I wanted to share my experiences growing up as a transperson. I suppose, not to kvetch about it, but more to help people understand just who and what we are. Its always been my belief that peoples hesitation about transpeople doesn't stem from genuine negativity, but merely a lack of experience and a misunderstanding.
How would, for example, your everyday person come to know much about transpeople? They are exposed to mostly the Twitter mob's endless hysterical outrage, middle-class youths with strange hair colours shrieking about their oppression, the media picking up on the worst examples — which usually aren't even transpeople to begin with, and the harmless by themselves but not relevant to us, Drag Queens. Chances are that none of these people commonly associated with the “trans community” are even transsex at all.
Is it any wonder that the common person ends up being suspicious about us, when we've rarely had an actual voice to explain ourselves? You can argue that we shouldn't have to explain ourselves, and I suppose from a moral perspective I agree, but from a practical one... I think its important that we do if we ever want to be accepted and seamlessly integrated into society. Put more simply: This is a trail that needs to be blazed so that future transpeople do not have to explain anything.
So on to my story.
I knew there was something “wrong” with me when I was just a kid. About the age of 7 or so — this would have been around 1986 give or take. It was already becoming clear to me that I didn't fit in anywhere at school. I didn't have a clue what it was, nor did I yet have the intellectual capacity to be able to even begin to attempt to understand it. Just the the vague sensation that something was “wrong” and that I had trouble fitting in with the other kids. I think that I wanted to be social, but I had difficulties doing that, so I ended up somewhat of a loner. I didn't really like most of the games and sports the other kids played so I mostly stayed home and listened to music. I had trouble learning things, and the teachers didn't like me because of it. Much later in life, I'd learn that was because I was dyslexic.
A few years later, I began to have some idea what was going on. I had begun crossdressing in secret, and secret it stayed, because the school yard had made something very, very clear to me. Anyone who stepped outside of their gender expectations was a “faggot” and that was the absolute worst thing someone could be. Puberty was a long way away yet, so exactly what a “faggot” was and its implications were mostly lost on me. Unfortunately I was a bit of a flamboyant child for a while there, and the other children had made it clear to me this was unacceptable.
As is often the way, this behaviour was bullied out of me by the time I was around grade 7 or 8. Nothing had changed inside me, but I had learned that what came naturally to me was bad, wrong and had to be suppressed if I was to have any chance at survival at all. I firmly understood by now that there was something about me that had to be hidden at all costs, even if I still wasn't really fully able to grasp what exactly it was. I was not even a teenager yet, but I already was carrying a burden of deep shame.
You see, in those days — and especially in the heartland of Canadian Social Conservatism, Saskatchewan, LGBT education was something that was left to the playground, and that social culture punished non-conformity brutally. I didn't understand what sexuality was, and what gender really was beyond the obvious physical differences. But I didn't care to play along with the boys and I looked at the girls with an envy that seemed to grow more intense every day. But I didn't know why. All I knew was that I was somehow cursed, that I hated my life and wanted out, and at least since I was 10 years old suicide was something that was on my mind as a possible escape.
Once a teenager proper, and puberty began to hit, things took a turn for the worse. My inability to fit in put me forever in the “outcast” social category. Hated by students and teachers alike. Suicide was constantly on my thoughts now, as I started to have the capacity to anticipate what my future would be like. I had learned that showing any weakness was death, so I had adopted an attitude of absolute sociopathy.
A lifetime of shame, misery, confusion and isolation — with the addition now of testosterone — made this easy. Anyone who went near me had better watch out, because I would be unpredictable, and I'd be ready for extreme violence at a moments notice. I always carried a weapon hidden on me, usually a knife, and I was always ready to use it to full effect. I practised with it, I trained with it. I won't soften this: I had resolved myself to kill the first person that went too far with me. The negative consequences of it meant nothing, I'd go to a juvenile prison and come out with the reputation of absolute monster and no one would ever dare to challenge me ever again. It had nothing but positives to my tormented mind.
I radiated hostility, and in high school, the other students and especially the teachers picked up on this immediately. I had no fear of their authority, and I generally did exactly what I pleased. If I didn't like them, I openly insulted them. The best they could get of out of me was some kind of malicious compliance. I existed in a system that I hated, and it hated me right back. I needed to escape, but I had nowhere to run.
I had one, sad, desperate hope though, and that was that if I could survive the tumultuous ordeal of puberty and become a proper adult, my desire to be a girl would go away. Once I'm a normal, male adult I'll settle into my role and find contentment and normalcy there. My options were to commit suicide and finally have the peace that I desperately wanted, or roll the dice on a chance that puberty would “correct” my still mysterious condition. I decided to gamble.
High school resolved itself on its own, and I firmly believe that someone's life was saved. I was told not to return to my high school the next year. My Dad took me out of the public school system and put me in correspondence school. This improved my life tremendously and likely saved my life. I still wrestled with myself, I still struggled with suicide, but I was removed from the hostile system. I doubt my parents realized it, but they bought me time.
By the time puberty was over, and I was a “male adult”, I became aware of several things. Firstly, my “mysterious condition” had not gone away. Secondly, it had a name, “transsexualism”. Unfortunately, being a transsexual was probably even worse than being a “faggot”. Movies, TV series, even cartoons lampooned these people. It seemed to me that transsexuals were the butt of almost every joke. Perhaps worse in some ways, the media imagery of them was ususally Drag Queens. I wasn't one of them, I didn't want to dress up in some costume. I wanted to be a woman, not a parody of one. Violence against transwomen seemed to be acceptable, and something the good, strong guys were encouraged to do to demonstrate their masculinity.
I had to suppress it at all costs. I had to hide what I was, and better if I admitted it to no one, not even myself. I had to blend in with what society expected or I'd become a joke, a full time clown. When I projected my mind into the future I saw nothing but a lifetime of isolation and loneliness. I wanted nothing to do with this outcome. My depression became worse and worse.
Eventually, in my mid twenties I got into a relationship with someone. It was a struggle as they had severe mental problems, and I spent most of my time taking care of them. It was a stressful existence, but, at the same time it was a purpose — I had at least some utility.
The relationship had highlighted problems that I had simply not anticipated. I'm bisexual, so I could simply ignore attraction to men, that was not really a problem. I found my female partner very attractive, I wanted sex. However, the actual act of sex was unpleasant. My body did not want to move the way that it needed to move. I was intensely self-conscious of my male parts and the act of penetration felt unnatural to me, it was uncomfortable and I had to force myself to actually do it. Even though I was thoroughly aroused by my partner, I couldn't stay erect long. Often I was not able to finish at all. Even when I did, I didn't feel like I had experienced intimacy, I felt that I had completely my obligation to maintain what was expected of me as a man. I was just relieved that nothing had gone wrong and my partner wouldn't be disappointed or hurt. I visited my doctor and told him about my sex troubles and he told me that it was in my head and that I was physically perfectly fine. I knew this was absolutely correct. He had me try Viagra, but it did nothing for me. It just simply wasn't the problem.
Ever present, and feeling more intense than ever, my transsexualism — now called “Gender Identity Disorder” — had pressed me to do something that I swore never to do. To come out, to admit to another person what I was.
I was sorely rejected. My heart was utterly broken, and my already ravaged psyche had several new, deep scars. The nightmare of a life of lonely isolation had suddenly and violently reemerged and struck me soundly. My GID had crushed the only relationship I had ever had, and I had let myself down by sharing my secret with someone. Trust was the ultimate weakness, and by trusting someone I had let that weakness inside me. I remembered from my youth what the consequences of weakness were.
I had enough. It was time. I was ready to go. I had given up. I didn't know it at the time, but I was going to join the infamous 41% statistic.
I will take my plan and method to the grave and will never discuss how I was to end myself. But, I had written my suicide letter and went to end my life when absolute pure chance intervened and I was unable to do it. Suicide is not an easy thing, and its not something you can just pick up the next day. With my plan thwarted, I decided the next best I could do was to simply double down on my secret and never, ever, under any circumstances trust anyone with that secret ever again. Maybe then, I could somehow convince someone that I was a perfectly normal guy and maybe someday find myself in another relationship and the creeping nightmare of endless lonely isolation would finally crease its torment.
The next years, nearly a decade, what I call my “interbellum” years, went along with me wandering along between various failures mostly. I kept my secret, dressing up in secret, experiencing the shame and embarrassment of it all entirely to myself. I'd occasionally head out for some flirtatious adventures and very often succeed, but nothing really ever took off. Bar chicks were not relationship material anyway. I was wondering if just being alone was my only real solution because I knew that I couldn't be relied upon for regular sexual activity anyway. Those old problems from my last relationship would just return, after all.
Eventually I did have another relationship. This one with a transsexual woman, I had decided that since I had to stay in the closet, maybe I could live vicariously through someone. In some ways this almost worked, but again, no matter how attractive I found my partner I couldn't stay ready — however, this time, it was less of a problem as she had little interest in sex anyway. This rather suited me, although I did not admit that. The relationship ended when I was laid off at work and she figured she could do better than me. At least my condition — now properly known as “Gender Dysphoria” had not ruined this, but the regular failures of my life. It was still, to me, a rather deep betrayal.
However, I had learned something. Relationships need sex, or people simply grow apart. My inability to perform regular sex meant that any relationship I was to be in was simply going to be doomed. It was always only going to be a matter of time. So I simply had to just never be in one, and I'd make due with the occasional outing.
Around this time, I'm now in my late thirties. The reality that my life was reaching its halfway point began to weight heavily on me. I had completed nearly half my life and had nothing to show for it. Few possessions, no relationship — and none ever possible. My GD was becoming harder to ignore, it was pressing down upon me at all times. Everything seemed hopeless. Just how was I supposed to continue like this? How was I to grow old, with the constant torment of GD? Would I just end up strange, gross, lonely old man?
I had made a decision, one a long time coming. An ultimatum. I had to do something about all of it, I had no more time left. I'd reached my breaking point once again. I was done with being poor, done with the closet. It was time to either put myself in a position where I could come out as the transwoman I've always been, or put an end to the lies the hard way. Either way, my time had come — the question was only to what end.
I set a date. Christmas day. I wrote my suicide letters and made my plan. This time, I accounted for everything. There would be nothing to ruin my suicide this time, except some kind of success. Christmas was a few months away, so I had time not merely to formulate a proper suicide plan, but also the potential to evade it. A new career — a new life. I learned to drive a semi truck. It was extremely difficult for me to learn (thanks Dyslexia) but I did it. But things did not go according to plan and the job market seemed to dry up just in time. No one was hiring anyone.
So time went by and my suicide plan settled in my mind as the outcome. The days ticked closer, and I grimly waited. Everything was ready to go. I picked a nice place to die, it was scenic and beautiful in the winter. I wanted to live my last moments in beauty. I would settle down with a bottle, take it all in, enjoy the sounds of the winter wildness and cry until I was ready. I would cry over the unmarked grave of a person who never got to exist, the person — the woman — that I never got to be. Who was she? What would she have been like? Would people have liked her? Would I have liked her? I would cry and mourn deeply for this person no one, not even me, had ever known.
The day before Christmas eve, the very last day possible, I received a phone call from a company that would hire me if I moved to Winnipeg. I don't know what I felt, but I agreed. Winnipeg had a clinic that did gender transition. When I completed my on the job training at my new career, I signed up at the clinic and went through the interview processes and I slowly got to become the woman I always was, and finally, after half a lifetime of suppressing her, I got to learn who she was.
I do like her.
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