I was reading Kira’s latest post, Revision, and it got me to thinking. I was going to respond to her but this began to grow into something long enough deserving of its own spot on my blog.
I am often asked why did it take this long for me to face my gender dysphoria? And truth to tell, it was largely three things. First, when I was younger, I didn’t even have the words to adequately express how I felt. I was fascinated with “sex change” stories when I was young but I was given so much baloney, and believed it, that I could never see myself doing that. I obsessed over girl things but I was male and, much to my dismay, I had those male dangly bits to constantly remind me that I was physically male. It didn’t matter that I thought of myself as female inside. It didn’t matter that I’d adopted a female name for myself when younger. There was this huge psychological disconnect. Maybe I thought I’d “outgrow” whatever this was. Maybe I was afraid to face what it meant. I don’t know. I just know that at that time, I lacked the words to adequately convey how I felt about myself.
Second, because of my socialization, I had this burning desire to “become the man” I was expected to be. That same desire made enlisting in the army trivially easy as a decision. By that point, I had a wife, a baby on the way, and needed steady work, which in that part of the country in that decade was very hard to find. So there I was being offered a job that carried the “mystique” of being able to “cure” me of my strange longings.
And the third part was me overcoming that aspect of my socialization against queer people to accept and be comfortable with GLBT persons generally, which then allowed me to face myself honestly. Part of that socialization, in the coal mine and steel mill country of the 1960s and 1970s, also horridly mocked people who were “queer” (homosexual). I didn’t see myself as queer but the hints around the edges of society suggested that what I felt was even worse than being “queer”. I was terrified of being found out, mocked, isolated, physically assaulted, and all the rest that came with that.
It was when I was planning suicide and I stopped myself, realizing that I do not want to do this but I can’t live like this anymore that I finally realized that I needed help, more help than this proud and arrogant person would have admitted to needing ever before in my life.
I go back now and look at things and it’s not just me interpreting my past. It’s my therapist hearing these things and helping me see what was different about my past. Yes, I am interpreting that past through hindsight but I have tools and memes and vocabulary now to better express what I felt then, and still do today.
My greatest regret remains not putting these pieces together earlier in my life, that I might have spared certain persons their own self-induced anguish at the horror of being related to a trans woman. If I had known then what I know now, there would have been no striving to be “a man”, no baby, no wedding, no such obligations and all those who today are horrified at the mere thought that they might be related to a transwoman would be spared that self-induced fear and loathing.
However, facing this earlier would also remove so many wonderful and precious people from my life. Julie, Elizabeth, Fran and Kate, my daughter, and so many others as well. And so my regrets are not large. They are not consuming regrets. They are tiny ones in the overall scheme of things, an overall scheme with which I become happier with each passing day and more confident of myself.