Breakthrough

Could it be? Detente? Yes, it appears so.

A kind of peace, at the very least, brought upon by the discovery of something unexpected: my wife found an old photograph, and a website she’d not seen before, or wanted to see.

This is the website:

http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx

And this is the photograph:

Searching for old pictures of our niece for her graduation, my wife stumbled upon this picture taken the same year the girl was born, 18 years ago. It was 1994, and I dressed-up for Halloween.

It was the first time since I was a teenager that I wore women’s clothing and makeup. My friends were stunned, especially the young woman I was dating. Someone who didn’t know me commented that it didn’t truly resemble a costume, and asked if I did this all the time. The answer was no, but it was strange to discover after nearly 15 years of male hormones coursing through my body, I could still pass.

I never thought about that experience again, until the changes started more than a decade later. It was 2005, and I showed my wife this photograph and others from that party, in a discussion of what was happening to me.

Another seven years later, it’s the present: my beloved rediscovered these pictures, not recalling at first that I had showed them to her. There was suspicion at first, and when I answered truthfully and without evasion, she then considered the significance of the timing; she married me just two years after that Halloween party, never knowing about my buried past. It wasn’t something I kept from her as much as I kept it from myself, something to be forgotten along with old girlfriends’ phone numbers and dating disasters.

If there was a connection between my modeling days, that party costume and the changes I have experienced, I hadn’t considered it before. But she did now. This discovery, and what she learned from the APA website about transsexualism, truly opened her eyes more than anything I could have said. She realized who I really am.

I’m not saying she was no longer broken-hearted, but at least we both felt as though we could go forward as allies, instead of enemies.

My wife’s one demand: she considered it imperative that I accepted a fact of life. That instead of seeing myself as a heterosexual male with a transgender condition, she wanted me to “own” that I am in fact a transgender female and a lesbian. No more hiding.

I was a little taken aback. I told her I wasn’t ready to move THAT fast! I really have no idea what it’s like to have a totally supportive spouse; I imagined it would take some getting used to.

So what was to happen now? I reminded her that my feelings for her hadn’t changed; that if she had feelings for me, too, I could survive as a “non-op” (someone who chooses not to have surgery to transition from one gender to another). Pulling my iPhone from its dock in the total darkness, I showed her a website:

http://nonop.zxq.net/why.html

She didn’t have her glasses on, since we were in bed, together. So, as we cuddled next to one another in front of the tiny illuminated screen, I read it aloud, in particular the part about MtF’s who choose to not have surgery so they can stay with their wives and children. There was silence when I finished.

A moment passed, and I could sense a relaxation in her tense, naked body, as she lay so close to mine I could feel her breathing.

And that’s when she attacked me. Kissed me full-on, right on the lips… and the rest I’ll leave to your imagination.

I should note, my transformed body can only do so much without medical assistance, and with a sufficient interval to allow a certain prescription to work. So, don’t jump to conclusions as to what went on, but know this: it was great, for both of us.

I think we’re on the road to somewhere. Hopefully, together, for at least awhile longer.

And I think I’ll hold-off on that whole idea of “owning” anything and just live in this moment, for now.

With or Without Me

So, this is who I am:

 

A homewrecker.

Someone who has caused a marriage of 15 years to disintegrate and challenged a 25-year friendship built on trust and affection. Now both lay in ruins, all because I exist.

I didn’t ask for this, nor does it make me happy. But if I am ignored and stifled, there’s no guarantee I won’t make everyone miserable all over again.

I demand to be dealt with, and fairly. I deserve attention and more than that, I would like to be loved, or at least cared for. I cannot help but be me. And hating me just for being me doesn’t make me go away.

As evening comes, the conciliatory language fades and combative dialogue commences. Words are exchanged like cannonfire. Broken hearts are trampled anew and tears flow beyond the point I thought anyone had the capability of crying.

There are no winners, all losers. Even me.

A sacrifice to live with me is spurned, a sacrifice to ignore me is rejected, and so everyone on all sides is sad, beaten-down, depressed and anxious about what comes next.

 

The Talk

The sun was setting as we sat in the dining room following dinner. Dishes away, kids watching TV, my love looking tired but so adorable as she outlined possibilities for a late summer family vacation.

Together?

Just hours earlier, she shared with me the journal she had started, detailing her feelings about her slowly dissolving marriage to me and my burgeoning transition. She wrote eloquently about trying to contend with the woman within me and the life she wished for but could not have. I cried over nearly every line as she poured out her pain, sentence by sentence, and I could read between the lines the life sentence that was about to be pronounced: exile from my home, isolation from my children, separation from the love of my life.

So I asked her, point blank: “Vacation? Together? Great! After reading your journal I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.”

And that was the last time I’ve used or thought of anything “pleasant.” We talked for so many hours about our long-term future that the room grew dark, neither of us getting up to turn on the light, sort of a metaphor for our marriage. Somehow we segued into how I was “covering,” the way an Alzheimer’s patient pretends to connect the dots but is truly lost in dementia. “Covering” my femininity.

She accused me of having already transitioned in my mind. A smile unbidden crossed my face, because I sense it, too. Totally? Nah. But it’s close.

We argued. I tried to negotiate. Fruitless. We both cried. Both of us are heartbroken. I begged her not to make this official until we spoke with our counselor tomorrow. That I wanted us to be together forever.

“As ‘Dawn'” she said, finishing my unspoken thought. “Not happening.”

photo (2)

Before I showered for work, I undressed and she insulted me one last time about how my body appeared to have already transitioned, calling me “disgusting.” Should have seen that one coming.

At least the streaks of my tears were washed away by the hot water.

This morning, we spoke once more by phone, and she apologized for being so mean, which she also did last night, but this time was different in tone. She said she understood that she was asking me to do something she would not, that she is asking me to make a sacrifice she won’t make. And that this was unfair.

I cried as I told her, I just cannot bear the thought of being apart from her, from our children, from our home. “I can’t go into exile,” I said, from behind a voice cracking with emotion. “I have to go,” and hung up.

And I feel like “going” is exactly what is happening. Against my will. But like so many others before me, what choice do I really have?

I’ve never figured myself to be an “Occupy” squatter.

Sticks and Stones and HTML

Learning to pass as a woman: easy. Learning to not be bothered by hatemongers: hard.

When I shared my latest blog entry with my friends and removed the privacy setting I had enabled to control access, I thought one or two more people might discover this blog and read it. What I didn’t expect was that someone with a far larger audience would share my life story with the world, literally. Her name is Zoe Brain.

Thanks to Zoe, I’ve had people in Australia, the UK, France and other places read about me, and it felt pretty good… until I found out about “Elizabeth.”

She maintains a blog that is highly critical of my friend, which is to say, she has denounced Zoe as a fraud and a liar. I believe Zoe, and I contend “Elizabeth’s” accusations are unfair and untrue. I said as much, publicly, on Zoe’s blog. So, it came to pass that “Elizabeth” would turn her gunsights on me and poor, little unknown “lifeafterdawn.wordpress.com.”

And when she did, hoo-boy, did the haters come out of the woodwork. She devoted two comments to attacking me, and was joined in by someone named Gina, at last check. I’m no longer checking, by the way.

But I did respond with a short post on the “Elizabeth” blog to basically say, “HEY! QUIT IT” …in the nicest possible way.

You can guess what happened next. Telling someone who attacked you to stop attacking you is the surest way to encourage them to attack you some more. It’s the same with bullies. Once they recognize that their behavior bothers you, a world of hurt is all that follows. You’d think, 40 years later, I’d have learned that by now.

So I took time to read, and re-read their hateful comments, and formulated a response. One that may never see the light of day. Even if “Elizabeth” does decide to post my point-by-point retort, I’m not continuing this debate. I have the truth on my side, and my friends. All she and her cohorts have are fear, and hatred.

And I have no doubt that this is merely batting practice for the onslaught that will descend upon me when my book comes out.

So here it is; the only change I made to her posts are to change the type to Bold Italics, for clarity. Your comments, as always, are welcome. Even those of “Elizabeth” and her minions.

Elizabeth:

You expose yourself when you post derogatory comments without even doing your homework. I have no argument with you, but I will endure your negativity one more day to respond to your questions, untruths and unfounded allegations, some of which you saw yourself can be easily answered if only you did your homework (i.e., reading my blog, or simply asking me before making a false statement).

Point by point:

“Your story is BULLSHIT.”

No it is not, it is not even a story, it is my life. Who are you to say otherwise?

“In a 3 month period you turned from male to female and all your dick and balls turned into a vagina and labia. Sure they did and the moon is made of cheese.”

I do not claim to have a vagina nor a labia and I never claimed this all happened in 3 months. The changes first appeared in 2005 and have progressed over seven years. I have medical documentation. What do you have, other than bile to spew from your foul mouth?

“I do not hate you. I simply do not believe you because it is medically impossible from both a hormonal state and a physiological state for this to happen to an adult male or any human male for that matter.”

Thank you for not hating me, and you don’t have to believe me.  But again, I ask: since I have both the documentation and the physical evidence (my body), what do you have to disprove the changes I have experienced? The best explanation from a series of doctors working on my case over several years is similar to a comment posted by “Sagebrush.” My T levels crashed. My E levels were found to be elevated, cause unknown, and have made me estrogen dominant. The effect over time is atrophy of both penile and scrotal tissue to the point of regression. Not retraction. My testes ascended and my penis is internalized within my groin area. I have had multiple forms of tests and examinations, including one beyond what any male patient has had to endure to verify these facts. And I have my body as proof. What evidence do you have to prove what I say is untrue?

“The only way what you said happened is with FFS and SRS in a 3 month period. Isn’t it odd these fantastical transformations and magical conversions happen to married men? Gee I wonder why that is.

If you had your SRS then god bless you and enjoy your life but Disney and magical kingdoms only exist in the imagined thoughts of those creating fantasies to make peoples lives more enjoyable even when they are physical entities like Disney world.”

I have had neither SRS nor FFS nor surgery of any kind, ever. I had one surgical procedure to remove a small part of a tumor from an adrenal gland to see if it was feminizing me. It was not. The operation was not a fantasy, I have records to prove it occurred. And while my features and secondary sexual characteristics have a feminine appearance, I have done nothing to physically alter the body I was born with other than a circumcision when I was an infant. I do not claim to be intersex and have documentation verifying I am a genetic male.

“Your name can only be besmirched if you are telling the truth.”

I am, and you have.

May 13, 2012 1:27 PM

Elizabeth said…

@lifeafterdawn

“Okay, I rescind the comment about FFS because if you did have it I would take legal action.”

I am grateful you rescinded your comment but I do not comprehend your attempt at either a threat or humor with this remark.

“We have retractable landing gear, retractable roofs, retractable awnings, and now we have retractable penis and balls or is that atrophied penis and balls or is it just BULLSHIT.”

I refer you to my earlier response. I am not saying “retractable.: That’s your pet word, and its use is unwarranted here.

“I prefer the bullshit scenario based on my firm belief that Occam’s Razor holds firm here.”

You can believe whatever you want to believe, but I ask that you backup your claims with evidence and/or documentation.

“Spent some time reading a little of your blog. No SRS for you but you now have an innie where your penis was or are you mistaking your asshole for your vagina? Did your scrotum magically form labia or do you just have an innie?”

I again refer you to my earlier comment in which I make clear, I have never had nor do I now claim to have a vagina and/or labia. I do know what an asshole is. And I have every confidence, from reading a little of your blog, that you are very familiar with assholes. If not, I’d be happy to show you. All I’ll need is you and a mirror.

“This sounds like a made for television movie right up the alley for a writer/producer like yourself.”

Yes, I know, it sounds preposterous. Hard to believe. And the fact that all the writing and producing I do is based solely on factual information – not fiction – is my only defense in sharing my life story. I deal in facts, not fantasy. I wish that I could make up something this outlandish, and then I would not have a care in the world. Instead, I live the life I live and deal with the consequences of what has happened to me every single day. And now I have you and your cohorts to make me feel even worse about my condition, which is unfair, unjust and just downright mean. I don’t ask you to believe me if you choose not to. But the least you can do is not call me a liar and a loon without having something other than your strong opinions to back up your derogatory accusations.

“You have a wife and kids and then this magical transformation into a “girl”. Excuse my cynicism but well as an Engineer and a Research Engineer to boot I always question why this seems to happy with a somewhat wealthy male with a wife and kids while in their 40’s or later. Funny isn’t it? You and Zoe, 40’s kid(s) wife, sudden transformation, poor wife is shocked, and so forth.”

I don’t fault you for your cynicism or your choice in careers, but where do you come off claiming I’m wealthy? Of all the statements you have made here, this is by far the most wrong thing you posted. It’s not funny. It is scientific fact that testosterone levels do drop in some males after age 40, usually later. I know both Zoe and Chloe through facebook and their individual experiences are dissimilar to mine. You’re comparing apples with oranges, with the only similarity being that they were male, and now are not. Chloe had an operation, you claim Zoe did but she denies it, and I have had none. My transformation was not sudden, nor do I claim it to be, and I have medical documentation and witnesses to support the changes I experienced. What do you have as proof of your statement? And for the second time, I ask you, where do you get off thinking you can mock my wife? She is harmless in this and deserves pity and kudos for being as supportive as she can as the man she loves changes into someone she no longer recognizes, against his will. You have no standing whatsoever to cast aspersions against her, and I would ask that if you choose to respond, you show some dignity in apologizing for including her in your attack on me. Say what you want about me; this is not her fight.

“You might want to push for the movie rights on the Science/Fantasy channel called SyFy or maybe even Logo because if they can promote RuPaul you could boost the male transvestite fantasy viewing numbers.”

Thanks for the tip. You above all people seem to know all about fantasy, of this I have no doubt.

This is your space to blog about what you want and who you want. I have no recourse other than to deny your cruel comments and respond with the truth. If you choose not to post this, that is your right. If you choose to respond, or not, I have no further interest in continuing an unwinnable argument. It’s your call what happens next. I only ask that you consider that there are things beyond what you know, experiences that cannot be explained, and know from my heart that I never harbored a desire for this change. I did not grow up fantasizing about becoming a woman someday, nor did I ever felt trapped in a male body. But after years of living as a male trapped in a body that has become more female over time, after years of fighting the changes without success and with no answers on reversing this, I have adapted to the changes as best as I can.

You can assure Gina that the photographs of me on my blog show more than a few pictures in which I am wearing a sweater and you do not see cleavage, As I have grown more comfortable with my appearance, I have learned to dress appropriately for my body, and I’ve never heard a complaint before about how I dressed. I’m no longer a male fighting to stop being female. I’m a female who has learned to accept who I am, and yet I am willing to conceal it again, to keep my marriage intact.

You can assure Gina I was never a transvestite. What I do now to conceal my true features could be considered cross-dressing since I must appear as male as possible. No easy task, I assure you. And I don’t read gay or TS fiction so I’m not familiar with the stories she refers to. It’s her choice to believe it, or not.  Tell Gina, my life story is my own, and I would not presume to publicly second-guess hers without some evidence to the contrary.

I close with a thank you for at least reading part of my blog and allowing me to at least submit this lengthy response. As I indicated, what happens next is up to you.

Sincerely.

Dawn

The Numbers Don’t Lie

I’ve been seeing my current endocrinologist for almost a year now. He was recommended by my then-therapist, as someone who specialized in HRT, including patients who are transgender women and men. At my appointment this past week, I explained what was going on at home, in terms of turmoil, because of a commitment I made to my spouse to abandon transition, and talk about what else we could do about the changes to my body.

We looked at the labs together, and my extensive file – which includes my previous attempts to “fix” my hormone imbalance, and the HRT journey we started in June 2011. Next month it will be one year, the first time since this all started that I remained on hormone therapy for a complete year without interruption. I tried HRT before, between 2010-2011, between 2008-2009, always with an interruption for some wacked out response by my body or a doctor’s discovery of some causality which turned out to be another red herring. No one’s ever figured out why my body changed, on its own, and I’m well past the point of wanting that question answered, honestly.

So, what were the numbers? That was my main concern on this day, in addition to getting the next hormone shot. In late March, my estrogen numbers were through the roof, dangerously high, in fact. There was both a physical as well as an emotional response to that overdose, which we corrected by eliminating one medication. And just for the record, I had questioned that from the beginning, so I was glad to be right and glad to live long enough to say, I was right. Fortunately, my estrogen numbers have returned to female normal level; Testosterone remains at near zero (for nearly a year now).
Image“So, what does all this mean, doctor?” He rolled his stool on wheels over toward me, facing me with a serious look in his eyes. “Bottom line,” he said quietly. “Yes?” I leaned in. That’s when he said it.

“You’re female. This isn’t us pumping you full of hormones, remember: we actually had to dial back the meds. All you need right now is maintenance. I don’t know if it makes sense to change anything, given your past.”

My past. Every testosterone gel patch was like pouring oil onto the fire of estrogen coursing through my body. It not only didn’t work, it backfired. It threatened my life.

No, I have not had surgery to alter my male anatomy, but those parts have atrophied and retracted to the point that there’s an “innie” where I used to have an “outie.” My wife is grossed out by this. No sexual partner would be satisfied, if I ever wanted to have one, and if this person wanted to be with me, even if that person was a man of, shall we say, smaller stature (a partner with girly fingers like mine might be different);  to truly transition I would still ultimately need surgery. Until then..peeing while standing is but a memory.

He examined my breasts and found them to be “normal” for a “woman at least ten years younger.” And more and more people have told me I look female even when I’m not trying to. Which of course would mean that when I do try, “passing” is not even a concern anymore. One friend described me as “natural-looking.” Can there be a better compliment? I mean, besides, “pretty?”

Not just my face, but my hips, my backside: female. It’s not that I’m “too late to go back,” (I asked)… I’d be taking too big a risk to my health to stop taking the meds, or switch to testosterone, because of my imbalance, which is still imbalanced, but is at least stable now.

Stable female. Ha! I know guys who would crack up at that.

About the only vestige of who I was is atop my head, and while hair is indeed sprouting, the wig really would be mandatory if I were to go full-time. Full-time as a female, which is what the doctor says I already am.

This means, I later figure out, that abandoning transition at this point is no longer just a lie to my mind; I’m betraying my body.

My female body.

Wow.

Hours later, my spouse and I talk. I show her the bloodwork from the lab; I tell her what the doctor said: “He told me, I’m female.” The best and only hope of ever being male again would be to lose the weight, one to two pounds a week, 60 pounds in all. Then we could see about changing the dosages, again. But given the past, that path is well-worn with failed attempts to restore what seems lost forever.

Another choice: to quit HRT altogether, which would only put my body back on an emotional estrogen roller coaster, riding the bends and turns and upside down track between super high estrogen and out of control testosterone, with stomach-churning valleys in between. I told her I didn’t consider that even for a second.

Finally, the last choice would be, to transition. I am female. I could go be female not just on a lab report but in front of the entire world.

That’s when she broke her silence. “The numbers don’t lie,” she muttered quietly. I asked, what do you mean?

“It’s over. There is no future. You’re female, I’m female, our marriage is over, it’s done. DONE,” she said with a finality that scared me.

And so for the third time in a month I did a gut-check, and instead of seizing the opportunity to break away and be ME, by myself, I spoke what was in my heart: I assured her that all I wanted in life was to be with her. That being someone who wasn’t with her wasn’t for me. And that is the truth.

I cannot fathom life without her, without being in my children’s everyday lives, without being in our home.

And until today, I never really knew what it felt like for someone to declare: “you’re female.” I told her, I could get a letter from my doctor and go change my name, change my gender marker, change my passport, driver’s license, social security card, credit cards, bank accounts, even my little keychain discount cards. I could go to work and tell them I am transitioning — and beg them to keep me on. Despite the law, they could easily just decide they have plenty of freelancers and quietly drop my name from the schedule. And even if I sued and won, how will I feed my family until that happens? The legal fight would take years and I am not in a financial position to wage one.

And I am not in an emotional position to leave my family and take this step on my own. I may never be, and I am willing to live with that. I know who I am; does it matter that the rest of the world will not?