The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, but most rewarding of my life. I realized a lot of things about myself and the world about me. Not just that I am a Bisexual Transgender Woman, that is probably the biggest one, but many other things as well.
In all of the self reflection, I was able to come to a better understanding of who I am as a person, not sexuality, gender, name, or otherwise, but the unique things about me, that make me me.
When I started questioning my gender identity, it was a series of existential crises on top of existential crises. This may not be the case for all Trans/enby/GnC folx, but it certainly was for me. I didn’t know what was real about me and what I had put up to prevent myself from looking “feminine,” not because of what others would think, but so I could keep those thoughts at bay. Why did I act in certain ways? Was it because I actually felt that way/liked those things/etc? Or was it yet another mask that I had put on to protect myself and my ego, and not wanting to face the truth about myself?
It’s something you’re born with, and you realize that you’re trapped in the wrong body. It’s not like one day you’re like, ‘I want to be transgender!’
I had to categorically look at almost everything in my life, childhood, relationships (romantic, friendships, family, etc.), career choices, hobbies, political beliefs, music, movies, likes, dislikes, and on, and on, and on. The reason that I did this was because I didn’t know who I truly was, and what was part of my pseudo-self.
I also didn’t know that I had gender dysphoria, until my therapist read me the DSM definition, and I hit all of the criterion. I have seen all of the memes and Tumblr posts that you all have (maybe a few more because, well…) and I thought that I had to hate my body, want to mutilate myself, kill myself, etc. in order for me to have dysphoria.
This is not necessarily the case!
What my therapist told me is that dysphoria, like gender (and sexuality, politics, biological sex [Don’t believe me, check out the science], etc.) exists along a spectrum. The reason that the things that I saw was because of the shock value and that those are the extremes. Extremes grab peoples’ attention, get remembered, and get clicks/read/views. The average is just that, average, and it doesn’t catch attention.
What made it easier for me to start questioning everything was having out and proud Trans/enby/GnC people in my circle, so I could talk to them about their experience. I spoke to a friend and former co-worker who is genderfluid, and what she/they told me about her experience rang true in certain aspects, but there were other things that didn’t jive with me. There were things that I could relate to, and things I couldn’t. But it made me realize that there was definitely something there. If I had spoken to her and nothing made sense or sounded familiar to how I have felt, then I would have known (hopefully) that I was cisgender. What happened instead was similar to Alice. Once she went down the rabbit hole, there was no going back.
Once I realized that there was something there, I couldn’t ignore it/hide from it anymore. I started looking at everything I had thought about, and explained away with a “Everyone thinks like this sometimes,” which is certainly not the case. Not everyone imagines that they will wake up one day and be the opposite sex, or plays every available character in games that is the opposite sex and is annoyed when there is no option for it, and 1000s of other little things that are easy to explain away at the time.
I existed in what one of my friends accurately described as “Gender Purgatory,” for probably about 9 months. I didn’t know if I was trans, enby, or just a guy that enjoyed wearing women’s clothing…or something in between. I described myself as “Whatever the fuck I am,” for awhile. It was very confusing, and disheartening at times. I didn’t know if I wanted to change my name, pronouns, go onto hormones, etc. I talked to probably about 2 dozen different peeps with similar experiences (mostly trans women, but some questioning, some trans men, etc.) over that time, did a LOT of research, introspection, digging in therapy, refection on my life, talking to close friends, etc.
I tried using They/Them pronouns, but it didn’t feel right, just like my birth name and male pronouns no longer felt like me anymore, I stopped using my birth name and used Gael for a bit (at least online and with my therapist), but that didn’t seem right, either, and didn’t feel like me, so I never asked anyone to use it. I started introducing/using a nickname that I have had for a long time, which didn’t feel right, but it didn’t feel as wrong as my birth name…it at least wasn’t overtly male, like my birth name is.
This lasted until September 11th, 2019. That’s when I found my name, and realized that I was definitely a trans woman. I had given up researching names and was just processing a bunch of stuff, letting it happen how it would. I was anxious all of the time, not sure what direction to go in, lost and confused.
Don’t get me wrong, I was happier than I had ever been, felt more like myself than I ever had, and leaned on some people and was a looot more open about my feelings than I ever had been in my life.
That was something that directly contributed to the end of the relationship that ended right before I started to look at my identity. I wasn’t able to be emotionally vulnerable, partly because I couldn’t identify what I was feeling (because I had been burying it for so long), partly because I wouldn’t allow myself to try (unconsciously, that is) because if I did, then the mask would start to unravel, and partly because I was in stasis.
I could only grow so much…even though I did a LOT of work on myself over the last decade, but I had hit a wall, and it was like I was in a world of greyscale, I knew that colour existed (Note: I grew up near the Canadien border, so I spell some things that way, it is not wrong, just different, and my preference) but I couldn’t see it, and I had gotten used to the world without it, and was resigned to my reality, it just was.
This is not to say that I wasn’t ecstatic or melancholy sometimes, but the majority of the time, I was just kind of bleh.
I had trained myself how not to let my emotions run over, and the longer I did it, the harder it was for me to feel anything outside of a pre-determined scale…and the longer I did that, the smaller the scale got.
Not that I didn’t feel emotions, in fact, I felt (and feel) them very intensely, but to protect myself from digging deeper, I disciplined myself on “moving” my reactions from an emotional one to a logical one. I did this (I thought) as a healthy way to avoid boiling over, when in fact, the reality of the situation was that this was a coping mechanism to keep my identity locked away, so I could be ok with being a straight cisgender male…even though none of that was accurate.
I grew up in an Irish Catholic household, was homeschooled, have mental health issues (anxiety and AD/HD), have an overactive imagination, and am fairly intelligent, couple that all together, and I ended up with a lot of guilt and shame about being outside of the norm. That would have been fine, and I probably could have kept it together and lived a semi-normal life, but then when I was 14 or 15 a friend (Let’s call him M…one of the kindest souls I have ever met) came out to me as gay.
This didn’t change my opinion of him, in fact, it was a pivotal point in my life. What it did do, was made me seriously question the Catholic church (which I already had misgivings about and it was all my family could do to get me to go to Mass), and this loving God that said that M. was not as good as them, not as worthy of love, because of something that he couldn’t control. That, to put it bluntly, was absolutely fucked in the head, in my opinion.
The second thing it did, was make me a staunch ally of LGBT people…even though I didn’t know that that (Either the term Ally, or the LGBT community) was a thing for quite a few years. I remember having (I tell myself hundreds, but it was probably closer to) dozens of arguments with family members. I call them arguments, because, there was no chance that either side was going to give on their position. I believed that they were wrong, and any God that was loving and didn’t make mistakes wouldn’t forsake and condemn his children for being how he made them, and they followed the Bible and the teachings of the Church, which was (in my perception), that it was ok to be gay, just don’t ever act upon it, because that’s a sin.
Fast forward to the recent past.
I was at work, at my new job (which I LOVE!), taking care of cleaning up a database of users (professional nerd here) which I had been working on every day for about 3 weeks, when I saw my name. 2 seconds earlier, if you had asked me my name, I wouldn’t have known what to respond, but as soon as I saw it, it was like I could finally breathe. Being the logical, analytical person that I am, I researched similar names, but nothing made me quite so peaceful, content, and at home as Justice did.
I knew two things that day. I knew my name, and I knew that I was a Transgender Woman.
I felt so much more at home in my own body than I had my entire life. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you most of my life that I didn’t feel at home in my own body, something just felt off. I couldn’t put words to it, I just felt wrong, not able to put a name to it, and wouldn’t allow myself to face it for a very long time.
I don’t know if this was because of societal pressure, family expectations, self-imposed misogyny, a combination of these, or something else entirely.
After I found my name, I continued talking to people who had been on/were on HRT. I had done a lot of research/talking to people before this, but because of the unknowns and confusion, it was simply information gathering before this point. Now, I knew that I was a transgender woman, so it was real, not a what-if situation.
I did a ton of contemplation about what this would mean for my life: health, people around me, friendships, romantic relationships, family, my career/co-workers, etc. This was all well and good, but one of the things that I have done my entire life was analyze and think my way away from my emotions to avoid facing the truth about myself, and I knew that this was something that I needed to do to feel like me. I had finally ripped the mask off and thrown it away, and I had gotten to a place that I was ok with being me.
I was done limiting, minimizing, and changing who I was to please anyone else or the self imposed limits that I had placed on myself. If I lost every relationship in my life and had to go it alone, then at least I would be ok with that person, like I never had been before. Knowing myself and being true to myself was worth the risk.
About this same time, I came out to my mom. She didn’t approve, understand, or get it. I had told her, one of my sisters, and my dad not that long before that I was questioning my gender identity and had been dressing more feminine, so this wasn’t as huge a thing as it could have been.
I told her that I am a trans woman, I am using female pronouns, going by Justice everywhere except work, and I am probably (had made my initial appontment) going to start HRT soon. She had some things to say which were not the easiest to hear, but were how she felt. I assumed that she was going to tell my dad (this will become important later), and we both went our separate ways.
One of the saving graces that I had through this whole process was having a very strong chosen family around me, both cis and trans people. The cis women in my life helped me with makeup, clothes, giving me a safe space to be myself, and so many other things.
This is such a different experience than so many trans people have, and I know that it is how I was able to get through this whole process without a major breakdown, especially since for the majority of this, my manager at my job was a narcissistic gaslighter who emotionally and psychologically abused me. Just that alone could have sent me off the deep end had I not had the tribe I did, let alone the confusion and unknowns of my identity crisis.
I have so many examples of this, but my rock through this was my bestie (Let’s call her K). She literally saved my sanity, kept me from falling apart too many times to fathom, and helped me nurture the Woman inside. She gave me a safe place to explore and took me as I was at the time. She came with me the first time I went shopping for women’s clothing, which is not something that I could have done alone at the time; pushed me to be true to myself and explore what kind of woman I was, gave me no judgement, just was my biggest cheerleader and a great example and stood on the sidelines shouting encouragement.
She helped me become the woman that I am today, and I cannot even begin to thank her for her love and support.
In early November, I realized that there was not a Pride center in my city. There is one in the next city over, but not one here. The first thought I had was why? The second was, what if I hadn’t had the people and support that I do/did? What if I was 15 going through this? What would I do?
Directly after that, it was, ok Bitch, time to get to work.
I reached out to friends of mine in my city that are in the LGBT community, to see if they would be interested in helping, and a few of them were 100% behind it. We are still in the beginning stages, but we have a solid core group of people that are movers and shakers and are motivated to get this going. We need a safe place for LGBT people to go to be themselves. We are in the process of planning our first event, and doing our initial outreach.
About this time, I decided that it was time to come out at work. I was living as Justice everywhere except work, and I felt like I was a fake, not being true to myself.
However, I wanted to make sure that I would be safe, so I reached out to my LGBT team member of my local union (Proud member here!), to find out what protections I would have, and what the process would look like. She is amazing! Such a great help.
I then talked to my manager…which was much easier than I thought it would be. He had already figured it out months before. Apparently I didn’t hide it as well as I thought. He is concerned with my skillset and ability to do the job, not with my gender. He talked to the head of HR for me so that they knew what was going on, so if anyone made it an issue, I would be protected.
I then had a call with both my manager and the head of HR about potentially changing my name/pronouns at work. Unfortunately, because of the nature of my job, there could be things that might be audited, so I need to wait until I legally change my name, which is giving me impetus to do that sooner rather than later.
During this time, I started coming out to my family. They were seemingly supportive.
At Thanksgiving I finished coming out to my siblings, which went semi well…I thought. My mom, however, told me flat out that I would always be my birth name and her son to her, which felt very hurtful, and like I was not being heard.
It feels like there is this huge double standard in my family. I mean, I know that I have caused a lot of hurt because of some of my past actions, but I have spent the past decade trying to mend them. It seems like it is ok to judge me and comment on my life, but I have to just accept the things that are broken in my family, and the choices/beliefs that my family has as accurate/acceptable. If I go against the grain…which is literally everything that makes me who I am, then it is going to be analyzed and debated to death, or ignored.
About a week after that, my mom sent a passive aggressive message to our family group chat (using my birth name and male pronouns) which rocked me, as she referenced the rest of the family being a mess. I reached out to my siblings to get clarity, and they all were wrecks emotionally.
They said things which showed me how much I have grown emotionally, as I know that someone’s feelings about what someone doing in their life (which do not directly effect them) is not the other person’s fault. I can’t make them feel something, that is on them and their beliefs/issues. I responded in a kind way, but saying, essentially, that It is my life and I am not going to change to spare their feelings, that they need to fix themselves, I can’t do that for them.
I then decided that because of how toxic some of the things that they were saying, that it was better for me to not spend the holidays with them. I needed to put up healthy boundaries to take care of me.
This caused my oldest sister to send me a bunch of poison. The things she said attacked my character, my morals, and were some of the most hurtful things that have ever been sent to me, period. Was she not my sister, I would have responded nastily and told her to never speak to me again. The things that she said are just not ok.
That just cemented my decision to not spend holidays with them, because she was going to be there, and I do not want to see her while she is saying things like that. She also outed me to one of my best friends from growing up, which, due to the nature of her job, and her contact with people in the LGBT community, she should know that you don’t do that. Especially, since, my suspicion was so that he could convince me to change my life and put the cute boy costume back on.
Not gonna happen. They may not like it, understand it, approve of it, or have made the same decision if they were in my shoes, but this is who I am.
One really good thing that came out of this shitstorm was that I am learning how to set healthy boundaries with my family.
While this is not everything that has happened to me over the last 18 months or so, it is a pretty good synopsis, and what I feel I needed to say.
I am trans, I am proud, I am finally starting to love myself, I am not afraid anymore