The most common questions I have received since coming out as transgender in Nov of 2019 was “How did you keep this a secret for so long, over 50 years?” and the companion question “What happened now to make you finally fess-up?”.
To the first question, well, I don’t know; it’s kind of what this blog is about. The doubts and insecurities I’ve felt, the dysphoria-beating tricks I’ve learned, the delusions I’ve convinced myself were true are all things that will be covered in the coming months (or years). Am I a cross-dresser? (no.) Am I a weirdo? (likely.) A pervert? (I don’t think so.) I was already lonely, so what would happen if I came out and nobody accepted me? I didn’t think that would happen, but I didn’t know. Tricks like wearing clear nail polish, letting the nails on my little and ring fingers grow, flicking a mascara wand over the tips of my lashes, wearing clear lip gloss, and a 1000 more little (at least to me) feminine things? I felt my wife, children and grandchildren needed the masculine me, they needed my stable reactions in a crisis. I needed them to see me as their hero, but I had forgotten that heroes don’t need to be masculine.
I’d thought for a while that the day in May 2017 when my daughter Mary’s husband threatened to kill me (he was carrying a loaded pistol, but it was still in his belt) was the trigger for me losing my ability to cope with the gender dysphoria. There was an out of control screaming match between him and Mary that spilled onto their front yard, our backyard. Both grandchildren had tried to get between them. He shoved Rachel to the ground. I needed to get the kids out of harm’s way, so I stepped out our backdoor and yelled for him to get in his car and go cool off. He threatened me and I repeated for him to take-off. He bellowed a challenge to me, “How are you going to make me?” I said, as coolly as I could muster, “I’ll just call the sheriff!”. He ran back to their house and called the sheriff’s office himself. I rounded up Mary and the kids and got them to safety in our house. We spent the next several hours with 5 cruisers in our yard. The repercussions of that day are still going on. Court cases in two counties here in North Carolina and one in Massachusetts have been mostly resolved, but not quite. It is certainly an accelerator but it’s not the reason. If not that, then what?
Maybe it was when my daughter Jane’s transition was halted due to a pulmonary embolism. She nearly died and was laid up for a year. She was devastated by losing her transition. The embolism was blamed on a deep vein thrombosis, which was blamed on the estrogen she was taking to transition. She recovered physically, but the emotional damage is not trivial. We are trying to help with that, but it’s not easy.
Maybe it was that Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 (described in the “Therapy” post)? It’s when I started to realize that there weren’t any more excuses for not admitting to being transgender (to myself anyway). Was that weekend just a way to be sure? Was there anything before? As I look back, there were tons of little things chipping away, shrinking the fragile stack of my coping skills: caught by a work associate with blood dripping from an illicit ear piercing; washing my hands in a men’s room, looking up at the mirror only to see a lone glob of mascara on a lash; getting ready to go swimming and noticing on my big toe where blue nail polish had grown out from under the cuticle; and countless more, all chipping away. A huge factor was the lying, being deceitful to my family and friends. It was weakening me more each day. More than anything, though, was the lying to myself. I would preach to my kids when they’d lament on not having the confidence to do something, telling them “Believe in yourself, you can do it. Don’t worry about inexperience or doubts. You can do it!”. My “fake it until you make it” approach was crumbling. I wanted to be there to help Mary through these legal and domestic issues, to help Jane with the emotional blow of losing her transition, to help Vanessa cope with these horrific ordeals we were living. I wanted to say “Be honest with yourselves, accept the situation, as miserable as it may be, and let’s together figure out how to move forward.”. But I could not say that because it would be more hypocritical than I could bear. I wasn’t being honest with them or myself. I was depressed, crying at cheesy commercials on TV. I had to admit to myself and to them what was happening with me before I could do anything more to help them.
So, I did, I came out to my wife first and then to my immediate family the next day. The funny thing is it was really me that needed the help, the release of emotion, the need to stop lying. They’re doing great with all this crap.
Me, I’m still learning…