Monday, November 12, 2012

Am I happy? Yes, but I'm also full of rage.


I was recently asked if I was happy (about having transitioned, making the change, paying the price, etc.). I wonder how many of the people who knew me before are equally curious?  

One friend admitted to me that he prayed for me to fail in my efforts so I would change my mind and go back to living as a man, but that was a while ago.

It's now been five years since I started to disclose to my family and friends and I was nearly paralyzed by the fear that my life would be over. I was also afraid for my marriage and hoped it would survive. It didn't. So how to answer the question? The truth is the answer is not a "yes" and it is not a "no." It is both. I have never been as at peace in my own skin as I am today, but that does not mean I am happy with life as a whole.

The loss of friends did not materialize as I had feared, or I should say, it didn't happen the way I feared it would. What actually happened with old friends is that after their initial expression of love and support for my decision, I never heard from most of them again. For many, I was and still might be the only transgender person they know. I'm okay with that and if it helps them open up their heart for the next trans person(s) who may enter their circle, then great.

Maybe their silence has more to do with the fact that I am now divorced. Is it denial on their part? It is always awkward for friends when one has been known as one half of a couple, right? Maybe there is another, simpler, explanation for their silence, "out of sight, out of mind." I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, or am I being too generous by still referring to them as friends?

I am suspicious and doubtful of just how well things are really going for transgender persons today. Support for marriage equality may be spreading, more and more companies and organizations are coming out as LGBT friendly, anti-bullying campaigns to raise awareness about the suicide rate among teens struggling with their sexuality are also on the increase. Yet, despite all this good that is going on, I fear life for transgender persons is not much better than it was five years ago when I began my public journey.

A trans friend sent me a link to an article in the Christian Post this morning. I won't dignify the story by giving you the link, why give them unmerited page clicks? It was a vicious transphobic rant by some Christian that lacked any compassion or attempts to understand. The judgement of this person is that being transgender is a sin and that all the well-meaning support for trans persons is simply perpetuating a fraud and an evil perversion.

My dear friend and blogger Kathy Verbiest Baldock has written about how transgender people are the new target for the conservative Christian right, now that they have lost the gay and lesbian battle. She may be  correct. Another friend and blogger, John Shore, shared with me that he gets many letters from pastors telling him that his writings have helped them grow in their understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians but confess they are terrified about the prospect of a transsexual coming into their church. By the way, both Kathy and John are straight Christians, yet they both have been speaking out on behalf of LGBT people.

This is what John admitted to me after I shared the above article with him and opined how little is really said about the T in the whole LGBT discussion:
"The transgender thing drives me insane. I HATE leaving out that "T." But I have to. Because the decision to alter one's body is [seen as] a choice. I know it's not, and you know it's not, but logically that's not a fight you can win. First we have to get people used to the whole IDEA of gender being a fluid thing--and THEN we can move them toward understanding that if they can accept gay people AS gay, they must no less accept transgender people."
If I had known that finally coming out as transgender and deciding to transform my body medically and surgically would be as unsavory to so many, would it have made a difference? Though it might have given me more anxiety, the answer is no. I've said this before, I'll say it again, the choice I made was to embrace life and not choose to do what 41% of transgender persons have tried. Suicide has at times seemed like the only other option, and God only knows how may have succeeded if so many have tried but failed. I have to admit that the thought often crossed my mind to make a purposefully failed attempt simply so people would take my need to transition seriously—to make that proverbial cry for help.

By all indications, most transgender persons and specialists in the field would say that my transition has been a success. I too believe that I have been fortunate in that regard. But it is of little comfort to me when I see how society as a whole is still so unbending and unwilling to let us live in peace and treat us like the elephant in the room. We are a long way from enjoying equality if there are people out there claiming that transgender have fallen for an evil lie and that changing our bodies is a sin. Why are pastor be terrified about the prospect of someone like me coming into their churches? Am I—and by extension all transgender persons—that really that horrible and scary?

Among some of my new transgender friends there are a few who give a rat's ass about what people think. The only drum they march to is their own and they have not allowed peoples opinions of them or how well they may pass as the men and women they identify as to keep them from living. They are a thousand times more courageous than me in that regard. I have agonized about how well I am accepted and whether or not I can go through life without drawing any kind of attention to myself, especially negative attention. So much of my emotional energy has been consumed dealing with perceptions. 

So am I happy? I've already given it away in the title of this blog…"Yes, but I'm full of rage." I am happy to be alive. Happy to be able to share my story, especially with those who don't have the token transgender person in their circle of friends. I am happy that my transition has gone off without a hitch, medically speaking. I am happy for new friends who don't have a history of my former self and are not tripped up by that history—that we can write a new one together void of that duality. I am also happy that I can be transparent about my past and have nothing to hide. These are just some of the things that I am happy about. But as I said, I am also full of rage.

My rage has to do with the systemic and pervasive discrimination I see towards transgender persons and anyone who appears to be gender non-conforming. Negative articles like the one my friend sent me are painful to read, but equally painful is when discrimination is silent, when people find it easier to turn a blind eye to our needs and existence than to engage.

That may help explain why the T is so invisible in the whole LGBT picture. It also might help explain why my marriage, like so many other transgender marriages failed. As long as society views us with disdain, how can we ever expect that those who matter most to us will not be affected by the negative perceptions? It is unfair to our spouses when the only possible explanation for why a marriage may survive is because the wife (of the male to female transgender person) is assumed to be a lesbian or at least bisexual. That notion is odious, not just for the fact it is homophobic and transphobic, but because it is not anyone's business.

On the other hand. when marriages survive other "devastating" life situations, such as cancer, they are held in high esteem and honored for their courage and the proof of their love for one another. Why can't that be society's take for those who transition after marriage? — I think it might have given mine a better chance of survival.

What to do with this new found rage? 

This rage is a new thing for me. I was only able to put my finger on it a couple of days ago. Perhaps this realization was awakened by the questions from my friend who wondered if I was really happy. The fact is I have been in a strange kind of a head space for a while; I have been avoiding contact with people. I thought it was depression I was dealing with, but it's not; it's rage.

By all outward appearances, the people around me have not been aware of anything because I have mastered the art of internalizing crap. Sorry to be so rude, but that is what it is, crap. This ability to bottle things up is not the best form of resiliency, but it is what allowed me to survive before I transitioned, and it seems to be kicking in once again. But I am really tired pretending that all is okay; that is why I am speaking out today.

It's not okay when "Christians" accuse us of being perverse and write the kind of stuff that makes it difficult, if not impossible for transgender persons and our families. And I worry about the impact those comments may have on anyone— young or old—who at that moment is trying to decide whether to choose life or to end the nightmare.

I apologize for sounding so negative. I'm trying to put this rage into perspective and I welcome any suggestions you may have. Leave me a comment or send me a private message. I would be honored.



Your comments are very much appreciated