On The Brink of Me


I spent five days trying to understand more than five years of change. Driving, thinking, listening, talking with friends, crying alone and together, eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company. Five days.

On the last night, I took off the wig, wiped off the little makeup I wear (lipstick, mascara) and for the first time since the odyssey began, I looked at my male face in a mirror.

It literally took my breath away to not recognize that face. To have been so deep into the reflection I wanted to see for five days that when I finally confronted the face most everyone knew as “me,” I didn’t recognize it.

A good friend who has successfully transitioned described this as her litmus test. The disorientation, she said, was what convinced her she needed to keep going.

For me, it was that – plus being made to feel I was an unwelcome houseguest in my own home that made the difference for me.

I worked my shift, went home, and for the first time in days I gazed upon the love of my life at our children’s school. We met there for a parent teacher meeting, and as soon as our eyes locked, mine were filled with tears, hers narrowed into a frown. She knew without me saying.

Later, in our bedroom, we had The Talk. I had been trying to nap when she came in and sat at the edge of the mattress coiled like a spring. I started to tell her what I had experienced, what I’d learned and what it was like to be back in her presence. How overwhelmed I felt. Wendy wasn’t interested. “Just cut to the chase,” she barked. “I read your blog. I know what you’re going to say, so just say it. Rip off the band-aid already!”

Well, I was expecting she might want the short version but I didn’t expect this. And I purposely did not update my blog on the road for fear of telegraphing any message before I had time to process. That “band-aid” phrase really hurt, mainly because that was what my HR rep at NBC had told me when it my turn among 700 to get laid-off. More than five years later and it still sends shivers up my spine.

And so, realizing I had little choice, I spat it out: “I can’t deny any longer what I feel. I realized who I am, and I know that for you, that means ‘the end.'” She stood up, spring engaged, and in one motion took her wedding band off her hand, tossed it on the ironing board standing by our bedside and made for the door. “You’re right, it’s the end,” she said. “It’s over. Thank you for at least confirming what I already knew.”

The next hour was even harder. Within the space of 60 minutes, she had declared us separated and defriended me on facebook and disinvited me from a family vacation this summer, which also included a seat at her mother’s wedding. “Disinvited” might be the wrong word since she asked me if I would consider letting her take the kids to the wedding without me. But the net effect was the same: I wasn’t welcome.

And there was one more wrinkle: she changed her mind about when I would transition. She had begged me even after learning the news of my trip that I would wait until school was over. I had agreed. But in that hour, Wendy had a change of heart. “You can do it this week. We’ll tell the kids Friday and you can be out of here on Saturday. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

I was dumbfounded. “Where am I to go? I have no place that I can just move all of a sudden! And we really cannot afford to maintain two households without budgeting for it,” I pleaded. “Fine,” she responded, icily. “Then, just get out as soon as possible.”

I thought I was the one who had changed. I had no idea who this person was, or where she had come from. But she was not the woman I had loved, and lost. This is who emerged after the death of her husband. Bitter, cold, cruel, calculating and defensive. After a time, I knew better than to blame her for being this way. But I would not accept the blame, either. This wasn’t my doing, my choice, my decision. This is the end result of what changed me, possibly forever.

I begged her to see our marriage counselor with me, so we could at least be civil to one another as we tried to decide what to tell the kids. I wasn’t sure how to hit them with this triple whammy: their parents are divorcing, their dad is moving out, and their dad is now going to be a woman. If that isn’t a recipe for lifelong therapy, I don’t know what is.

So Thursday night came and went; counseling was a bust. We were further apart than before. But something changed. Wendy saw some light, finally, or at least hoped to: “Let’s give it a week,” she said.

I think I know what it was that inspired this unexpected reprieve from the gallows. Earlier that day I saw my therapist. I went in relaxed, focused, feeling positive for the first time since this nightmare began, despite not having slept or eaten much since Monday. I had emailed my therapist to be ready for a bold plan of action. And within 10 seconds all the wind was knocked from my sails. I was defeated before I began. Wendy had sent my therapist an email, to have her read to me, stating her point of view. This totally threw me off track and I felt violated the privacy of my session. But she felt I had not been listening to her.

Once we talked it through, and my therapist walked me back from the ledge, I proceeded to tell her my idea: I told her to plant a suggestion: “You are a man. You want to be a man. You want to be the man in Wendy’s life. You don’t want to be anything else. Let go of Dawn, and anything feminine. Embrace your masculinity. Be Don.”

I know you cannot hypnotize someone into being someone they are not.

BUT — if I am under “the influence” and not truly inherently transsexual — then this oughta work. Right?

She agreed and she was able to put me under easily. I think it mostly worked. I came out of the trance relaxed, a little disoriented but feeling okay. I’ve felt okay since.

Have I felt like the suggestion worked? No. Not entirely. But there is doubt where there was certainty, so that might be something. Or it just may be.. doubt.

Of one thing I am certain: I can no longer postpone this. As a good friend of mine said: “Pull the ripcord on the parachute and decide how you’re going to land before you smack into the ground at terminal velocity.”

Look out, below!


4 thoughts on “On The Brink of Me

  1. Oh, Dawn. How hard it is to deal with all that anger and hostility when it is aimed at you. I know. Trust me. I know. And it was probably easier for me than it has been for you, because our marriage has never been what I would consider a particularly warm and loving one–and yet despite that, we still have a relationship “of some sort.” We both live in the same house. We are civil, even friendly, but it took a long time and an almost unbearable amount of pain to get here. Once again, all that can be said is that you must trust your heart. It knows what must be done, It knows better than your rational brain–with all its weighing of pro’s and con’s, with all its second (and twenty-second) thoughts knows. YOU know what is right for you. Collapsing under the attack will not bring either one of you happiness. You cannot bring her happiness by sacrificing your own. Even if it were possible, how would that make things any better? Trust your heart.


    • Thank you, Karen! That is what makes this so hard indeed; we truly loved each other.

      We are in a better place. I am desperate to find some peace of mind and steadiness of heart. I feel better knowing so many people support me. But you are right, I must make this decision. Can’t help but hold out for a miracle.


  2. I will tell you what Jenny Boylan told me: “You will be fine.” It will take time, of course–more time perhaps than you know–but in the end, you will. For me, the hardest part, after the bone-wrenching grief of abandonment, was the slow process of building a new life for myself. One of the wisest things I heard during that time, was an offhand comment during a radio interview: “Life is not a journey. It is a landscape we construct around ourselves.” Change the metaphor, and change your life. On a journey, things simply happen to us. But a landscape we construct? Yes, I like that. It puts me in charge.


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