There are different stages that a person goes through during a lifelong decision to transition. Each one is different, but some may be the same. These were mine.
Break it down now.
At a very early age, three or four for my earliest memories, I knew something wasn’t right. I just didn’t know what it was. I knew when I saw girls playing, I wanted to be part of their group, not the stupid boys running around hitting each other. Even in Kindergarten, we had a “dress up” house. My best friend, a girl who died while in kindergarten, was always my playmate. We would both be the mom, complete with whatever attire we could find to accomplish our look. We were Kindergarten Lesbians! Still, it felt right. I felt like this was the key to unlock the door to a further mystery.
I should also add that during this period of my life, I was constantly being told by girls that they were SO jealous of my long lashes. I would also overhear the occasional statement, “He should have been a girl. He’s so pretty.” I was never sure what to make of those comments, but I agreed with them. Our babysitter had two daughters that were slightly older than me. The day they said they wanted me to be their little sister for the day was the happiest day of my childhood, seriously. Not sure why they had a wig around. My memory could be slightly off, but it seemed something much nicer than you would find in a dress up set. The entire day, I was a girl. That is when it clicked. That is when I knew for certain that THIS was how I should have been born.
I also remember going to work with my mom….at our church. The pastor’s daughter had one of the Barbie heads with makeup (well, watercolor paints, but still). I would practice making her up and then I would hold the head up above mine so the long hair would cascade over mine. Sometimes I would hold it backwards so the long hair was in my face and I would practice brushing it out of the way. Nobody ever caught me, and I made sure to stay IN the playroom and listen closely for foot steps. At home, during bath time, I would lather my legs up and pretend to shave them with the washcloth (all arranged and folded to resemble a razor). All I knew of the action was that women shaved their legs and men shaved their face. I think I took the knowledge of watching dad shave and applied that to my mock shaving of the legs.
Like the U.S.S. Enterprise, I set out to explore strange worlds and new civilizations. Well, at least new worlds. In my late grade school years I would find time to try on girls clothes. A little rough at home since my mother was the only female around. I had a couple female friends and we’d dress up quite a bit. I also found a dress up chest at my cousins’ house. I remember one day getting dressed up and they wanted me to go downstairs and show everyone….was NOT going to happen. I changed quickly back to drab.
My mom wasn’t the epitome of fashion, but hidden deep within the three closets of clothes she couldn’t throw out was an amazingly cute skirt and vest. Now in junior high, I realized that I could come home from school, throw on some hose and the skirt and do my homework. Take it all off, go outside and play and nobody was the wiser. I also did WAY better on my homework while dressed….perhaps because I was totally and completely at ease and “right”. The hose, being a pair I snagged out of the waste basket and washed before ever wearing, were there for a reason….they had a big run in them. This had to be taken care of. It also led to my first first act of thievery. I had gone into a little five and dime place in town and managed to procure a pair of hose and a bra without being seen. I did not make a practice out of doing this, and made sure that I went back and gave them a LOT of business because I felt so guilty for stealing what probably amounted to $5.
Mom was not so much an Avon shopper as she was an Avon freebie snagger. She bought some stuff from Avon (I still have a Snoopy brush from way back when) but it was the little samples of lipstick, blush and eyeshadow that was stockpiled in the bathroom drawer that got my attention. I grabbed a couple shades of each and moved them to the darkest corner of my toy box. Always with just enough on top to hide them, but not enough that I couldn’t get to them when needed.
Let me back pedal a little here. In third grade I was moved from the public school system to a private christian school that was part of our church. The first play I was in, I was part of the chorus of singing lettuce in a Peter Rabbit play. The lettuce were donned in, basically, a green smock/dress and green tights. I had to go buy tights with my mom. It was another one of those days that felt perfectly right. I remember going to K-Mart (or possibly a store called Zayre that has long since vanished) and going through the girl’s section. My mom would pick some tights, open them (oh yes she did), hold them up to me and then move to the next pair. I suggested trying them on but she would have none of that. She looked nervously around each time she would try to size them up to me. People saw, but even then, they didn’t care. I still think I gave off that vibe back then. I recently looked at some old home movies and I was a VERY girlie little boy. The way I walked and ran. The only time I even slightly looked boyish in my activities were when I was copying whatever my brother was doing……even then, with a certain amount of flare and caution, just the right amount of both, I think. I remember trying to get mom to then wander around the girl’s section a little longer, but she was done. That was the first time I really wanted to say something to her. I wanted to let her know that she DID have a little girl, but something went wrong when I was born.
Back to the subject at hand and on to the next phase (next stage, next grade, next wave)<- anyone get the reference?
Around the time of late junior high and high school, I began to realize what I was. I was a crossdresser. That had to be it. Oh, let me add in that my voice dropped about 12 octaves overnight in 6th grade. I hated it. No muscle. No body hair. No other changes, but my voice. I cried when it happened. Anyway….. I had heard of crossdressing, through DONAHUE or something of the sort, so I looked it up. The dictionary didn’t give too good of a description, but one that seemed to be pretty spot on, as far as I knew. I dressed in the clothing of the opposite sex and I got a little satisfaction out of it. In the mirror, I saw a girl.
It was also at this time that I devised the perfect plan to get girl’s clothes for Christmas. We were always supposed to make a list of what we wanted and that would be a jumping off point for the budget mom had for presents. My plan was to say, “Let me close my eyes, flip open the catalog and point. Whatever I point to, just get me that. I don’t care what it is. I want to be surprised.” Then I practiced opening and pointing throughout the Sears catalog. I knew right where the dresses and shoes were. I knew where the toys were (I did want this to seem random and I still loved toys). This would work out tremendously. One small thing. My lack of nerve to go through with it. I just sat and looked at the catalog day after day, wishing I would turn into the models in the catalog. Still wishing I would wake up and everything would have been a dream and I would be my parents’ daughter.
I also heard a lot about the power of prayer. Pray long and hard (that sounds dirty) and your prayers will be answered. So I did. I would say prayers on such a regular basis that I probably made the most devout christian look like a backslider. But nothing happened. I prayed for the courage to tell my parents. Nothing. I prayed for this to all be a dream. Nothing. I prayed for an accident to happen where they would have to perform some operation that would end up with the easiest solution being making me a girl. Nothing. When I asked about the prayers not being answered (and I kept this very vague) I was told that the answer is sometimes no, so my prayers really were answered. WHAT A CROCK!!!!!?? I felt ripped off.
About this time, television shows were getting a little more cutting edge. Talk shows were having people on that were far beyond just dressing like the opposite sex, but rather really looking like females! No surgeries or anything like that. These were beautiful women with male voices. The talk shows would try to shed light, but I would find the hatred coming out of some of the audience members quite disturbing. not everyone, but some. There were also shows like REAL PEOPLE who would show drag bars (my first glimpse of THE QUEEN MARY) and would do a serious story and then ruin it by sort of mocking the people on the in between chatter of the show. The women at the Queen Mary were all boys and were all beautiful. This led to another realization….
I was finding myself more than a little turned on by the act of dressing now. I was a little older. Puberty had fully taken over. I realized that this was more than just wanting to wear the clothes, but didn’t fully understand the concept beyond the dressing and feeling rather euphoric. This phase lasted the longest, really. It would grow in intensity as I got older and had more freedom.
When I got my first car, the world opened up. The car led to a job and a job meant money. I remember my first makeup purchase. I worked at a grocery store and one day I went in on my day off to buy some foundation. I bought CoverGirl and picked a shade that was WAY too dark for my skin, but I wanted to make sure it covered everything. By this point I had the unwelcome addition of facial and body hair. Stupid puberty! I remember getting a little poked fun at in the checkout lane, but assured them it was for my mom.
This is where it got a little expensive. I would go out and buy clothes to keep hidden in the back of my closet. I bought hose, bras, shoes, and anything else I needed for the process. Don’t think for a minute this was easy. I was always shaking SO badly when paying for the stuff it was ridiculous. I would also go to the next town over to make sure I wasn’t spotted. This would work for a while and then I would purge everything I had. Purging is actually another phase, but I will just keep it here as a side mention. this went on over and over and over. Cheap wigs from K-Mart, bargain priced shoes and clothing, makeup. The guilt would move in and I would throw it all out, vowing never to buy it again, or to even think about it. Yeah, that didn’t work. It would last about two or three months and then I was back at it. Buying everything I just pitched. Then the cycle would repeat itself.
Finally, I realized it was getting so expensive, I should just hang on to the stuff, because I was going to go broke if not. This is also when I decided to take those first fateful steps out into the world, during the day. I had gone out at night, to the end of the driveway, in the dark, while mom and dad were away. I would run to the mailbox and run back. Heart racing. Not from the running, but because I made it into the world. I had gone outside the walls of the house. Back to the point. I would go out during the day, bad wigs and all, and try to filter in with everyone else. I know I didn’t. I’ve seen pictures I took from back then. I looked horrid, but I didn’t care. I was a girl and I was shopping. Or maybe just driving. Above all else, I was OUT! This is when the tide began to turn.
It was also during this time when I had the darkest time in my life. I blogged about it here, so I won’t re-hash it. Suffice it to say, I still get emotional when telling this story or even thinking about it, really. However, if every cloud truly has a silver lining, the lining of this was coming to terms with who I was. It was the last of the purging and the beginning of a long journey.. Was it a horrid event? Yes. Did it help make me stronger? Yes. Do I wish it had happened differently? Of course. Am I sorry it happened? Not really. It helped me move forward.
ACCEPTANCE AND DENIAL (rinse and repeat):
Although I had now truly discovered that it was BEING a woman that had always been eluding me, I still did not want to fully accept it. I was only truly happy when dressed and presenting as a female. This is not to say that I was a miserable soul the rest of the time, but the truest part of feeling happy and whole only came during these very small moments of being ME.
Even though I knew that I was transgendered, I didn’t fully comprehend where it would lead. There are, after all, several layers of the trans umbrella. I thought, maybe, I could just exist, dress whenever I could and that would be enough. It was for a while.
During this time I met my lovely wife and we had an amazing daughter. There was NO way I could even think about being as selfish as to rip a family apart for my own selfish goal. I hadn’t truly thought about full on transitioning, too much, but knew enough that I wouldn’t follow that path now.
As our daughter grew, we struggled with telling her. When to tell her. How…. The normal stuff, you know? Well, we raised her to be an awesome young woman and the time came to tell her. Tell her as much as we knew at the time.
Again, as I have blogged before, my wife and I came to the understanding that things were changing. Not between us, but within me. Since my wife and I are best friends, we were both willing to sacrifice our ultimate joy to put the other first. I was willing to go no further with my goals of transitioning. She was willing to have me go ahead with transitioning, even at the possible end of our marriage. She had told me that she would be my best friend, forever, and be my strongest supporter, but no longer be married to me. Two sacrifices. One journey. We knew where this was headed. We accepted it.
Following a couple amazing conversations with my wife, we realized this was going to happen. There really wasn’t anything that could be done to change that. My body was changing on its own. My mind. My actions and mannerisms. Everything about me was changing. Changing into something amazing and just a little bit frightening. I had fought this as long as I could. Forty-Two years in the making. Forty-Two years of burying the real me. Forty-Two years of trying to suppress what was really happening. There are those of you out there that say this is a choice. You are dead wrong. The amount of energy it takes to cover up something that “normal” society deems deviant and immoral, is draining. It attacks the very heart of you. Imagine living a full blown lie, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 42 years of our life. Sure there were the times when I would present of Jenn. Sure there were times as a child, where being a bit feminine was acceptable. None of those moments can begin to match the amount of strength and will, though misguided through guilt that was taught by the church and its school, needed to squash a true identity.
So here we are. I am Forty-Five years old and just now taking my first steps on the road that will change my life forever. I have been met with complete acceptance from friends, thus far. It is a road full of twists, turns and fog, clouding and obstructing the view ahead. With each turn and valley, I have no idea what lies ahead. I have no clue how each friend will react. I do not know if each encounter with a stranger will turn ugly. If each outing could end in a fight. So far, we have been met with total acceptance, as I stated above. This speaks volumes for the friends I have. I will admit, the deck has been stacked a bit in my favor up to this point. I told those who I knew were open minded. I do have some friends who may not be. My parents are not. At least my mother isn’t. That will be the biggest hurdle in this all. The possible loss of family. I can deal with the aunts and uncles that I know will fall away, but the loss of parents to anything other than (and including) death is a weight that grows with each step I take. I have decided to tell them only when it comes to that point. It could be as soon as they return from Florida in May. It could be a year from now. Possibly when the effect of hormones makes it impossible to hide. It may end up that they only find out as I sit by their grave, telling them everything as tears flow like waterfalls from my eyes. I do not think it will end as this last example. I feel that they need to know their true child. They need to know that Forty-Five years ago, the doctor was right. It just took a little while for his predictions of a daughter to come true.
Even though the pain of this life has made me wish I were dead, there were never any thoughts of suicide. I like myself WAY too much for that. It was more thoughts of wishing I hadn’t been born. At least not born this way. But I was. It’s part of who I am and it will be a huge part of who I am to become. These are MY steps along MY pathway. Others may share similar paths and similar stories, but no two journeys are alike. It is a lonely road, but one that need not be traveled alone.