I was reading today’s list of events, and was reminded of today’s Boss’s lunch that our secretaries throw for us yearly. I suddenly remembered, and I had completely forgotten this incident, last year’s Boss’s day at a local restaurant. I was just beginning this terrible slide into self-awareness of my transgenderism, and Mary Lou, as part of her ice-breaker technique during lunch, said something like, I know something about one of our bosses that no one knows. She paused and everyone at the table leaned in, ready for juicy gossip.

I was mortified — what if she somehow knew I was transgendered? Why would she do this to me? I got an adrenaline rush, my body flushed, and I anticipated being terribly embarrassed. I steeled myself to quickly think of a joke, an intellectual observation, something or anything that would deflect attention away from me.

As it was, it was related to me, but nothing that caused the earth to swallow me up — something like “two of our male bosses have pierced ears and used to wear earrings.” Shawn and I both confessed, which everyone knew, anyway, and we mumbled something about graduate school and youth, and that was that.

But that dread, that sense of impending doom that I felt at being outed, is something I’ve felt my entire life. I think it created a lot of my persona, secretive and guarded, that I don’t think would have been a part of me otherwise. It’s easy to focus on the obvious, and funny, changes that one undertakes when dealing with this problem — because they’re so present and so different that they demand attention. But what’s really also interesting is the impact of this secret on one’s development, and that’s not nearly as visible to others because you are already who you are and you can’t reengineer the past. As we work on ourselves in therapy and in reflection, it seems to me that equal attention ought to be paid to the past, as well as the future, not that you can change the past, but you can have moments of insight when you suddenly see a pattern or a reason for the way you are.

It’s not helpful to think of a “real” you that needs revealing and that there’s a “fake” you that’s been an imposter in your body for all your life. I suppose some might find comfort in that, but I don’t — I am completely real and my life experiences have brought me to this point. Perhaps there are hundreds of alternative universes with different versions of me in them, and while it might be a fun mind-experiment designed to blow the lid of one’s sense of pre-destination, I don’t know what else you do with it except mourn those alternatives that have you happier, healthier, or wiser and breathe a sigh of relief about those alternatives that found you dead, sick, down-and-out, and generally more miserable than you are in this reality.