December 2006

I had tried to get a photographer for the past couple of weeks for a family holiday portrait, and all I could think of was “this is the last happy snapshot of this family.”

Unable to get her scheduled and unable to wait any longer, I shaved my beard off and listened to the expected, “Ahhh, but it was so nice” comments, which burned my heart, for I know what I’m about to start, and it scares the crap out of me.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2007, but it is certainly not going to be like 2006. I see this break between the two calendar years as a stark break between auld lang syne, or the good old days, and a brave new world. I need to say farewell to this old self, but I’m afraid to do so.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

I’m very edgy. I told Chuck that I wouldn’t mess up anything with my wife until we had talked some more, so here I am biding my time. This whole vacation is like the devil and angel sitting on my shoulders — all the reasons I should just shelve this crazy notion of mine — don’t want to be the black sheep, all my dead kinfolk and their struggle for respectability, etc, etc. And on my other shoulder is this very loud voice saying I really must do this.

What would be a terrific start would be to meet with Chuck and Mary Jo and figure out that at the very least, I really must listen to my feminine side and do whatever easy, non-disruptive thing that I need to do. I’d like shave my beard and start electrolysis — again, nothing disruptive and nothing I haven’t done before. Wax my body and work on my femininity underneath my clothes. Start with Propecia as both a testosterone blocker (to bring me down to non-T levels and to start growing my head hair to see whether I can grow it back. Start with Estradiol as a way of feminizing my mind and body, gently, with 6 month reviews. And then while we’re working on all this, there is time for a) talking with my wife, b) feeling my new feelings without burning any bridges, c) making progress with Chuck.

And maybe after 6 or 12 months, I am very happy where I am — no beard, redistributing fat, no bridges burned, family together, and me very pleased with my androgyny.

I think my fear is that if this direction makes me happier, then I’m almost destined to want to go further. If these steps move me in a direction where I’m happier, then logically wouldn’t a completely feminized body and mind make me happier? Wouldn’t my logical mind want to push further?

From this realization a few weeks ago, I have been quite frightened by this prospect. I don’t want to have to tell my friends and family that I’m going to transition. I don’t want to lose Mary Jo and family. I don’t want to have to do speech therapy and to have countless surgeries. I have studied transition stories online, and as much as they feared the outcomes, I think they are happier. Their stories sound a lot like mine, and that scares me, too. This possible future will start innocently enough, with hormones that lead to feminization of my body and mind. But it will progress — once I’ve gotten rid of my beard, my body hair, once I’ve fixed my head hair, once I feel more womanly, I am almost certainly going to want to be more womanly. Won’t I also be disillusioned with my A-cup breasts and seek modest breast augmentation, something like a better-rounded C cup? Won’t that make it harder to be androgynous? Even if I’m still working as a man in the university, behaving as a dad and a husband at home, won’t that be harder to maintain? I’ll want to pluck my eyebrows, wear makeup, wear softer clothing. That’s what I did before, and I don’t see any reason I won’t want to again.

I’ll want to feel like a woman, and won’t that cause all sorts of harm to my relationship with my wife? Maybe she’ll say it’s OK, but I have a terrible fear that she will disapprove, and her approval is important to me (maybe that’s one of my biggest issues, the need for the approval of others). Assuming she approves, won’t I want to appear feminine whenever I get a chance? If not in this town, then elsewhere — travel as a woman, vacation as a woman? Will she want to do that with me? I doubt it.

And looking further, once I’m feeling feminine, what’s to stop me from pursuing a more feminine appearance, like with facial feminization surgery? At that point, won’t I be living as a woman, working as a woman, with no more male aspects to me?

I don’t know if this slippery slope is necessarily my future, but I’m quite afraid. The TG resources center in Florida mentions that there are many options and that their first step is to figure out what people want. Full feminization is usually sought, but I’m wondering what else they do.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I need to be living in this world, today, with this body, this set of issues. No need to be impatient because a) you make mistakes when you’re impatient and b) I’m afraid of this slippery slope.

Here I am on Christmas Eve, having thought and thought about my dilemma for months — actually, years, if I look back honestly at my life. This past week has been very difficult for a number of reasons. On the one hand, I am very excited about finally doing something after 47 years.

I started counseling a few days ago with Dr. Chuck Garcia, and we will begin our work together in earnest on Jan 3rd. I am certain that I have repressed many things over the years, not just my transsexual feelings, but probably also a pathological need to please my parents, a deep desire to have other people’s permission to do things, a lingering grief about my parents’ deaths, and my general willingness to play the martyr in many areas. What I’m hoping we will figure out is just how transsexual I am and take appropriate steps. At the very least, what I really want to happen is to take testosterone-blockers and estradiol for 6-12 months to see how my mind feels. I’m quite frightened about the possibility that I’m destined to transition into being a woman — I have so many good things that I fear losing everything. Why would I want to jeopardize those good things? Is there any way for me to escape from this difficulty? Am I asking to have my cake and eat it, too?

What do I want? I don’t want to be a man any more — I know that much. And by “a man” I mean someone driven by testosterone. I don’t want to keep suppressing my femininity. Maybe there is a middle sex I can be, but it really can’t be a man any more — it’s surely my own construction of masculinity — logical, unfeeling, hard, strong — and I know there are other ways to be. But I don’t want that anymore. I have suppressed my true self for 40 years.

Do I want to be a woman? Not necessarily. Not a stereotypical woman, at least. I’m not really interested in clothes, like my old transvestite days might suggest. I want my head and my body to be aligned with my true self — if that’s called being a woman, then that’s what I want. If it’s being a transgender man/woman, then that’ll do, too. I would very much like to convert my body chemistry via estrogen to femininity and to feel the mindspace and body changes I have always yearned for.

I wish I could explain what this feels like. Starting a few months ago, I got into a bad place and couldn’t get out. I first thought it was just old crossdressing feelings, but I began to realize that it was quite different, that it was tied to my identity somehow. I had noticed in the summer when I was using AndroGel, a testosterone replacement that was prescribed for lowering T-levels about 6 months ago. At these times, I began to get a tiny feeling that it wasn’t right, despite what Dr. Clinton said: “it’ll make you feel more like yourself.” This little voice began to build and say, “No, this isn’t yourself.” And eventually, “No, you don’t need testosterone at all — you need estrogen!” That was actually quite a shock to hear that little voice, but I knew it was right, so I quit using the gel altogether and figured I’d let the chips fall where they may.

Deeper into the fall, as I got more and more depressed, I began getting back into transsexual literature and reading everything I could get my hands on, and this slow, frightening feeling began to emerge that I was anything but a transvestite, but rather a transsexual. When that finally crystallized in my mind, I was horrified — I’d give anything not to have to face this, but the more I mulled on it, the more it seemed to unify my life and all the weird things I’ve done and felt in my 47 years.

I was clearly depressed and Mary Jo asked me more than once what the problem was. I didn’t know how to say anything, so I didn’t. Finally, just before Christmas break, when I was simply at my wits end, I called on Chuck Garcia, a psychologist who I’d seen on many different lists online. And there was an opening and we met with only a few hours notice. I was absolutely terrified. I filled out his survey and sat down and he came in and asked what the problem was.

I didn’t know if he was playing dumb or if he had not had a chance to look at the survey, and a little voice in my head was screaming, get out before he reads it! But I said something almost exactly like this: “I believe I may be a transsexual.” I was very conscious of my words because I didn’t’ want him to write down that I was depressed or that I was suicidal or anything. It turned out he was great — we talked about what we’d do and he gave me his credentials and I said I’d be grateful to have someone to talk to. He advised me to hold off talking with Mary Jo or my colleagues for a while because there’s no point in burning bridges.