Having achieved what I considered success in my job, finances, and family — combined with this sense of self-worth — opened the door for me to finally release the feelings that had been building up inside me for years. No longer was I living in survival mode as I had when I was growing up. I was happy and felt a real sense of security.
So without external stressors keeping my internalized issues suppressed, my mind decided it was time to face who I really was.
Initially, I thought maybe I was simply a cross-dresser, and when I brought it up to my wife, she seemed okay with the idea. I took her lack of disgust as full acceptance and shared some of my deeper thoughts and desires. But as I watched fear bloom across her face, I shut everything down, going into denial and working even harder to suppress my feelings.
I stayed in suppression mode for 11 years, but there wasn’t a single minute of a single day that part of me wasn’t thinking about it, trying to cope with it, trying to figure things out.
Eventually, my wife pushed me to explore the feelings, and so I did.
My first cross-dressing experience was at a local transgender support group. There was no sexual component to the experience, but there was a sense of truth, of somehow being right.
I continued to visit the group periodically, all while working desperately to keep it hidden from my kids or anyone other than my wife. And then I was almost discovered by my youngest, so I stopped, once again going into denial mode.
I told myself my attention and energy were needed by my family, that my desires would have to take a backseat to the needs of others. I took up hobbies as a way to keep my mind off what I once again had locked away inside me but wasn’t getting emotional relief from anything. My spirit needed something more.
During this time, I found myself struggling more and more by the day to suppress my true self. Though I thought I was doing a good job, my wife felt as though she was living with a ghost. By denying my nature and suppressing my real self, I was denying who I was. What was left was simply a shell, an automaton.
Then one night while I was in my typical silent-internal-struggle mode, my wife asked what was wrong. I told her I didn’t want to get into it with our kids in the house, but she kept pushing, eventually asking what would prove to be a fateful question: “Is it that you want to dress as a woman full-time?”
My first instinct was to deny it, as we both knew that if the answer was yes, it would mean the end of our marriage. But for the first time in my life, I was fully honest with her and with myself. I told her it wasn’t so much what I wanted but where I was feeling driven to go.
It was the first time I faced that fact that I was indeed a transsexual.
The hardest and most difficult part of my coming out was with my daughters. I could deal with losing friends, having family turn on me, the uneasiness of some co-workers, even the impending demise of my marriage. But my children were another matter entirely.
The discussion didn’t last long. As I did my best to explain what I felt and what would be happening, my oldest asked if there would be permanent physical changes. When I said yes, she said she couldn’t hear any more and asked her sister to drive her home. My youngest simply approached me with tears in her eyes and said she was sorry I’d had to hurt for so long.
Aside from actually admitting the fact that I was transgender, telling them was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Over the next few months, I slowly introduced the increasingly feminine me to family and friends, knowing there was a strong possibility people would struggle to make sense of it all. While there were some awkward moments — misgendering, not getting my name right — I did my best not to take it personally and was blessed that most people I knew were supportive and accepting.
One doesn’t make this kind of change in a vacuum; the changes I was making affected everyone I knew in some way, none more so than my children.
My relationship with them changed, and for many years, our level of closeness wasn’t the same. A sort of gulf had opened between us. But even that has closed over time as they dealt with their feelings and watched me grow into my truest self.
I’d been living and working as a woman for three years when I decided I was ready (and had the means) to undergo gender-reaffirming surgery. I didn’t see this as some kind of end goal for “becoming” a woman — I already was a woman. This was simply one more step in life.
Today, I’m 60 years old. After changing careers to work in a more female-dominated field (and the years of struggling to find a job as a trans woman that came with it), I have no savings or retirement fund. But I have come to learn just how little I need to live on to be happy.
Over the years, I’ve been asked many times if I’m happy having transitioned. And while I can’t say it made me happy in the traditional sense of the word, it did put an end to the internal war I’d fought with myself for so long. It brought me a greater measure of peace. It made me more aware of what others face after experiencing bias, ignorance, and discrimination myself.
I’ve come to accept myself as I am, to no longer worry about how the world sees me. I no longer care as much about whether I’m pretty or attractive, whether I’ve dressed well, or any of the other trappings society expects. I’m much less vain but far more self-assured. I’m more comfortable in my own skin.
I am content.
Photo courtesy of the author