This month something momentous occurred. After 32 years of struggle and suppression, I came out of the darkness and stepped into the light, and introduced my true self to the world. My journey was cataloged in a brief video I made, compressing my story into just under 9 minutes. Usually November is reserved for NaNoWriMo cheering, and I will continue to cheer from the sidelines. But here on the DreamAnvil I would like to go a little more in depth into my own journey. Each week we will look at one chapter in the video and talk about the story behind the story.
I first thought about quitting the blog back in 2012. The thought came and went with the seasons, “close the blog, you’re a fraud.” Back in 2014, when I was in the process of switching over to WordPress, I honestly thought I might just pull the plug, go dark, and fade into the ether of the internet. There I was, urging others to go after their dreams while actively suppressing my own. I still wanted to write, to share my stories, and to tell others how to share their own. Yet a part of my heart was under lock and key. A lifelong dream of my own was forced into hiding. I am transgender, but I felt like I could never embrace that forbidden side of me.
I can only remember fragments of memory from when I was small, like digging through my mother’s clothes in the basement. Lining up my stuffed animals in the crack between my bed and the wall, and praying to God to make me a girl. Based on my memories we think I was between three and five when I first became aware that I wanted to be a girl. At an early age, I learned that wanting to grow up and be like my mom or my sister was not something that good little boys wanted to do. The boundaries of the gender binary were taught to me through my classmate’s laughter. It was taught to me by bullies. It was taught to me by clergy, by family, by friends, by society in general. We are told that there is a certain way to be a guy or a girl. Yet, being a man was hard for me. Like a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small, it just didn’t fit well.
The first concrete memory of this intense societal pressure was in the fourth grade. We were outside in the dead of winter for a fire drill. As we waited to return to the warmth inside the school building, I overheard a conversation from some older boys who were nearby. They were talking about a sex change. My ears burned. Was it really possible? How do you do it? I wanted to know so much more. But I stayed silent. My curiosity squelched. I understood explicitly, by the fourth grade, that it was not acceptable for my desire to be spoken of aloud. To anyone.
That is how I lived most of my life. Silent. My desire to be a woman was deemed inappropriate by everyone around me, so I naturally thought that it must be bad. When my feelings didn’t go away I thought I was bad, that this was my fault. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because of the pressure to conform. On the outside I was a polite, quiet and artsy kid. On the inside, I was in almost constant terror of being found out, or being left behind. The minute anyone learned of my greatest shame, I was sure they would leave me. I didn’t even have a word for what was going on inside of me outside of sinner, pervert, or deviant. All I knew was that the feelings that had been inside of me since I was a child were somehow wrong. So, brick by brick I built my walls, no one could ever find out about the girl inside.
I was in the computer lab when I stumbled across a news article about a teacher who had decided to transition on the job. For years I searched for a name for whatever it was I was going through, and this seemed like it might be it. I looked up the word transgender, and my entire world shifted. I was a freshman at a very conservative Christian college trying to earn God’s pardon from these feelings. Surrounded by my peers, many of whom were openly disrespectful towards anything LGBT, I had my first panic attack. I didn’t just log off the computer in the lab, I restarted the whole thing and took off. I prayed that no one had seen what I was reading as I bolted out the door. The cold night air stung as I stood in the dark parking lot staring up at the starry sky. Why? Why was I like this? I tried to find any excuse that explained it away. It didn’t work. When I found out that I was transgender it just clicked. I had learned a truth about myself and the truth is very hard to deny. I knew immediately that I had found the definition that I had been looking for. I prayed for God to, once again, take it away. He, once again, politely refused. There was only silence and tears.
I have lived the majority of my life trying to prove to myself and to others that I really was a guy. As a child anything others deemed as “girly,” such as dancing, cooking, sewing, was rejected by my outer self. I pushed back where I thought I could, like my pursuits of the arts and running cross country instead of football. These little things did not help as puberty radically shifted my body away from an androgynous little boy. My Gender Dysphoria seemed to increase with each passing year. When my dysphoria was at its worst I wanted to rip the skin from my very bones, but usually it presented itself as a constant internal pressure. Think of it as having a really big project at work, you think about it outside of work, it’s there when you go to bed and wake up. The stress keeps you up at night, makes you more irritable and less prone to being patient. This is what my dysphoria was like most days. A constant, unrelenting pressure to “be a man.” I tried many things to ease these feelings. I gave my life to Christ at an early age, my feelings remained. I read my bible, went on missions trips, lead Bible studies, went to a Christian college, none of it eased the discomfort I had in my own body. I tried to ignore it, to punish myself or reward myself for my behaviors, meditation, prayer, nothing worked. As an adult, I found solace only in the privacy of my own room. When I shut the door, free from prying eyes, I could put on something feminine and just relax. And no one could ever know.
I was isolated and alone. I tried hard to keep the few friends I did have from ever finding out about this. The thoughts of suicide began to creep up after college. Why was I here? Why did God bother to make such a broken vessel? Would my whole life be full of this pain? Would my whole life be a gigantic lie? The weight of my dysphoria was straining my relationships, my health and my faith. I was scared. I was so scared I would harm myself. I was so scared that I might fail and my shame be revealed. Darkness covered my life. The future seemed so bleak. I had lost hope. I had lost faith. All because I could not face the truth. I was transgender. I needed to learn to accept that. Only then would the light have a chance to return and only then would I learn to live again.