myself.
I’ve always wanted better for all three of you than I’ve had. And I still do. But now I also want better for me.
I’m sorry for the ways my identity, my appearance and my choices will affect you and your lives. All three of you have been nothing but supportive of me, and I regret that I might make things socially awkward or unpleasant for you. It’s certainly not my intention, of course, and you know I’ll do anything I can to make things easier. And I truly hope that if I’m happier with myself, that will improve my relationships with each of you.
To my biggest: I know that you’ve questioned your own identity plenty, and I hope we’ve given you the support you needed to figure yourself out. You seem happy in who you are now, and I like to hope that the freedom to explore and express yourself the way you saw fit was what allowed you to come to it, at least in part. You’re such a fantastic kid who’s growing into herself and her potential more and more all the time.
To my middlest: You’ve never needed to figure yourself out; you’ve been resolutely you since birth. But I’m glad that you have the courage to fearlessly be yourself regardless of the opinions of others – if I could bottle your self-confidence and send it back in time to myself when I was the age you are now, things might be substantially different. (Which means, of course, that I wouldn’t actually do that because that would mean I wouldn’t have my family…so never mind, I suppose.)
To my littlest: You’re still young enough that it’s hard to say, really, how my choices might affect you or your own future search for identity. But I know that you know that I love you, and that will always be true, and I will never not play video games with you, so I feel like we’re good.
To My Younger Self
Oh, Younger Me. I’m so sorry that I gave in to shame and self-hatred. I’m sorry that I listened to the people that mocked or belittled you, that I believed the things they said, that I agreed with their laughter – and I’m sorry I gave them power over you that would last for decades.
I’m so, so sorry I didn’t give you the nurturing, the caring, the understanding that you so badly needed and couldn’t get from anyone else. I’m sorry I just didn’t know how to do that.
Younger Me, If I could go back and treat you the way I strive to treat my own children, I’d do such a better job with you. If I could tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you, that you’re not the only kid ever to feel the way you do, that there’s a reason why you feel different… if I could love you, and comfort you, and console you, and listen to you, I’d do all of that in a heartbeat.
Of course I can’t do that for you, Younger Me. But I can try to do better by Present Me and Future Me.
To My Wife, My Best Friend
Sweetheart, you deserve the most apologies by far. I’ll do the best I can here, but I suspect I’ll be finding more things to say “I’m sorry” for on a regular basis for a long time.
I’m sorry that I didn’t know sooner what I really am because I know it feels like I lied to you for a long time. Though if I had known when we met, and had told you then, it’s possible we wouldn’t now have the strong relationship we do, and the three amazing children and the wonderful life.
I’m sorry that I didn’t know sooner what I really am because it means I’ve kept that knowledge from you for so long, even if it was unintentional. I haven’t been in touch with the deepest parts of myself until now and therefore couldn’t share those parts with you.
I’m sorry that my issues are targeted so damn close to your own buttons and that I’ve been inadvertently pressing them for the last year. I hate knowing that anything I’ve done or will do causes you pain.
I’m sorry for my silence. I thought not telling you details or exactly what I was feeling was protecting you because I knew how much it bothered you, but I see now it only made things even harder for you. I should know better by now, because communication has always been one of the bedrocks of our relationship. I will strive to do better, to BE better.
I’m sorry for not having more faith in your immense strength. You’ve been through worse than this and come back stronger, and I would do well to remember that. Even though things are difficult now, I know that you – that we – will weather the storm. I expect we will both find ourselves changed, hopefully for the good.
I love you, my lobster.
Maybe, Dear Reader, you’ve noticed what I have not apologized for, and what I have no intention of apologizing for: I’m not sorry for who I am. Not anymore.
I’m a person who has spent most of her life feeling out of sorts with herself. I’m a person whose internal sense of herself increasingly doesn’t match her external presentation. I’m a person who’s both excited and terrified of what that disconnect means going forward. I’m a person who’s finally, finally figuring out who she is. (I’m also a person who’s deliberately using feminine pronouns for herself for the first time.)
I’m transgender. And that’s not something I feel I should apologize for.