This week we take a brief respite from our walk through my past and jump ahead many years to today. I was recently reading a passage in “True Selves – Understanding Transsexualism” that gave me a clearer picture of the emotional journey behind me, and the path stretching before me. For those of you following along – you diligent souls you! – this is from the section on page 112 that discusses the negative emotions and issues that transsexuals face.
The passage discusses the types of fear, anger, guilt, shame and poor self esteem that are commonly experienced by those who are transgendered. I recognized quite a few as intimate emotional companions, even while others (such as the many types of anger) I found difficult to relate to.
Emotions I’ve (Mostly) Come to Terms with
Shame is like a darkness that hangs over our heads, hiding the true light inside. For many many years I was ashamed of who I was and what I did. I had not dared to share my true self with another because I was deeply ashamed at how “sick” and “perverted” I was. By any measure – in society, in the church, or even how I felt inside – I was unworthy. I was a sinner who continued to live in sin despite knowing the “truth”. [If you’re struggling with being a transgendered Christian I encourage you to read this article ‘Crossdressing is a sin‘.
I crossdressed in private while clutching my dark secret close to my false bosom. Fear born of shame kept me cloistered and alone. Over the coming weeks I’ll share more of my journey, and how I overcame the shame and the fear that was it’s child. Realizing that I was not alone, and considering the blessings of being transgendered were vital ingredients to my growth. Words alone cannot give sufficient weight to how important it is to join a local transgender support group.
My shame is but a distant memory, and the fear I felt out in public has mostly been replaced with the joyous and easy calm of living as myself.
The See-saw of Self Esteem
For as long as I can remember I’ve had low self esteem. No doubt growing up a smart, overweight, socially challenged kid with a deep dark secret had something to do with it. Yet as long as I could take solace in the comforting glow of my computer screen this was manageable. After all, I was doing everything that was expected of me – I didn’t get into trouble, got good grades at school and left my parents undisturbed by my emotional distress.
This all changed when I left for college almost 750 miles away from home. The formula I had used so successfully in high school no longer worked. I had imagined college to be a haven for the intellectual elite where studious application to my coursework would ensure joy and prosperity. I quickly came to realize that the adoration of my Professors was irrelevant in the social world fueled by drunken revelry and frequent intimate engagement with members of the opposite sex.
Today I won’t regale you with my woefully inspirational tale of near suicide and joyous rebirth. My final years in college gave my self esteem a much needed boost, and the recent overcoming of transgender shame and fear of being out in public have fortified this further.
Yet I still play on the see-saw of self esteem. At times I’m assailed by negative self image (too tall, too fat, too masculine, …) or by the dastardly negative emotions you’ll hear about in a second that I’m still working through. Though continuing the see-saw metaphor further, I do feel as though much of the time there is a fat kid sitting across from me, leaving my self esteem dangling high in the air. Only on rare occasions does this kid summon enough strength to push himself off the ground and – momentarily – cause my self esteem to alight on the ground from which it came.
One of my favorite movies is The Lion King, and when I write about fear I can’t help but picture the scene where the hyenas mere mention of the name “Mufasa” causes shrieks of shuddering fear.
Yet I’ve found that in real life fear is not quite so humorous or easily recovered from. I had thought that once I overcame my fear of going out in public that I was done with fear, but three fears yet remain:
• Fear of losing employment and my livelihood
• Fear that I’ll never pass well enough to be accepted as a woman
• Fear of losing family and friends, and never having an emotionally intimate relationship again
I’ve come a long ways towards dealing with the first fear – the many tales of successful transitions in the software engineering field, and growing transgender support among large tech companies heartens me greatly. I’m also fortunate to be in a position where I’m able to save up enough to give myself some time should my employer prove to be less than generous in their transgender support.
The fear of never passing is harder for me. I’m confident that I could live successfully as a woman in society, yet I’m still wary of living as a transgender woman and having my genetic deficiency become obvious to anyone who gets to know me. I’m heartened by the times when I’m reverse read, and all the people I know have been extremely generous in their compliments. Yet brief encounters in public are different from lasting personal or professional relationships.
Objectively I’m taller and larger than most woman, and my voice can still use a fair amount of work. I know that diet, exercise, hormones, facial feminization surgery and femininity training can take me far, but I must live with my bone structure. I steel myself, knowing that my fear of never passing pales in comparison to the anguish I would endure living out the rest of my days in my male façade.
My greatest dread is living the lonely life of an outcast. Never able to find love or emotional intimacy again. Knowing my lovely wife will leave me after transition it’s difficult for me to understand how I could be happy without a deep relationship in my life. Though I hope against hope, it’s painful enough coming to terms with an eventual separation from the person I love most in the world. Losing her and the hope of ever being loved is crushing. At times I’ve even thought that the lack of human connection could cut deeper than living the rest of my life in a male lie. Yet the loss of all human connection is but a chance, and the torture of maleness a certainty.
And Finally Comes Guilt
Before my wife and I were married I told her that I was a crossdresser, that I was not gay, and that I had no intention of becoming a woman. This was the best truth I knew at the time, yet as I have discovered it was not the whole truth. Now with talk of transition I feel as though I have deceived her and tricked her into a life led astray, in a relationship that challenges her sexual identity and social acceptance. I feel guilty.
I try to console myself that her life with me has been more prosperous and abundant in experience that it would otherwise have been. Yet I pretend knowledge of fate in doing this, as her marriage to me may have excluded other fulfilling life paths for her.
While guilt can vex me, I know that how I handle the coming months will play a significant role in her future happiness. Wallowing in guilt not only doesn’t help, it distracts me from the care and compassion I need to cultivate. More often these days my rational mind is able to push aside the guilt and realize that the past is lived and the future is unknown. Today we get to decide what the past means, and how we’ll live in relation to that.
Dear reader, thank you for reading this far, and indulging me as I search inside my heart. My muse is spent for today, so it’s with warm wishes and blessings I pause – I shall parlay more with you in a while.
More Articles by Vanessa Law
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- I Want to Live Like That
- Hope in Despair, Light through the Darkness
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