Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost. TransLate is a journal designed to allow me translate for friends and family the issues associated with being transgendered and coming to an understanding of the need to transition later in life.
Before I transitioned into a woman named Joyce, I was George Bailey, a professor at Bedford Falls University, in Bedford Falls, USA. I’m married to Mary Jo Bailey, who is also a professor at BFU and wonderfully understanding, smart, and supportive. We have two boys, Lane and Ezra and we have a quite normal family and a wonderful life with the exception that I’m a transsexual who is still in the midst of a great journey as I transition from male to female. We’re working through it all with the help of Chuck, my therapist.
I suppose it’s not easy realizing you’re just not right–in your body, your head, your biochemistry, your socialization–at any time, young or old. And it’s certainly not easy to begin taking steps to fix this problem at any age. But it seems to me (and the literature seems to make this division, as well) that there are those who act on this realization very early (as kids or in their early 20’s) and there are those who act on it much later, usually after relationships, jobs, and other fixtures of permanence. I read on one of the transgender discussion boards a good argument about why those of us born in the 50’s and 60’s really had no chance of acting on our understanding until now. First, it was the 50’s and 60’s, and we had 3 channels of television with sitcoms and nightly news and soaps and little else to watch. We grew up in a time when family appearances were oppressively important — which is not to say that pressure to live up to appearances is not strong today, but I think there are more options if you are different than there were when I grew up.
I remember thinking that I must be the only one in the world with this feeling of not wanting to be the sex I was born with, and to look around me, no one could come up with any other conclusion. The television families were all normal, the movies were all normal, the society (at least until the very late 60’s) was normal, there were no talkshows on television where you might catch a glimpse of a crossdresser or a dwarf or a mixed-race couple or anything remotely out of the ordinary. “Normal” and “ordinary” were what we all aspired to, what we were taught in school, what we were schooled in with our parents and grandparents. Our family stories minimized the black sheep and elevated the normal family story to epic proportions, thus creating a mythological burden on top of the daily normalcy that formed our minds.
I do not know if younger transsexuals have it easier today. I’m sure it’s remarkably difficult, especially with family myths and expectations that press down upon you regardless of your age or era. But at least they have media exposure to Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Logo channel and the Discovery Health Channel, new technologies like YouTube, Web Discussion Boards, Blogs, RSS feeds, iPods, books like True Selves and She’s Not There, support and political groups like PFLAG , the NCTE, and GenderPAC and a general political connection of the TGs in society with the might of the lesbian and gay lobbies. It’s a very, very different time.
Which is not to say I wish I had been shocked into my realization earlier. In this blog, I cover all of that in a series of essays about opportunities for understanding (almost all of them missed), moments of clarity in my life, and an account of all the good things that I’ve managed to do even with this crushing secret and the guilt and shame that it laid over all my thoughts and activities like a soggy blanket. I cannot imagine acting on this earlier, and I go into details in other posts. For now, suffice to say I have a great life: I’m married and have two beautiful children. I have a great job. I have ample resources. I have had a great education and continue to learn. I’m not tooting my horn, but I really feel blessed and lucky. I go into this lucky and exciting life in other postings.
But starting in the early autumn of 2006, all of that was dragged down by a return visit from my old friend Gender Identity Disorder (GID), who, unwelcome and unwanted, moved into my mind and soul and threatened to destroy everything. I cover what that’s like many of my postings, but let’s just say that it is an awful thing that really leaves you feeling as if you’ve only got a couple of options, none of which are terribly palatable: death, drug-induced stupor, or acceptance (which means changing). I have chosen acceptance, which initially felt like giving up, but which now feels like victory, and I cover what this is like, as well.
This journal is mostly a diary, but I’ve aimed to write for other transgendered people and to our friends and family, hoping to TransLate what this is like so that they may understand (if they want to). I don’t know why it’s so important, but I have felt, and continue to feel, that explaining this condition and finding metaphors for what it’s like is a worthy task, maybe because it helps me with self-acceptance, but I also think because it may help my friends and loved ones to accept the condition as real and my transition from male to female as necessary. I have written up a “Trans 101” page for a quickstart guide to Trans issues — you’ll find it, along with letters to friends, colleagues, and family I keep revising, up at the links at the top of this website.
So I invite you to hop on board and participate. Being a product of a dogmatic era, I do not want to fall into the same trap of not allowing discussion and opposing opinions, and thus invite all clarifications, arguments, counter examples, and critical debate that you, dear reader, can bring to bear on this thorny issue.
If you’re into Twitter, I wrote an experimental minimalist biography written in the style of text-messages (or Twitter tweets).