Since I was about seven or eight years old, I knew that I was not like other boys; I couldn’t throw “like a boy,” I cried easily; I wasn’t competitive. I knew deep down that I didn’t fit the “boy” pattern no matter how much I tried. Much as I wanted to please my dad, I couldn’t see well enough to catch a ball, much less hit one tossed by a pitcher. You can guess that my list goes on and on.< But far beyond that, by the time that adolescence rolled around I knew in my heart of hearts that I was a girl.
I didn’t have the courage to come out and say it. In my family, you didn’t come out and say even mildly provocative things; the price would have been too high. But to be fair to my folks, back in those days people didn’t have terms like transgender. There weren’t psychologists or psychiatrists who counseled trans people. As the saying went, if I wanted to see a person who looked like me, I had to look in the mirror.
Gradually I developed a methodology: I could keep my “girl” thinking and feeling to myself and live and act as a boy and eventually a man as best I could. Knowing I was really female was both my deepest, darkest secret, but also the organizing principle of my life. Fortunately, as a budding musician, I did have an outlet in which expressing of emotions was not only allowed, but encouraged, but expressing emotion wasn’t allowed anywhere else in my life.
This way of living worked reasonably well for years, but it still had to be kept under wraps even as I married and became a father of four terrific children—three of them now parents in their own right. Although my first marriage failed, it was not due to trans issues, but to fundamental incompatibility. My second wife is the love of my life.
She was the first person I told about being a woman inside.
And that was long before we got married; back then she asked if I wanted to have “the operation.” I said that I could and would live as a man with a woman’s mind. No I didn’t expect ever to have Gender Reassignment Surgery, as it’s called. Our marriage lasted for 14 years, until I could no longer sustain the balance of thinking like a woman, but living as a man.
If I was going to live it would have to be as the woman I truly was. Bluntly, it was a question of living or not living; it was that dire a crisis for me: life or death. My wife called it “a deal breaker” and said she couldn’t be married to a woman. I didn’t like her answer, but I could see her point.
It was a devastating blow from which I’m still recovering. So starting in 2007, I began living as a woman. I lost my marriage, I lost my two part-time jobs, several “friends” dumped me. Happily, most of my family did eventually come around. It was a difficult transition that lasted for the next couple of years.
So in my own way I followed the inner dictates of my conscience, trying as best I could to be true to myself—my reward? I was ostracized as many of the biblical figures had been. Is it any wonder that I feel close to them and their stories of being unable to stifle the impulse to be true to that inner prompting, telling them, “this is the way you must go?” It’s not because my transition was particularly special, it wasn’t except to me and my circle of family and friends.
It’s because like any transition it has elements that mirror what our Biblical forefathers and foremothers had to contend with.
Even though their events took place 2500 or more years ago, there are still lessons we can draw from them. We may all have heard the message being given to young LGB people these days, “It gets better.” Well, hooray and hallelujah. For us trans folks I’d amend that slogan slightly to say, “You’ll get stronger.”
Trans people have to contend with the fact that our very presence traduces one of society’s almost iron-clad norms: boys on one side, girls on the other. And there’s nothing, nothing that is, as far as many people’s thinking goes, anywhere in the middle.
Nor is it possible to make that long jump form one side to the other. Trans folks get reminded of this every day of our lives. Sad to say, some of the “distancing” I’ve experienced has been from some former gay friends. Even in our own communities we have difficulty gaining acceptance.
By far, the most important lesson we can learn is that we are not alone.
I don’t know where you are on your faith journey or if you’d call yours a faith journey at all, but in my case there were people out there who wanted me to succeed and to be happy in my new life. If you look you will also find people who want you to be happy and successful too.
You don’t have to tell me that sometimes they’re a little hard to find, but believe me, they’re there. I see this as a way of understanding that God is with me. And God is with you.
Photo via flickr user martinak15