Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Growing up as Transgender

I’m a computer engineer so by nature I construct and fabricate ideas into material things. Pulling information together to create a cohesive solution is what I do best. For years, however, I never put together some of the seemingly disparate components of my own life in relation to understanding who I was really was and am.


As a child growing up, I was constantly reminded by my parents that I was a boy and not a girl. Toys which I played with of my sister’s were taken away. Doll houses I played with mysteriously disappeared, stuffed animals were thrown away and the pages from the girl’s section of the Sears Christmas Wishbook with the items I had circled and longed for were ripped out. I never voiced that I was a girl but I felt I was somehow not like the other boys. I didn't have a word for who I felt I was back at that age.


When I was given a train set, I became immersed in the possibilities of creating my own world through a model railroad empire. It was a fantasy world of my own creation and an escape from the real world I had to live in. The real world in the early years was awash in social awkwardness and a constant yet sublime uneasy feeling of living in the wrong gender. It was a quiet world of libraries and books, of science fiction and fantasy and of realms beyond what I lived and endured. It was beyond the realm of a dominant, emotionally distant and unevenly tempered father and a submissively passive mother. It was a realm beyond the lack of friends my socially stigmatized persona held.


Building the homes and businesses for my railroad empire was the boy’s manifestation of being able to have the dollhouse back that he once played with. The train itself, circling peripherally around the town was an imaginary means of escape from an emotional abyss I lived much of my socially withdrawn life in. It became even more of my escape into my ever expanding empire in our family basement as, one by one, the girls in school I was good friends with and with whom I confided in daily at school, began to separate from the boys. Even my best friend, Susan, who used to come over to my house each day where we would either play house or concoct new skin care cosmetics stopped coming over one day explaining that it was no longer right because I was a boy and she was a girl. I remember that day as if it were yesterday and I retreated further into the world of our library and my studies.


In the ensuing years of Junior High School, my parents began taking me on weekend trips up to my grandmother’s former summer home which she bequeathed to my parents upon her death. Here, in the relative solitude of the woods of Central New Hampshire, I would take respite from the anxieties of school and of life. The cottage sat high above a river with a view extending out for miles to distant mountains. I grew fond of the quiet and solace the woods surrounding the house brought and would often set up a tent in the woods, beneath the towering blanket of white pines, to sleep overnight in the peace of the outdoors.


It was a time to reflect and to write.
It was a place without social awkwardness and without judgment.

It was a place that didn’t care what gender I was and in this respite, I took mental solace.

College years brought with them weekend adventures to hike the mountains and forests of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I would, with a good friend, hike many of the higher peaks to grand vistas and distant views – and to bask in the solitude and respite that only the mountains could offer me from the torment which lay deep within my own soul. I would hike for hours – eight or maybe ten with many miles of ups and downs. I would wear my own body down to the point of physical exhaustion in exchange for a mind that I could numb to the world around me in the very simplicity of the task to complete the hike. It was singularity of purpose with an obtainable goal, a goal which in my own personal life I could not obtain. The hiking was physically grueling and exhausting but promised me a forthcoming night of untormented sleep as its reward – one without the nightmares and thoughts which resounded within my near sub-conscious, barely held at constant bay by the logic of reasoning which suppressed them down.


The logic of reason, the physical escape of hiking, the mental escape of the creative world of my model railroads – all of these were the means by which I was able to suppress and suffocate the voice of the woman within. Each year became a battle to find new ways to keep her down. At times she would try to surface and I submitted myself to her for a few short hours by allowing her to see herself as a woman - only to undress and to bury her once
more into the pit of my soul. A combination of guilt and of longing would awash me, to which I would quickly retract to plan another physically exhausting adventure to numb my mind’s voice.


Two years ago, we decided to move to New Hampshire and to find a house in the country. I had had enough of the social stresses and of having to play the role I had to force upon myself daily in life and at work. It had been my self imposed responsibility and duty to play someone I was not. The woman inside me praised my ability to play this role by doling out anxieties and frail nerves to the point I could not exist to play the part any longer.

We had visited Alaska twice in the years prior and I had fallen in love with the grandeur and
splendor of the wilderness and of the solitude that was offered in abundance there. I had considered to move there and was speculating real estate outside of Fairbanks. But in reality, I knew this would not be realistic with both our families and for our jobs. We then turned our eyes back to New England and searched in New Hampshire, looking in the far northern reaches of the state. Joanne and I found a beautiful Log Home in Colebrook on 16 acres and high up in the woods at the end of a dirt road. The view from the living room window looked out across the sloping green fields and into the nearby rolling mountains of Quebec, Canada. In the end, this too was an exercise in fantasy as we realized there was no way we would be able to maintain our existence with any ease in such a remote location.

We settled on the Lakes Region of New Hampshire where we purchased a home in a quiet and rural town with less than a thousand people. It had no post office, no convenience stores nor even a gas station, but still was within an easy 20 minute reach of stores and services in any direction. It was here that after a year I was able to realize the full scope of why I was here and what I had been distancing myself from. The Trains, the hiking, the travels and the move to rural New Hampshire were all part of my way to run away from the one thing I could not run away from and it was the woman inside me who could not be quelled, quieted or calmed.


Working from home gave me the time to slow down and really think. Thinking and reflecting about myself was never something I would allow myself to do prior. The danger’s of the Medusa within the Pandora Box of my inner soul would then be given the opportunity to be heard. My frequency of cross dressing increased, from
bi-weekly to weekly and then to daily. I never stepped foot outside the house for fear and the thoughts that I would
never be able to pass as a woman in any event. And then one night, while dressed, I had a complete and utter nervous breakdown. I broke down and cried and
could not stop. Mascara and eyeliner were running down my face, I sobbed in despair with the frustrations of a lifetime pent up and suddenly released. The woman inside had broken free and I had not the energy nor the means to confront her and to suppress her one more time. I was finished and she had won.


I sat and talked to my wife and explained as best I could what was happening. I worked back through memories and pulled out many photo albums which contained pictures taken during my childhood. I looked at each one carefully. Facial expressions, poses for the camera - all were examined. I asked Joanne to look through these as well and to independently come up with her assessment of what she saw.

It was the poses, the way I stood, the way I looked, the way I had my hands on my hips. The looks of sadness or that look of being a million miles off in space when the picture was taken.

Some of the pictures from the teenage years, she said, showed a deep depression. She was right.

It was all of these things put together.

She said she saw, in all of these pictures, an unhappy little girl. Only in the pictures taken prior to puberty did we see smiles on my face and then… no more….

We both realized at that point what we would talk about next.

All of those years that I had professed to myself - had professed to HER that I was simply a cross dresser and enjoyed the clothes - was simply not an accurate representation of the whole of who I really was and really am. It was a false admonition unto myself to placate the woman within and appease her.

I told her of the stories next.... stories of growing up and sitting with the girls in class and avoiding the boys. Watching the girls grow and then leaving me alone without friends in a playground at recess - no longer part of their
community.

The little girl next door, who, until age 12, would come over my house where we would play pretend games - some days it was playing cosmetologist and we would concoct cosmetics and face creams from items already in the house. I explained to her how she had come over one day to say that it was no longer a good idea for us to be as close friends as we were and I was lost again.

I told her about the doll house that I found of my sister's that I played with for a few weeks at about age 8. It was my father who took it without warning one day and when I asked, said that it was not acceptable for boys to play with
doll houses.

It was the music I listened to. The bands, groups, lyrics and the general themes of each. It was the books and hobbies I immersed myself in to console myself in my own world. It was stories of fantasy, science fiction and the escapes they allowed me. I was given encyclopedias for children which I read cover to cover - ALL of them. By Junior High, I was already versed in every science book in the library from grammar school and many from the local library. I realized in college taking some of these courses for credit, that I had obtained by that early age, a first
college semester's knowledge of astronomy, geology, meteorology, electronics, environmental science and physics. I was building my own telescopes, building radios and soldering together other circuits on perf boards from parts at Radio Shack, developing my own B&W photos. I was writing stories and poetry. I had immersed myself in everything I could to avoid the one thing I could not learn and understand, and that was my own self.

It was revealing to put the pieces together - no - it was a revelation...

I fully realized that evening that I was never just a cross dresser and that I had been showing all the traits of a very repressed girl growing up.

I was transgender.

But this revelation left me feeling empty

Why did it take this long up to this point for me to realize all of this? How well I hid this from myself. I had all of the pieces to put this all together but I did not. No... I WOULD not. I had believed that any problem - ANY problem
could be broken down into small enough finite components such that any person could comprehend the solution. I realized then that I had kept the secret of myself FROM myself. I had all of the pieces but I had failed to put them back together to form a coherent solution.

How amazing is the human mind to be able to craft a means to hide the solution it has come to from its own self. And so now with clarity of understanding, and
a verse from the Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon” playing in my head, a new chapter in life begins to emerge.

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