So Now You Know

A good friend shared the news that this little place on the internet where I scribble from time to time, has grown in readership, and let me first say, “welcome.” Not “go away!” Not “who invited you here?” No.

I am not shocked, nor scared, nor am I crying, nor worried. Perhaps the only reason you found out the way you did was because we just aren’t as close as I wish we were. Maybe now you will reach out to me, as my friend bravely did. Or, if you choose, you’ll hide in the shadows and stare; either way is your choice. Either way, I really am happy to welcome you.

And I know there will be gossip, and people will share links, and pictures. And some will be shocked, and think or say things about me I’d rather not read or hear. If you don’t want to read or hear what I have to say, then stop reading, or just skip to the “good parts.” But there are good parts right here, too. Bear with me.

What I have to say to my newfound audience is that this is the diary of a struggle. One that’s gone on for years, and I’ve only been chronicling it a short time; over an even shorter period, the struggle has intensified. Beyond just the day to day. I don’t know how people who do not have someone who loves them could cope with the intense emotions that I have experienced. It’s off the charts. Can you imagine having to hide the person you know you are from the world? Clark Kent had it easy.

A friend, mentor and online “guru” for lack of a better word, told me this week, that had she not cared for me so much, she’d have “unfriended” me, to use the term of the modern era. She said she felt this way because it was so painful to stand by and watch me spin and spew the same questions that I keep asking. Questions that, while they apply differently to every individual, befuddle every human being who has ever been where I am now:

Why can’t I have my cake and eat it, too? Have a wife who loves me no matter what gender I present, and live life as I see fit, without having to change anything else?

Why do I feel that things must change?

Why can’t I just suppress these feelings and go on as if they weren’t there?

What’s wrong with me that I can’t put myself first?

Why do I struggle with my own image and gender? What really happened to me as a child? Is there a connection?

Will I ruin everyone’s life if everything changes?

Will it happen anyway if it doesn’t?

Why, God? Why?

Others cannot answer these questions for me, and I have heard tell that those who turn away from finding the answers are plagued by them all their living days, even those who manage to go on, pretending, concealing, ignoring who they are inside.

That is who I am, and who I have been for almost five years. You know me from working with me, or your friend told you about me, or perhaps to you I’m just some nameless freak who someone told you it would be cool to mock, humiliate or otherwise cause harm, by sharing this with your friends. While I personally don’t think that is “cool,” there isn’t much I can do to stop you other than shut the whole thing down and disappear.

But that isn’t why I keep writing the blog. Admittedly, I took time away from this to work on the book, which has a lot of the blog in it. And there will be a book, God willing. This is a story I do want told. Although, I hope you’ll understand, I prefer to be the storyteller, so like I said, I hope you’ll accept my welcome and comment or introduce yourself and let me know what you feel when you read it. I imagine some of you would rather stare, but I am not the freak; I’m a person, like you, with feelings, and I think it would be “cool” to know you, and understand yours.

Now, with that out of the way, let me give you your nickel’s worth of blog for today: after my online friend told me how sickening it was (and I am sure she’s right) to read me ask those same questions over and over, I decided to stop the merry go round and take a breather.

Almost immediately my own personal Jiminy Cricket reached out to me to make sure I was alright and to set me straight. God bless you, Maia. I have never been suicidal and never will be, but I haven’t been that low in some time. I’m still taking that break, and will rejoin society when I’m ready. But I believe it’s healthy to withdraw every once in awhile, especially from our online interactions. They are so instant, so immediate. My old brain needs time to process stuff every one in awhile.

Now I don’t mean to rekindle interest in replacing the internet with the pony express. But I do miss the days when if you wanted immediacy you picked up the phone, and dialed someone; if they weren’t home, you left a message with someone who answered, or you tried again later. How quaint! We’ve advanced from answering machines to voicemail to cellphones and instant messaging and push to talk. It’s great in an emergency, helps me do my job better and I probably could not live without for very long in our world. But this week, I’ve truly enjoyed my downtime.

During this withdrawal period, my wife and I have talked. And talked some more. We still embrace, and flirt, and I do my damndest to show her how very much I love her with every fiber of my existence. As best as I can.

And she told me today, she thought about a question my friend Maia and I have talked about. Maia is a woman of transsexual history, as she prefers to describe it. Maia has returned from her own incredible life-changing experience, starting the new year and a new life abroad, discovering who she is, and gaining valuable insight into loving herself for who she is.

And this wonderful person who somehow got the short stick in being voted to be my conscience asked me: “Don’t you feel as though you’re cheating your wife? Doesn’t she feel that way? Cheating her out of having a husband, a real man, who loves her and can love her? If and when she does feel that way, she will divorce you.”

I thought I knew the answers. Geez, this condition stirs up the hardest questions! But I did ask her. In bed, a few nights ago, I posed the question somewhat differently: “Am I being fair to you?” I didn’t use ‘cheated’ because (as longtime readers of this blog will recall in an earlier episode) we’ve already established that my wife considers what I’ve done to be cheating on her, with another woman (that would be me, if you’re just joining us; please try to keep up).

So when I asked her, “Am I being fair to you,” her immediate response was, “We are not being fair to you, you and I.” I told her this wasn’t about my so-called sacrifice, to maintain my male presentation for the sake of our family and our marriage.

I let it go, but she didn’t.

Today was one of those rare gifts from Mother Nature: a snow day, and on a day I was off from work, hallelujah! Time to sleep in, time to get things done, time to be together as a family.

It was a good day, right up until we were cleaning up after lunch, when my wife decided to tell me she had been pondering that question Maia had inspired me to ask.

“And I decided,” she said, “No, you’re not being fair.”

My heart sank. I recall feeling the need to sit down, right away, and fortunately there was a chair nearby. Maia had warned me, when she realizes she’s being cheated, she’ll file for divorce. Was this it, I thought?

She walked over, looked into my eyes, and I struggled not to close mine or shed a tear as she finished her thought — and she used Maia’s word: “I do feel cheated, out of having a husband. But as I said, this isn’t fair to you, either, so I guess we’re even.”

As I took in a breath having realized I was holding mine, I thought about that word. “Even.”

And I said, “No, not really ‘even.’ I love you no matter what.” I didn’t mean to hurt her, but I felt it needed to be said. Because she doesn’t love me, “no matter what,” and has said so.

She replied over her shoulder, as she walked from the room, “And I know what you feel inside, about yourself, and that is not the love I want. Or need.”

We spent the rest of the day ignoring this elephant that had moved back into our home. We enjoyed our children and a treat of Chinese takeout in honor of our oldest child’s birthday. We put the kids to bed and after she turned out the light, I slipped out of our room, with the intention of returning after getting some writing done.

Somehow, considering everything I feel, the couch seems a better place for me tonight. Image

What I Have Lost So I May Win

I need to find another way to describe the feeling I keep having. The word I use doesn’t accurately capture the feeling, nor does it help cisgendered (non-trans) people comprehend what I’m experiencing. I’ve come to call it “the tug” for how this feeling pulls me off course — or back on course, depending on your perspective, toward going full-time.

This is not a judgment of others; to me, it’s a path that will certainly end my marriage and cause me so much unhappiness. And I realize there could be happiness in my acceptance of my true self and in living that life, someday, after a time.

But I cannot get past the fact that “the tug” leads to unhappiness first, and foremost. That thought keeps “the tug” at bay.

Image

My friends offer great advice on how to follow the trails they have blazed, or to at least be open to this path; instead I spurn their advice and plunge into the abyss, on a hopeless quest that can only lead back to sorrow, separation and the realization of futility. I don’t pretend to be unique, or to think of myself as a superhero or act invincible. I cry, I bleed, I break. I do believe I am special, and that in my particular form of faith, God gave me a gift that I squandered once and was given a second chance to nurture: a woman’s love. How dare I reject that gift once more, and forever?

Or am I already breaking more than just that woman’s heart, by going against the insight of our family’s rabbi (I’ll explain how an Irish Catholic transwoman has a rabbi another time). “You,” he told me with all sincerity and lovingkindness, “are created in God’s image. No matter male or female. You are how God envisioned you. Remember this, and take it to heart.”

I am frequently stunned by the acceptance I have received in coming out to those family and friends who know, and my wonderful employers and colleagues. The hardest part is not in the telling of my odyssey as a girl model, as a boy with breasts and a Dorothy Hamill hairstyle, or as a female member of the gym right across the street from work. The tough nut to crack is when I get to their question, “So, what’s next for you?” And I tell them, my plan is to stay married, present as male, and transition out of sight. Not one person has encouraged me on this path; quite the opposite. They almost beg me to reconsider, as if I am climbing into a barrel at Niagara Falls and asking them for to give me one last shove toward the water.

Their instinct is the natural one: they want me to be happy. They ask me to at least not rule out, that someday, when the timing is right, that I’ll live my life as the gender of my heart. How can they see it sadly thumping so clearly beneath my compression shirt? I have learned to tune out the beat, the way I managed to concentrate on my homework on the subway ride home from my auditions, despite the screeching of the wheels and the rumble of the trains and the noise of the commuters. I found a way to flip the off switch to my ears.

So why don’t our hearts and our brains have something similar? I don’t think I’d ever use it, but surely I’d be tempted. To me, the pain of my heart and the struggle of my mind remind me: I AM ALIVE. This is no dream. I live in the moment and for the moment, I live. Such a gift, almost as precious as the love of a woman, given to me by God, to be cherished, nurtured and cultivated.

And every expression of me as the woman I felt I was crushed that gift like an army boot on wildflowers. They didn’t stand a chance.

One dear friend told me to consider that “if you and your wife love each other and you can find some happiness in life without transitioning, don’t do it. If that’s not possible, then you may join the ranks of us that have lost while we’ve won.” Her words haunted me for hours after she posted them on my social network’s wall, like a motivational poster in a corporate office.

Last November I decided what I needed so I could live. Today, halfway through January, I have come to the conclusion that if I ultimately give into this “tug,” what I will lose is the person I have consistently refused to surrender: my Wendy.

But in doing so, the real winner could be this woman, and me… if I set us free.