First of all, I realize it’s been a while since I’ve done any writing here. It’s been a very busy, exciting and scary past few months. I was pretty seriously injured in a road bike accident at the end of August and spent most of September recovering from that.
As bad as that accident was, it wasn’t the biggest news from August that I neglected to mention. It’s hard to name the precise reason why I’ve been so shy about discussing it openly. Actually, as of this past September, it’s been a year since making the first tentative moves. I don’t have this timeline enumerated anywhere, so I’m adding it here for posterity.
I think I’ve always kept most things very hush hush from literally everyone in my life, even though that’s never been too many people. From September 2014 to around January 2015, I mulled over some things in my own head, and discussed with others in relative anonymity online in forums and occasionally on Reddit. I was worried and afraid, and I didn’t want to preemptively say anything to anyone before I felt sure enough. On January 19th, 2015 I texted my brother and threw it out there: I was pretty sure I was transgender and was going to transition, male to female.
I was honestly unsure what his reaction would be. How can you ever be sure what someone’s reaction will be to something like that? It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d told him every damn secret I ever had. No other secret would have approached the severity of what I just told him. He was very cool about it, and in those very early days, it made a lot of difference. It was almost anticlimactic.
A few days later, on January 22nd, I texted my oldest friend from high school. We’re not as close as we once were, but I can still count on him to call me out on something that might be bullshit. I had to convince him I was not messing around since we have a history of creating elaborate fake situations to mess with mutual friends. This was not that sadly, but I was able to convince him. He was surprised, but didn’t outright disbelieve what I was saying. Though he did find me a few days later to confirm that I hadn’t gone off the rails completely, and that this wasn’t the result of some mental break (it wasn’t).
So for a while, that was it. I didn’t say anything to anyone else. I mentioned it to my therapist about a month later. Though, it being outside her area of expertise, all she could do was help me continue to navigate my way through what I was discovering myself.
Through a highly fortuitous Reddit encounter, I happened to find out that there was a transgender health clinic nearby. I soon had the location, phone number and name of the doctor there. I still don’t know what prompted me to make that call. I’ve always been terrible on the phone. Calling for pretty much anything, I get nervous, my voice tends to shake, I stutter a lot, but this was completely different. As scary as it was for me to vocalize on the phone, “yes, I’d like to make an appointment at the transgender health clinic” it all came out very matter of factly. I spoke clearly and wasn’t even that nervous. My first appointment was in the middle of May 2015.
The first appointment was very brief, but it filled me with confidence. She made it very clear to me that this was my journey, at my pace, whatever I’m comfortable with whenever I’m comfortable with it. I left with informed consent papers for HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and a followup appointment in 2 months. I managed to hold things together for that time, and not psyche myself out. The next appointment was a full physical to help establish a baseline of what we were starting with. I actually hadn’t had a full physical in years, and it was pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately, I spoke up, and the doc made it as easy and quick as she could for me.
After that appointment, another month went by so I could come back, look over the blood work, make sure I’d had time to read over the informed consent papers and make me good to go. I had actually worked up the courage to sign the papers some time beforehand. That was my own process, on my own timeline. There were just countless hours of hard self introspection. It was honestly exhausting. Feeling terrified but also incredibly optimistic. We discussed some final things, and I walked out that morning in mid August with a prescription for low-dose HRT and a stupid grin on my face.
I was pretty nervous about picking the stuff up at the pharmacy. Actually, I’m surprised I wasn’t worse about it. Again, like when I made the original appointment, it just sort of happened. I was surprisingly calm, grounded and collected.
It was a pretty low dose of things to start, but I want to make it very clear what those first two weeks were like. First, I can’t remember a time sleeping so well. Just getting myself into bed at night, and feeling genuinely relaxed in a way that I hadn’t ever really been before. Everything else was great too. I felt so relaxed. So calm. So at peace. I wish everyone could experience catching fleeting glimpses of themselves in glass panes and smiling so big because you love what you see for the first time ever. I say it to anyone who asks: HRT did for me in two weeks what antidepressants couldn’t do in three years. Sure, there’s a lot of other stuff swirling around…practical matters, ongoing doubts, future prediction and the fears therein, but for the first time in my life, I felt ok just being. It’s honestly hard for me to describe, and it was entirely unexpected. Everything else aside, I just felt right. I felt calm, present and right. I’m fond of using car metaphors for this stuff and I often described it as like pouring diesel into a diesel engine for the first time in its life instead of regular unleaded. I try not to be overly dramatic about things, but I think it saved my life. Certainly in the long term. It was starting to become extremely unclear how much longer I could keep things going the way they were.
Those first weeks were amazing, and the start of the first genuine improvement in my life. Unfortunately, my accident happened right after those two weeks. It’s unclear what caused it and I suffered a concussion so I still don’t remember. The best hypothesis from my doctor is that the anti-androgen which is also a diuretic contributed to dehydration and electrolyte loss and I passed out in the saddle. The only problem was that I was just beginning my descent of a 2200FT climb. I broke my right collarbone, my left thumb, had road rash on my leg and my arm, bruised ribs and the concussion. It was my first and only major accident in well over 7000 miles of riding, but it did help me see one thing: life is short. In the previous two weeks, I had seen genuine happiness. Doubts would come and go, but this was something I had to do. This was my shot.
Since then and since recovering things have continued to improve. I went up from the low dose HRT to a more standard dose. I love how I feel. Sometimes things are still really tough, and fighting depression is an ongoing battle, but I feel like my head is so much clearer now. I wish I could help all people understand this about trans people. Regardless of any of the extraneous fluff, the fact is that I’m going to be ok now. I feel like a regular person, engaged in life, and ready to continue it. How could anyone justify wanting to take that away from me?
In early October I finally decided to tell my parents, or at least my mom so she could tell my dad. I still don’t feel like I have the kind of relationship with my dad that makes talking about something like this possible. It’s not that he’s unaccepting, but there’s just so little precedent for talking with him about personal matters in my life. With my dad, it’s always been all business and the few times we have delved into the personal, it makes it’s way into a business discussion. It was my dad who for years discouraged me from dating (curiously he didn’t do the same for my brother or sister) because I should “build myself, and build a career…then people would want me”. I had a feeling telling my mom was going to be bad, so I wrote up an email that was as concise as I could make it. I focused on the key elements that I thought couldn’t possibly be controversial. I was happier. I don’t do things hastily. I was excited about living my life for the first time ever.
It did not go well. It went horribly. My mom accused me of “following a bandwagon” and that I could “never be a girl” and that all of this was because of reasons X, Y and Z. It breaks my heart that she seemed to completely gloss over the most important part: me being happier. In fact, it never even came up. I blamed myself for not conveying my improved mood well enough. The hardest part is that I know now that how I feel isn’t terribly unique. I’ve read plenty of other trans people describe uncannily similar feelings of defectiveness, downward spiraling, and hopelessness on life that abated when they started transition. The only difference being the parents in those scenarios were too overjoyed that their kid was doing better to give a shit about what gender they were doing it as. My heart is truly broken. I had a single long discussion on the phone with my mom about the email a week later (which I had to bring up) that ended up devolving into a full-on blow-out argument about all kinds of old bullshit that has no relevance to me today and no relevance to my decision to transition.
I haven’t brought it up since, and I don’t intend to at least until I can come up with a better angle. I suspect she didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother telling my dad at all. At first I thought that maybe I needed to demonstrate that I was doing better, but I don’t live near my parents, so it’s hard to do that. Now though, I feel that’s an excessive burden of proof on my part, and one I don’t feel is fair. I told my mom sincerely and with great difficulty how I felt. That should be enough. That should be more than enough. I wish she knew how hard it was for me to share that with her. I wish she knew that I wanted to tell her because I care about her.
To be continued…