Unlike the last couple of times, this feels more like a stop than a pause. This has been building for a while, and I finally reached the point where I had to fully confront the fundamental question for me: was I willing to give up everything for this transition?
My answer was no.
It didn’t matter that the answer was no because of the fears and self-doubts, real or imagined, about family, friends, work, acceptance, and rejection. Fear and self-doubt and can be confronted, ignored, embraced or pushed through. But they really don’t matter.
What matter are the truths. The truths about myself.
I’ve learned that transition is a funny thing. For many, myself included, fears and doubts rule the early part of transition: Will my family and friends reject me? What will I do if I get outed when I’m not ready? How in the world will I ever fit in? Will anyone ever love me for who I am? I’ll never be attractive. People will always wonder about my big feet.
These fears and doubts are corrosive. Worse, they are distractive from seeking the fundamental truths of self that are required for a successful transition. They’re decoys and ultimately irrelevant to discovering self-truth unless you see them as guideposts directing you towards the areas you need to confront.
Often, I’ve had to look at others’ guideposts to discover my own. I’ve been to group meetings, met for lunch one on one, traded email, talked on the phone, Tweeted, and blogged over the better part of a year now in an effort to meet other people like me in order to expand my circle of friends and learn and share.
It sounds clichéd, but what I’ve learned is that we’re an incredibly diverse bunch. From teenagers to septuagenarians, artists to truck drivers to doctors to students to unemployed, rich to poor, well-adjusted to mentally ill, happy to angry to sad, we’re all just people trying to find our way forward with something that ranges from something celebrated to something that is shamed.
Across all the boundaries that unite and divide us simultaneously, I’ve learned that there is something we share that slices through the external and self categorizations that our community so often squabbles over.
We all need change. It’s not optional.
This change expresses itself differently for all, but it’s there nonetheless. From those that push on society to change, to those that chemically or surgically change themselves, to those that change their clothes, it’s really all the same.
We’re uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with ourselves, our bodies, how the world sees us. The discomfort ranges from soul-crushing pain to gentle annoyance, but no matter what, any amount becomes agony and torture when there is no end in sight or the end seems too far away.
So we change to be more comfortable. We have to. We. Have. To.
We’re not role-playing. It’s not a hobby that can be set down and returned to or not. It’s intrinsic, and the discomfort doesn’t go away until we change.
That was first truth I found.
But changing can be hard. It’s been hard for me. A little change? A big change? This is where I’ve foundered and flopped about on now for months.
I wanted my relationships to family not change, but they have in big and little ways, positive and negative. I worked to understand privilege changes I might experience with transition. I came out to close friends who I’ve hid this part of me from for years and years. I started HRT. I grew my hair out. I incorporated more women’s clothing into my daily wardrobe.
For all intents and purposes, I’ve been in transition, a big change.
As I’ve contemplated the biggest change – transitioning from being seen as male to female – I’ve had no clear answer until now.
As I’ve talked to people, read their stories, and surveyed the academic literature, I kept tripping over a truth. The truth is that those that successfully transition male to female are female or female enough to live that life. It’s really quite simple, but it’s what I’ve always butted up against.
My personal truth is that while I have strong affinity and desire to be female, I don’t intrinsically believe myself to be female. At least not yet, because I believe myself to be somewhere in between.
This has been the second truth I’ve found.
The third truth is that I am either unwilling or unable to give up everything to affect the feminine. No matter how much I want it, no matter how much I’ve liked what the hormones have done for me physically or emotionally, I can’t let go of what I do have for what I could have.
This is now the second time I’ve come to this point in my life – the brink of transition and then stepped back.
And now…and now…I don’t know.
I am unwilling to go back to where I was. I am unable to go to where I’d like to go. It’s time for a new map and a new compass.
I do not and will not regret the HRT experience, even if it ends up destroying my marriage, which it looks like it still might. I had to learn if it was the right thing for me.
But if you’re reading this and are married, especially with children, I’d caution you to answer either of these two questions in the affirmative before starting HRT: are you really a woman or are you willing to give up everything to be seen as a woman by the rest of the world?
If your answer isn’t yes to either of those questions, put down the pills and seek solace elsewhere.
To those that have reached out to me over the past year – thank you, thank you, thank you. You have helped me in some of the darkest hours of my life. Your support has been humbling and inspirational, and I will be forever grateful for your compassion and I stand ready to assist you when I and where I can.
To those that I have seen break out of their cocoons and move forward to live the lives of the women you are – you rock! I’ve seen how hard it has been for you and I’m deeply moved at your resilience and determination to find yourselves. You’re strong women, and I have immense respect for you.
To those just beginning their journey – safe travels and may you find what you are seeking.
Now, I close this chapter and begin a new one. My story is not yet at an end, but at a new beginning.
I’m changing again and I can hardly wait to find out how.