Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Girl Nobody Knew

The story or testimony of this enormous life change continues to be rewritten as time goes by. This is actually the third iteration and once again I'm finding myself rewriting it from start to finish instead of merely sprucing up the previous version.

I guess I'll start by stating the facts of the present. I am a female trapped inside the body of a genetically born male. Just as anybody else who is female, whether they were born that way or not, I want to be seen as a woman by everyone around me. This means if you see me or pictures of me from here on out, I will be dressed in an appropriately feminine manner. It also means I wish to be addressed using female pronouns (her, she, hers) and by a more feminine name which I have legally already changed. If you see me or talk to me you might also notice a change in my voice for similar reasons. On the day of posting this story, I am finally officially living as a woman all the time, at home, at work, everywhere.

Transgender individuals have been around for a long time but you used to never hear much about them. I don't believe the number of transgender people has increased but more that society has started to become more accepting of us, whether that's from medical research, education, or just plain open acceptance. Thus, it has become safer for us to "come out" and actually do something about our problem instead of living in misery. A plethora of research has shown that this is most likely genetic. It's theorized that in the womb, different hormones (female, in my case) can flood the brain, compared to ones that act on the rest of the developing baby’s body (male). So it is possible to end up with a brain that’s been arranged for a female, within a body of a baby male.

In a lot of cases, the transgender individual realizes at a young age that something is horribly wrong with their gender. Sometimes it isn't until puberty, when those around them are developing in one way and they themselves are developing in the opposite way. Sometimes crossdressing can occur in childhood and adulthood. There seems to be a definite peace in being more perceived as the appropriate gender as they are feeling. In other cases, such as my own, it is not so obvious to the individual, what is wrong. The problem can get buried and ignored, at least for a time.

To the human eye, growing up I was a regular boy. I'll admit, I was a bit feminine in my looks and more emotional than most boys but for the most part, just a boy. I think I internalized any problems I felt about my gender. I embraced that I was a boy genetically so that's how I should learn how to live. I didn't know what else to do, I just knew I loved my parents and knew their expectations of me. If you ask my parents about me as a small boy, they will probably tell you I was gentle and loving...but still a boy.

In 4th grade, I very clearly remembering telling a female friend of mine that I wanted to be a girl. It's only a small memory but the very first of its kind. As I went through puberty, I embraced it with enthusiasm. I knew the changes would make me more of a man and I thought that's what I was supposed to be. My feminine looks and emotional mind were a huge concern for me though. I can remember countless times where somebody mistook me as a girl and I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I found myself avoiding anything feminine or even unisex when it came to clothing and accessories. I had overwhelming fears of buying something that was remotely feminine and having somebody notice and expose me. I often let my hair grow long and somebody would jokingly tell me that I looked like a girl and I would race off to the barber shop. A couple times I even tried to look "tougher" by getting a "Flat top" haircut. When we moved to Washington and did not know of any barbers in the area, my mother took us to a salon to get our haircuts. I was horrified when the lady put my head back and prepared to wash my hair. I told her i just needed a haircut, that was all. I think I was afraid they were going to do some girly salon techniques to my hair. I worked out some, trying to tone muscle, off and on through the years but never was able to keep at it. For the most part, I learned to hold my emotions in (especially crying) although I did end up writing a lot of poetry and that served as an avenue for my emotions.

At one point, when I was very young, I had this overwhelming fear that I would wake up one morning and have female breasts. I was deathly afraid of this, imagining everyone seeing me and laughing. I look back on that now and realize that it was just another fear of being exposed for who I really am.....and at the time, all I knew is that my body was male. In high school, I remember letting a female friend paint my finger nails and for some reason I went to school the next day without removing the polish. I remember countless people giving me weird looks or asking me why my nails were painted and I was very quick to answer that "she made me do it". Even with that excuse though, I made sure that my friend removed the polish that night and never did it again. Another time, that same female friend dressed up a male friend of mine in a dress with makeup and took his picture. I clearly remember feelings of jealousy when hearing about this experience....what I wouldn't have given to have been in his place that night. In the last year, I've talked to him about this and he admitted to only allowing her to dress him up like that because he had romantic feelings for her.

Another thing I distinctly remember is the decision to start looking at girls and being more obvious about it. Male friends I knew would always be looking through female friends' girly magazines just to oogle at the models in them and I would always decline. At some point I realized that if I didn't learn this behavior and put it on just right, they would all think I was gay. And so I began looking through those magazines and also making sure my friends knew when I was noticing a girl by making remarks such as "She's hot" while pointing them out.
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Growing up, I always found myself immersed in something...books, computer games, software development, even girls. I was always focused on something and I guess it helped me not have to deal with the turmoil going on inside of me. Since I started transition and understanding myself, I've found that I no longer have the desire to get so fully immersed in other worlds because I'm finally happy to live my own life. Instead of staying at home, I'd rather be out hanging out with people. It's quite surprising.

I started reaching out to other girls at age 5, in Kindergarten. It's pretty natural for boys to reach out to girls but usually there are phases of 'cooties'...I never had such a phase. I think I reached out to other girls because I subconsciously realized something was amiss in my own body and I could relate much better to girls. I had a good many friends that were girls, growing up but I also reached out romantically....I clearly saw the relationship between my mother and father and knew that I was supposed to model that. When I finally did find a girl that would actually date me in college, I think she knew something was different about me and that I was in denial. That relationship didn't last but a year or two after, I met my wife, a very special and caring woman. Our relationship from the start was of close friendship. We've both spoken to other married couples about their relationship with their spouse and they were always amazed at the bond we had. I tend to believe that we were so close because at the heart, I really am a woman.

I was raised a conservative Christian and was always told my whole life that being homosexual (and by proxy, transsexual) was wrong. I never questioned it. In fact, I now believe that I never even allowed myself to even look at other guys or think of them in this way. Similar to my feminine desires, it was forbidden to be attracted to men so I never even let myself try. In the same way, whenever I heard about transsexuals I went along with what everyone else said, "Why were they not satisfied with what God gave them?".

I remember buying lingerie for my wife constantly. She'd usually wear it for me once and then it would disappear into the closet. For some reason, there came a time where I found myself dressing up in her lingerie. She knew about it but was never comfortable with it. I didn't understand why I had that desire but it was always just a short period of time in the bedroom, never lasting longer than a few minutes. I wasn't supposed to be dressing up in clothes meant for women...I was a man. That probably only happened a couple times in 4 years of marriage. One or two of those times, I had been drinking and my wife came home and found me garbed as such, to her dismay. On another note, I never really wanted sex quite as much as she did. At some point in our marriage, I began imagining in my head that I was the woman during sex and suddenly it worked.

Well the year 2009 held quite a bit of discovery on my part. It was about March that I happened upon a webcomic which had a plotline involving a boy being accidentally transformed into a girl. While reading this comic, something inside myself snapped and I would never be the same. Take note that webcomics don't usually cause people to suddenly have desires to change their gender. Instead, something I'd been hiding my whole life started to rise from the pits of my soul, where I had banished them since I was very young. Something started happening inside me, the wheels started turning and I was quite thoughtful for a week or so. On the weekend, I went to a church men's retreat and as I always had in the past, I felt very out of place but this time, even more so than usual.

I came home that weekend ready to test these new feelings out. I wasn't sure what they were exactly but I knew what I wanted to try. I suggested to my wife that she dress me up in a dress and makeup and do my hair like a girl's. She looked at me quizzically but went along with the whole thing. I'm sure she must have thought that it was like the other few times where I had dressed in her lingerie. When everything was done, I looked into the mirror and what happened is virtually indescribable. I like to imagine an enormous dam at the top of a waterfall, holding back a raging river. Imagine me reading that webcomic as a crack in the dam and the moment I looked into that mirror and saw a glimpse of my whole true self in it's right form, the crack in the dam split open until the whole dam collapsed and the raging river rushed down the waterfall. Adrenaline raced through my veins, a thousand butterflies fluttered in my stomach, and finally, the most serene calm, like a still glass lake. This sense of peace and completeness was like nothing I had ever felt in my 28 years of living on this earth. But this was only the beginning of my discovery.

Over the next couple of months I experimented with crossdressing around the house. I also went to great lengths to try to understand why this felt so right, especially because it caused a lot of conflict in my marriage. I researched over the internet, opened up with friends and discussed it, and even saw a therapist from the church about it. I learned a lot during that time such as the difference between a crossdresser and a transsexual. A crossdresser was a man who felt the need to dress and look as a woman on a case by case basis but they still feel like they had a masculine side and have no intent or desire to fully transition into womanhood. A transsexual is somebody who feels like they were born into the wrong gender. Most of the time, they realize this from a young age. Because I hadn't necessarily realized this when I was young, I figured I must be a crossdresser. As the months went by though, I began to understand that there was deeper desires in my heart, deeper needs. Once I allowed those needs to surface and I understood that I was truly a woman born into a man's body, I became very afraid. I couldn't go through his horrific transition from man to woman! I would most certainly lose my wife and church, maybe my family, and maybe even my job! Not to mention the pain of laser hair removal and electrolysis, the possible various surgeries, and emotional despair. No, I would put this back into the box it came in, lock it away forever once again like I'd done for the last 28 years. And that's what I did....or at least tried to do.

The few people at my church that I had shared my struggles with supported me in my decision to fully suppress the desire and need. They claimed that God made me a man so that's what I should be. That was the belief I'd held to my whole life, after all. God doesn't make mistakes. Well my strength in suppression lasted about a week. When I saw the clothes and other accessories I had accumulated begin to get sold (via eBay), it started to hit me how permanent this decision was. I fell into a deep deep depression. My life in those days consisted of work, eat, and sleep. That's all. I think what it amounts to is that a feeling like this, even if you've successfully suppressed it and sealed it off for years, once it's open, you cannot go back to being ignorant of it.

After a few weeks of living like this, (if you can even call it living) I began to once again seek out physical, hard, solid evidence for a reason behind my need. I looked into intersex symptoms, had my testosterone tested, etc. It all still amounted to possibilities, nothing concrete. During this time, the conflict with my wife became worse. She succeeded in making me feel guilty, she didn't want to lose me, she just wanted her husband to stay a man. Our arguments often ended in me breaking down crying and wanting to end my life because I knew the pain I was causing her...I could feel it, see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice. It hurt my soul to know that I was causing her such anguish and yet on the other side of it was being unable to really be myself, a woman....how can you compromise that? It was such a difficult time that I began contemplating suicide. I told my wife about my desire to have never been born or to end it all and she began to worry. She told my parents that I was suicidal and my parents began to worry. I finally ended up telling both of them what was going on and they were very loving and accepting of my decision, if I chose to become their daughter instead of their son. I believe they were shocked but anything was better than having me dead.

Their acceptance actually kind of pushed me forward a little and my wife saw this and notified the guys at church about it. They called me up and met with me to talk with me about what I was thinking about doing to my body, to my life. They did this twice over the period of a week. Each time, they quoted scripture and raised their voices telling me why what I was planning to do was evil in God's eyes. I cried and cried and cried through the whole process. The first time, they knew I was suicidal and they wouldn't let me leave unless I promised I wouldn't hurt myself. The second time, they made me do no such thing and I went home with full intent to kill myself. I knew it was selfish but they had said I would become "unsaved" if I became a woman so I figured I would end it all while I was still "saved" in God's eyes. I didn't have the chance when I got home because my wife was in the garage so I went to bed and got up in the early morning, still with full intent to end it all. What little left in me that wanted to survive texted a few choice friends that knew about the situation. In the text, I said: "I'm sorry for being selfish but I can't take it anymore. God would rather have me dead than be a woman." I got into the truck, the garage firmly shut, and started the engine.

Right away, a friend called back. He had been up because of a pager call and he of course tried to convince me to stop what I was doing and I heard him getting into his car. I told him I was going to go through with it and that he would not get there in time. Shortly after I lost connection with him, my wife woke up and because of a bad feeling, she went downstairs, heard the engine running and immediately opened the garage. I was so frustrated and angry at the time that she had stopped what I was doing. It resulted in a visit to the emergency room and I committed myself voluntarily to the psych ward of the hospital because nothing was solved so I knew I would only try again.

In the hospital, I came out to the other patients there about my conundrum and surprisingly found them to be very accepting. It was a small realization among many that I would have to go through to find self acceptance. After leaving the hospital, I decided to start seeing a counselor that had experience in Gender Identity Disorder. At this point in time, I was completely convinced this is what I had, no matter how much my wife, family, or church would tell me that it didn't exist. It was a major conflict when I told my wife of my decision to see another counselor but I chose to push forward and do it anyway. I think my wife sensed that it was the beginning of the end of her husband as she knew him.

At this point in time, I believe that I was meant to be born a woman. Going back to the argument that God doesn't make mistakes, I'm not disputing that. God doesn't make mistakes but we do. Everybody does something wrong in their life at some point....usually much more than once. God allows this.....it's called Free will. But there are always consequences. I believe something happened in the womb when I was being made that allowed for this to happen. I'm just trying to set right what went wrong because of free will. I compare it to infertility treatments or cancer treatments....when you get sick, don't you try to get it fixed from what we know of medicine? Yet my family and previous church wanted me to deny there was a problem or live my life repressing myself. I will never understand that. Also because of my situation, I started to open my mind to the fact that if I can be born this way maybe homosexual people are born that way as well.

After the first session or two, my new counselor diagnosed me with Gender Identity Disorder (GID). I began to be less worried about why this was happening to me and started concentrating on setting it right. It was around the end of September or the beginning of October that I began dressing up again around the house. I also decided that I would paint my nails on the weekends because I couldn't do so and go to work without somebody wondering what was going on. I told my parents I would respect them and try to ease them into my new look by still coming over to their house dressed in guy clothes but with my nails painted. They did not like this however and immediately banned me from their house if I had nail polish on. I stuck to my guns and have not set foot inside their house since.

But because of their unwillingness to accept my compromise, I sped ahead in transition and began dressing as myself all of the time, outside of work, of course. I remember my first time at the grocery store. I had girl jeans and a v-neck t-shirt and my usual heels. As I walked into the store, a guy brushed past me and said "Excuse me, ma'am". Wow, what a feeling...before I even set foot in the store, I was being recognized for who I really was, a woman! Nowadays, I am fairly self confident most of the time. Most people either really don't know or are very courteous.

Around this time, I also began laser hair removal on my face. They say it feels like someone taking a rubber band and snapping it on your face. Well they lie. It hurts a whole lot more than that! It's more like a gun with five fiery needles shooting into your skin and they do that all over your face. Just one painful aspect of transition.

My church told me I could no longer take communion so I opted to stop attending at that church. I now attend at Everett UCC (http://www.everettucc.org ) where they know of my situation but know and accept me as myself.

In November, I went to a sperm storage facility and stored some in case I ever did want kids at a later date. The reason for this is because once you begin hormone replacement therapy, after anywhere between 3 to 6 months, you become sterile. So, in December, after 28 years of struggling to be a man....I began the biological journey of becoming a woman. I also began seeing a voice therapist to try to learn how to talk like a woman.

In January, I changed my name. I also was able to change my gender from Male to Female on my driver's license as well as on most documentation such as medical benefits, insurance, etc. Soon after, I came out to management at work and they were surprisingly very supportive and began helping me plan my transition at work. Now in February, I'll be taking the final step and living as a woman full time, including at work.

In the coming years, I do plan to have the surgery that will finish aligning my body with my correct gender. The surgery is very expensive and not covered by most insurance companies so I will have to save for it on my own. There are also other requirements before being allowed to go through with the surgery such as two letters from either psychologists (PhD) or doctors (MD) as well as what they call the Real Life Experience (RLE) or Real Life Test (RLT). This is a period of a year or so living as a woman all of the time.

It's been a long journey of revelations, hardship, pain, and tears and it has much more of the same to come. I cannot begin to describe how different life is now that I am able to be myself though. I am very thankful for the heaps of support I have received from friends, old and new, my church, and even my work. Thanks for making this girl feel welcome and loved.

8 comments:

Stace said...

Debra,

I can't tell you how happy I am for you that you have reached this point. And how sorry I am for the personal cost.

Everytime I read of the treatment you received from your church I am speachless... The fact they said what they said just doesn't tie in with my idea's of what a Christian is or should be (I have to confess here that I am agonistic, but I beleive in the morals of the teachings of Christ that I know of).

I wish you all the happiness that you deserve in the future.

Stace

Treacle said...

Debra, I love the new photo you've posted. You're beautiful. :-)

Stace said...

Just saw your new picture - very nice!

Stace

Debra said...

Thank you girls! I'm still trying to figure out how to do my hair on mjy own now LOL. I have a week vacation to perfect it before i go back to work at least. =)

I know what you mean Stace, it's baffling.

Ephilei said...

Hey Jer . . . ica

Sounds like you're happy and I'm very glad for that! But I am sorry you and your wife are ending through a divorce. Personallly, I'm morally neutral about divorce. Since I haven't married, it's not my place to say one way or the other. All I can do is hope God brings the best thru it.

I'm very glad you found a good church home! That's critical. By chance, are you related to Laura Mckenzie, my parent's pastor in Chicago? I only ask because you're the only two people I've heard with that name.

I pray things continue to work out for you., Gender, marriage, and otherwise. I'm more into Debian than Gentoo, but to each her own.

Erica said...

Hi Debra, I just found your blog and have to say your story touched me. I'm still sorting out my own identity, but success stories like this one give me hope. You look beautiful, I hope one day I can look as great as you.

Debra said...

Hi Erica

I'm glad my story gave you hope! We all need hope in our lives especially in dark times. *hugs*

<3 Debra

Stace. said...

Debra,

I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, but found myself getting caught up in reading your story. As much as it can mean coming from a complete stranger, I find you to be a beautiful person. Way to be an inspiration to those struggling to embrace their identities!

PS- I saw your picture and did not even know you were trans. You're such a stunning woman!

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