Suppressing and repressing your true gender is really hard on your psyche. I have been quite a wreck at different times in my life as I tried to grapple with just who and what I was. When did I know I was different? I knew something around age 4 or 5, but what that ‘something’ was shifted during my life, probably because an understanding of that “something” was confined and constrained by experience, education, and culture. The more I experienced the world, the better I understood what “IT” was.
When I was young, I just thought I was different — I didn’t have a word for what I felt, and thus my self definition was only that I felt weird.
When I found the library, both in high school and in college, I found books on the subject and learned that I was probably a garden-variety crossdresser, and knowing this label actually brought me a degree of comfort since the books and articles had statistics about how prevalent this feeling is, and knowing I wasn’t alone was important to me at the time.
However, after meeting cross-dressers, attending support groups and social groups, and wearing the label of “cross-dresser” for a while, it began to dawn on me that I didn’t really feel that I fit in with those girls. They seemed to get a great deal of joy out of wearing a dress as if it were a special Halloween costume, and while I myself also felt a lot of initial excitement about clothing, that feeling wore off quickly, and I realized that I probably really needed to a woman in a more essential way, whatever that might entail, instead of just being happy dressing like a woman.
Bear in mind that I think one can be a perfectly happy cross-dresser — it’s a harmless and healthy activity that channels gender dysphoria into safe and fun places. I would never knock CD’s, believe me — I remember as recently as 9 months ago telling Mary Jo that I wish I were a normal crossdresser, which was a pretty funny utterance when you think of it, but at the time, it seemed as if being a transsexual was so awful that I’d settle for anything else.
In any case, I found I needed a lot more than just clothes, and that’s when it began dawning on me that I probably wasn’t a CD, but something more, or different. I began to hope that maybe I was some kind of socialite trans*person, not quite full TS, but more social/psychological than a CD. I hosted dinner parties as Joyce, went to the theater as Joyce, went for coffee as Joyce, and began telling friends about the new me — and this new self-definition worked for quite a while.
But after marrying Mary Jo, having Lane and Ezra, and changing professions, I put Joyce away (she wasn’t needed, wasn’t even interesting), and my self-definition became something like “a non-dressing transgender person,” which is a little like the idea of the non-drinking alcoholic, a person who is always biologically alcoholic, but who can choose not to drink. And this was a viable self-definition for 11 years, during which time the trans* part of me was safely folded on a shelf like a heavy sweater you know you’ll never need because you live where it hardly ever snows, almost forgotten up there with the other never-worn clothes.
But even this highly-functional self-definition eventually fell apart, and when it did, it was a mighty tumble, everything I’d done and believed simply crumbling around me until all I was left to define myself was “wreckage.” You have read the blog posts and know that I have somehow managed to reclaim a self-definition that combines “transsexual” and “father/parent” and “husband/spouse” and “brother/sister” and “professor” and, much to my surprise, finally “human” again.
I’m not saying my evolution is complete or my self-definition written in permanent ink, but it’s a nice place to be, here in this spot of calm, enjoying life and friendship and work and family.