I’ve been having an awfully hard time of things lately, crying at night, descending into bad places, and not recognizing all the good things I’ve got. I have my health, my family, my job, my intellect, my friends. I work in an industry (education) where I am virtually assured of tolerance and perhaps even happy acceptance. I feel like I’m on an adventure where I get to do everything I ever dreamed of doing, and am able to do everything I need to do to stay sane and healthy.

There is another part of me, probably unrelated to transsexual issues, that weighs on me. I am afraid of letting people down, of being rejected, of being seen as a failure. I’ve always been like this, and I think it must have to do with my role in my family as the golden child. For all my family’s faults, and there were many, they could always count on me to achieve good things, things worth bragging about at the drugstore, holiday gatherings, and country club soirees.

It’s not that I don’t want to do good things, but I feel obligated to not screw up, to uphold some sort of undefined standard for several generations of my family, most of whom are dead. That familial expectation has evidently been burned into my synapses; although I’m aware of it and understand it intellectually, I seem to be helpless to resist it emotionally, and am thus tossed into the ring to fight without gloves or training against an invisible opponent who left the building years ago.

I grieve, but I am not always sure of the object of that grief. I grieve for my dead parents. I grieve for my masculine self, who is disappearing. I grieve for my children’s innocence. I grieve for the happy little child I was at one time — she’s buried under decades of sadness and I only give her a slim chance of surviving. I grieve for my wife, who is losing her husband.

I also grieve for my golden child status — I cling to it somewhere, somehow, even though I feel it harms me. And I grieve without an object of grief — and this formless sadness is hard to deal with. This is definitely the hour of lead, as Dickinson puts it, and I have to find a way to both outlive it and also somehow get to “letting go.”