I try to live in a way that I have minimal regrets and, for the most part, I’ve succeeded. There’s no way to truly live regret-free and I’ve certainly wound up with a few that were pretty big, but I would have to say the biggest one is conning myself into thinking it was okay for me to postpone my transition for the sake of others. This isn’t a unique problem and, in fact, is extremely common among trans people as we seem to put the thoughts and feelings of others before our own personal needs. We worry what our parents might say – and for some, this could mean being kicked out of your home. We worry what our friends may say because we’re scared to lose relationships that we’ve spent time cultivating. We’re afraid to tell our children as to lose the love of a child is heartbreaking. And, we’re afraid to tell our spouses/partners because we’re afraid they will leave us.
Nothing in life worth having, though, is without its own risks and sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we must really wait to begin our transition for safety’s sake or for minors because their parents will not consent. However, there are still many ways in which we can try to express ourselves or try to initiate some aspects of a transition. Perhaps it is wearing undergarments that others cannot see, binding our chests, or other stealthy things that act as temporary Band-Aids until we can truly come out as ourselves.
In the last 15 years, I had two significant relationships, each for roughly 4 years. During the first relationship, I did not have the vocabulary to articulate what it was that I was feeling inside. In the early 2000s, there was very little visibility and the little that I had seen in TV/movies were typically MtF trans women who always seemed to be the villain or deranged or in some other way depicted negatively. I always tended to say I was a “male-identified lesbian” and most people simply assumed “bull-dyke” which really wasn’t the case. When I had tried to speak to the first relationship about this she told me that if she wanted to be with a man she wouldn’t have become a lesbian (yes, her words – not mine). She was previously married to a man before she “found her way” in lesbianism. I was, stupidly, more concerned with maintaining the relationship than trying to solve this thing I was feeling. Maybe I figured since I didn’t know what “it” was it couldn’t have been that important. I wasn’t completely clueless to the fact that “sex changes” and such existed but I really had no idea what transgender was or that gender was a spectrum. Our final time together got very rough and bumpy and, low and behold, she left to marry a man with whom I was friends.
“I knew that the perception of male that I was presenting was what I was going for…”
The second relationship seemed far more supportive, and I was introduced to the world of drag kings. I learned about applying facial hair, packing, binding, and everything else although I had no interest in actually performing. She really enjoyed when I would drag, and I always felt as if this was “kind of” right, but it seemed like an obscene amount of effort to put on a facade. I knew that the perception of male that I was presenting was what I was going for, I enjoyed how strangers responded to me as male, and I knew I was on to something but I also knew being a drag king wasn’t what I needed. It wasn’t until she and I were at a group discussion about labels that I mentioned the reason I always say I’m a “male-identified lesbian” is because I always see myself, in my mind’s eye, as a male and that when I come upon a mirror (especially after a shower) I’m always startled by the female image reflecting back. That’s when I heard it. DYSPHORIA.
From that moment on I dove into research. One thing led to the next and I scoured the internet for any resource I could find. While there had been information, it was lacking and very little of it from the United States, but I clamped on to every piece of information like a lifeline. I finally told my partner “I’m trans. I want to transition.” Her immediate response was that she didn’t want me to do it because she didn’t want to be perceived as straight among our friends. Our friends who knew me just as long as they’ve known her, and would be coming along my transition journey with us. It became a big area of contention with us. I kept putting it off – yes, for the sake of the relationship, but also because I thought it would be extremely expensive to get started since I was without insurance. I opted to discuss this with two people I thought were sound-minded friends to get a third-party perspective.
Before I could broach the subject with them, my partner already told them and gave them her own sob-story. By the time I got around to speaking with them, they were inclined against it. They were concerned that I hadn’t considered the surgical procedures, that I wasn’t taking my partner’s feelings into account, and that it was a forever kind of decision. I was livid and felt betrayed. It was my issue to discuss with them, and I felt that I was being manipulated into not doing something that was very important to me. That surgery wasn’t the end-all-be-all factor to being trans, and why wasn’t my partner considering my feelings in return? It really wasn’t long after that I found her cheating (and yes, a male was involved with this one too) and we had a disruptive breakup but it gave me the peace of mind to finally begin the process. I had no one in my life to be concerned about at this point.
“As I look down the road to having a few surgeries this year to progress further along, I am thankful for my process and my progress.”
I worried about my family but since I was in my mid-30’s, I was comfortable (and fed up) enough to say to anyone who questioned me now, “This is happening. I am not seeking your permission or approval. If you want to be a part of my life, you can as long as you understand this is me, and I’m not interested in hearing what you have to say about it.” So, as I just turned 38 I had officially been on HRT for 3 years. Although I’d always lived “like a man” for so many years prior it wasn’t until that first injection that I felt I really was doing what I needed, and that the pieces to a very frustrating puzzle were finally coming together. As I look down the road to having a few surgeries this year to progress further along, I am thankful for my process and my progress. I am glad that I have insurance now (even though I have to fight with them occasionally) and that I am networked with the medical care providers I need. I am thankful that the people who are in my life now realize this was the true me all along, and the new people in my life aren’t concerned about whom I once was. Despite my positive outlook now and for the future ahead, I cannot help but to look back sometimes and regret or resent waiting.
“They” always say things happen for a reason and perhaps I needed to be at this place in my life to have the strength I needed to start my process, but I still cannot help but to be mad at myself for allowing other people to dictate a decision that was so integral to my life. Ultimately, if they had loved me for whom I truly was as a person, you’d think that the body wouldn’t matter. Both times the reasons were so superficial that I cannot believe I accepted it and put off my own happiness. Ultimately, it’s not their fault – it’s my own. I didn’t take the stand I needed with either of them and that is, perhaps, my biggest regret. I suppose we will all have that moment of truth and the best thing I can say is – you need to make your own path and do whatever it is you need to do, and the people who are genuine will come along the journey with you.