Friday, October 21, 2011

What Do I Fear?

Dear readers,

Well before my surgery I scheduled a series of posts entitled 'Am I Transsexual' - as a way to transfer articles I originally posted on Crossdresser Heaven to a more appropriate place, and to share my journey with new readers. As you read the below, assuming everything has gone according to plan it will be *spoiler alert* a few days after my gender reassignment surgery. It was written a few weeks before I started hormones.

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 herself off the ground and – momentarily – cause my self esteem to alight on the ground from which it came.

Fear

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 fa├žade.

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.

-Vanessa

5 comments:

  1. "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..."

    This seems to be a very common theme. My current girlfriend is full-time, and separated from her wife in 2005. My gf, LeeAnne, told her then fiancee that she (LeeAnne) was a crossdresser. The ex-wife was supposedly OK with that.

    When the disclosure of needing to transition came, the wife accused LeeAnne of lying to her. But as many of us know, LeeAnne had told her the truth as she knew it at that time.

    This issue has never been resolved, and now her memory has reverted to LeeAnne not telling her anything, not even about CDing.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear your girlfriend had a similar situation with her wife :( It's hard to disclose everything when you don't know yourself, and it's too easy for others to think that you're hiding something.

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  3. I cringe when I recall telling my now late ex-wife that I was quite happy as a man, didn't want to become a woman - just a crossdresser. Yet it was, likewise, the truth as I then understood it. It was also me continuing to play the roles I expected my community wanted me to play. Beyond that the community doesn't care until you wind up in a morgue and then for a few seconds people wonder what happened.
    My transition really began, although I didn't know it, when I consciously chose to not care about what the community thought. That propelled me to explore me and this led to the woman typing this comment.
    I've found the confidence that derives from knowing me is powerful and perhaps the single most important ingredient in passing and living, not just continuing to act a role.
    I'm glad to draw the conclusion that surgery went well. A big hug to you!

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  4. After a lifetime of denial, and 28 year marriage failed I found myself facing my issues. Granted I spent 14 plus years in therapy for some other issues, however this one would be my biggest challenge.

    Throughout my life I questioned the scar tissue in my groin. However the people who could give me the answers refused to talk about. All they would say, “That shortly after I was born I had some surgery performed on me, the Doctors had to fix a problem”. Well, recently I got some answers. It seems that there was a question concerning my gender so my parents and the doctors made a choice.

    However the choice was clearly the wrong one since I have spent my entire life in misery. Thanks to a well educated therapist I now understand things much clearer. I have been given a name for the very things that I have felt throughout my life, it’s called being Intersexual.

    Thanks to my therapist and a very supportive girlfriend I’m now allowed to be myself. Over the last year I have spent nearly 90% of my time being true self. However I still have some major problems because I live in a closed minded community. As a result I have to be very careful since my personal safety would be at risk.

    Currently I’m exploring the option of getting the damage undone. Therefore it will involve spending the other 10 % of my time being the person who I was meant to be, as well as surgery. I realize that it’s going to be a very long slow journey, but I have taken my first steps.

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  5. My Girlfriend has a similar story and still faces consequences though post-op. May you safely find your path dear one. Blessings.

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