Swimming For My Life

I shudder at times when I look back on my blog, at my writings and my posts from years ago.  It's like a different person was writing, a different person was living, a different person was seeing.  How do I begin this entry?  Where do I start?  There are so many things that have changed in my life that it's like the person who wrote, who lived just a few short years before, was someone else... someone else who saw the world through blinders, through rose colored glasses and who swam through life in the shallow waters of some swimming pool.  Now the woman staring back in the mirror is swimming for her life in deeper waters of the the blue Atlantic toward the distant shore of lands at the edge of a limitless horizon.

Those still happily playing in the shallow end of the pool, surrounded by the safety of the ladders and the lifeguards can scarcely perceive that the swim I am making is one for my life now.  I'm not drowning but I cannot stop where I am now.  The tides and currents have taken me too far from a shore that I can never return to in the same way.  And if I did make the effort to return, I would find that it was a vastly different place, that I didn't fit in, that I couldn't live the lie of my life having seen what truth to myself lay beyond.  I would surely drown to stand on those shores again and would prefer to drown at sea instead. I can only struggle to find my way to a shore that is slowly coming into focus as I push in darkness through the mighty waves of an oft angry and at best an indifferent sea.

Far to sea now, I swim for my life to reach the other shore

The days of excitement and longing to be able to present as my authentic self for a few short hours on some random weekend day, of being able to shed the male facade and don an authentic self for moments in a lifetime of hiding, those days are gone..  they have been replaced with the quiescence of a soul coming finally to be at rest and to feel whole as a human, as a person, as a woman.  The world around me reflects a silent and affirming resound in agreement to my affirmations and drives me to push on.

As I journey forth through these deep waters, far from land, those who still swim in the pool can scarcely understand the trials I face.  I say this not in a derogatory way but rather as one of perspective.  How can one really see, really understand another's perspective if they are not living it, not experiencing the emotions of that person?  They will see only with reference to what they know, what they understand. Even I, I could not perceive that I would feel as I have come to feel, to love as I have come to love, to fear as I have come to fear, and to grow as I have come to grow.  To try to explain the all of what one feels in a gender transition is like a physicist explaining quantum physics to a lay person.  Sure, some of the concepts will be understandable but at some point, without having the foundation for complete understanding, much will be lost, much will not be visualizable.

I realize this now, more and more, when people comment on my posts on Facebook and I realize that they missed the point of what I was trying to say, focusing instead on some ephemeral or topical aspect.  A few people "get it" and are able to read between the lines and their comments hit home to me against the chatter of the trivial and of the trite.  This is what I need;  I need the perspective offered by these people, by these comments.  I have also been surprised pleasantly when someone will read one of my comments to their post, a post with a sub-meaning to it that most who comment do not get.  I'll see their post and offer a comment that provokes a response of, "Wow!  You got it.  You understand me!".  And I do.  I do understand the struggles, the emotion, the second level that is hidden beneath the veneer of smiles.  I understand it all now in ways I never did before.

This is not fun.  This is not dress up time.  This is not about looking beautiful.  Yes, a woman perhaps enjoys fun and dressing up and looking as attractive as she can but life is so much more.  This is about identity, about being able to interact with a world in a way that is harmonious to me, as myself, as a woman.  this is about the feeling of knowing the world feels comfortable with me as that person, as a woman.  This is about the struggle of loss of a spouse who is now your best friend and sister.  This is about not having a "center" to my life as I once did.  Now my center is replaced with the amazing love of my girlfriends, the added realm of a boyfriend, the experiences of a public presence in my talks and speeches at schools, churches and at the state house, and in the love and admiration I receive from people I have never physically met but who have found my story, my words, my offering of a virtual hug a help in some small and meaningful way.


I may be swimming for my life at sea now but I cannot turn back for there is nothing to turn back to.  That person is dead and the person who once stood in the shallow end of the pool was but a facade of a human being who played out her life trying to please everyone else by acting out the role of the disguise she wore as a man.  No one believed her then and she spent much of her life alone and to herself because she found estrangement in being such a paradox of a human being.  No.  She swims now in azure yet also tempestuous seas, guided by the hands of those who help hold her when she feels she can swim no farther.  She is a woman who is more than grateful for the support they provide because without that support, that gift of love, there were times that she said silently to herself, quietly so that no one knew and no one would have heard, that she would take her life and drown.  There are still times that she stops swimming, treads water and looks wistfully toward that horizon and thinks for a moment of giving up, of letting the sea swallow her and end this struggle.  But then there is always a hand that seems to reach out to grasp her, as if knowing she had been too silent, too quiet of late, that something might be wrong.  And it is that hand that reaches out and holds me, touches me when I feel I can swim no further, that tells me that she can make it; that I can make it.  The other shore is clearly visible and I can see that there are many who are eagerly helping me to make this journey and who are also standing on that now not so distant shore awaiting for my arrival. Thank You to all who have and continue to help me in ways you perhaps could never imagine.  The meaning of my life's journey is made clear by the love you gift to me, for without it, I would swim alone only to land one day upon an empty, lonely and desolate shore at the far side.

To stand one day, the journey completed.....but is it ever?


  1. Beautifully written, Christen. I featured this post on T-Central.

    Calie x

  2. You capture the essence of plight beautifully: "This is about identity, about being able to interact with a world in a way that is harmonious to me, as myself, as a woman. this is about the feeling of knowing the world feels comfortable with me as that person, as a woman."

  3. Every time you post something here, Christen, I find it's exactly what I needed to hear, and a reflection of my own transition. I've been reading your blog for a long time, up until recently under an anonymous pseudonym (Rye Mann), but the days of hiding are well behind me at this point.

    I, too, am swimming for my life right now, and I'm finally able to clearly recognize the truth you articulate so eloquently: "This is about identity, about being able to interact with a world in a way that is harmonious to me, as myself, as a woman. this is about the feeling of knowing the world feels comfortable with me as that person, as a woman." Since taking my first tentative steps into embracing myself over a year ago, and since reintroducing myself to the world this year, I've come to an entirely new understanding of my relationship to everyone and everything, and it feels for all the world like Dorothy stepping from her black and white world into a technicolor Oz.

    My heart also resonated deeply with this passage: "This is about the struggle of loss of a spouse who is now your best friend and sister." Oh, how I know this struggle and sense of loss. To have a deep and enduring relationship undergo such a profound shift is something not many people ever experience, and it is one of my greatest sorrows that I could never be the man or husband my partner deserved, even before the reason why became clear to us both.

    I wish for you the best of luck on your continuing journey. And I thank you for your small part in helping me to find my own.

  4. This made me cry, happiness for you, and longing for me. I am in that place, the weekend or spare moments where I can be myself. It's a temporary thing I hope, to move on to just being me, to being the woman in my head. I am glad your journey has taken you to a place of peace and love. Not everyone gets that, it's a gift. This gives me hope, and that too is a gift, thank you.


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