Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Coming Out: Me, Marci, and Jules

We may not understand it or even realize it but we all experience our gender identity very differently, cissexuals included. So the fact that no two trans people get to the point of transition the same way should be of no surprise.

I would like to take some time below to share a brief description of how I got to where I am now, as well as a few brief stories from my friends (I got their permission). My hope here is two fold: First I want to show that there is no real set criteria for what makes one trans or not. No such mold exist nor are there any right or wrong ways to approach the decision to transition. Secondly I would like to help explain to others who may not be going through this that we are individuals who are experiencing something very real and deeply personal. This also highlights that no one has the right to say someone isn't a real trans person or not trans enough.

I would love it if others shared their stories below in the comments, the more personal histories we have below the more useful this page will become.

My Story

I had a fairly normal childhood. If I had to use a word to describe myself I would say androgynous. If you asked my family if there was any reason to think I wasn't just a normal boy they would certainly say "No". Unlike what some people experience I didn't know I was a girl when I was child. In fact, it wasn't until junior high that I started having feeling that something was amiss and at that time, I really was more confused then anything. It was around this time that I started sneaking my sisters clothes and makeup. I also remember being very envious of the girls at school and how they expressed themselves and their friendships. Like I said, this was all confusing to me and I certainly cannot say that these thoughts translated into an overt desire to be a woman. To the contrary, I felt ashamed and hated it what I was doing and feeling but still I did have a strong desire to be or be allowed to express myself like them.

As I got older the feeling of shame and confusion subsided and things started to become clearer. While I had always hated the way I looked when I dressed (I always felt like a man in drag) and I felt fake while doing it, I realized that for those few hours I was able to let go and be myself. I think maybe I knew by this point who I was but I was no where near ready to accept it.

Time would go on and eventually I would fall in love and get married. I had hidden my cross gender feeling as best I could because I felt it was the best thing to do (mainly I was scared). While my wife new I dressed as a woman often, I told her on our second date, she did not initially know my true motivation for doing it. I managed to keep this a secret (or thought I had) for 6 years; however, stress and my wife becoming very sick proved to be a perfect emotional storm in which something had to give.

Facing the prospect of my wife's death and the realization that it could have been me who fell ill, I was no longer able to accept life as it was. I could no longer lie to her or myself about any of it. Before either one of us died I wanted, needed, her to know who I really was. At this point I was exhausted from trying to pretend this wasn't real. I was trying harder then ever to be this man but it was an act, one I was not able or willing to preform any longer. It would be shortly after she recovered that I told her that my dressing was far more then me wanting to act out fantasy or express my femininity. I explained to her that it was the only link I had to my true self, the dressing was just one small part of who I really was and I needed to be that person. It is here were my transition started.

Here are some other stories in my friends own words:

Marci's Story

"During my first marriage I was drawn to my wife’s clothes and I found myself wearing them without any conscious thought. Eventually we got divorced because I got caught in her closet. I still had no clue what was going on until I got remarried and was introduced to books like “Listening” and started to opening my psyche. I started paying attention to what I was naturally drawn to and found that male things repelled me and female things drew me. I started cross-dressing on the weekend, joined a cross-dressing group and started seeing a therapist for my gender incongruence. After a few months of cross-dressing with the group I came to realized that not living as a woman was not going to be enough and it was at that point that I realized I might be a transsexual. I went online and found the COGIATI test http://www.transsexual.org/cogiati_english.html and my score indicated that I am a classic transsexual1. It was confirmed, I can only say that once I faced the truth of my being transsexual it was like a great weight was lifted from me."

Jules's Story

"There are probably as many ways to transition as there are trans people. I socially transitioned several years ago but only began medical transition within the last few months. By social transition, I mean that I came out as trans, identified publicly as a man, and asked people to refer to me as "he." By medical transition, I mean that I began testosterone treatments.

I spent ages in navel-gazing and self-scrutiny. When I came out, I was a 20-year-old Women's Studies major who was deeply ensconced in both lesbian and feminist communities. Coming out as a man was no small thing--and I definitely did wonder why womanhood couldn't work for me, especially because I've always believed that women can do and be anything. And, at the time I came out, I knew many amazing, smart, tough, beautiful, handsome women--professors, friends, lovers, family. There were and are many women who would be considered more masculine than I am, and I don't consider them to be anything other than the women they very much are.

So, why couldn't I be a woman, when I knew and believed in the very depths of my being that women can be anything? The only answer I came up with, and the only answer I have today, is: I'm not a woman. There is a visceral wrongness to hearing "she" applied to myself that simply isn't present when I hear "he." And now that I have developed some facial hair from being on testosterone, it no longer feels like I'm looking at a stranger in the mirror.

And, you know, that's okay. After all, the world needs more pro-feminist men."

1 I also took the COGIATI test before I ever went to a therapist. I think it is interesting tool but for me the results were a bit different. This test told me that I was moderately androgynous and probably not a transsexual. My point here is not to discredit my friend or the test. While I believe that such test have little ability to diagnose or define us any more then the words of another individual, what they can do is help us to confirm that our identity is real to ourselves.

For example, Marci took the test and may have said something like "I knew it!" while I took it and said "I know these results are wrong". Either way, this test helped both of us to look inside ourselves for the answer to the question "Who am I?"

No comments: