For most of my life, my attitude toward my biological sex was neutral. As soon as I found space in the lesbian community to feel fluid in my internal sense of what my gender was, I attached to terms like "genderqueer" and "nonbinary". Years of reading gender and women's studies books and discoursing on feminist ideology woke me to the disparities between the sexes, especially in Western culture. It woke me to a broken way of viewing gender: either "manly" or "womanly", and nothing in between. A culture ripped in two-- between the bodies of communication, physicality, sex, power, privilege, the list went on.
I wanted no part of it, internally. Externally, I played the game. I wore high heels, makeup, had long hair. I accentuated the curves of my body with revealing clothing. I hyperanalyzed my appearance. As I looked in the mirror, I thought, "I'm sexy, right? I'm doing 'female' correctly." And I realized that flaunting my femininity earned me attention, power, and approval. Sometimes I just wanted to blend in. Others, I wanted to stand out. And it was easier to stand out by embracing the hyper-feminine.
When I was in feminine drag, I would constantly compare myself to other women. Was I doing this right? Was I too feminine? Not feminine enough?
I relied on my body as an object. I knew it was beautiful to other people. And it was through their eyes that I saw its beauty. But I didn't own the beauty of my body for me. I relied on the feedback of the world around me to remind me that I was worthy. The more beautiful I was, the more worthy I was. The more lovable I was.
Over time, I grew to resent people who mentioned that I was attractive to them. Little by little, I shed my feminine costume and moved into simpler clothing.
I vacillated in this space for two years while I dated a transgender man, and stood with him through the early part of his transition.
Without the anchor of a partner's identity defining who I was (I.E. a lesbian), I panicked. I grieved the loss of a female partner, and the loss of the illusion of my own identity. Following that relationship, I spent a long time by myself. I dated other women in fits and starts, but spent most of my time alone. I meditated, wrote, created, worked, and traveled in Europe by myself. I crafted my own life with careful, slow deliberation. I withdrew from the LGBT community completely. I practiced yoga daily.
In the whirlwind of a poorly-chosen love affair, I clung even tighter to my yoga practice, seeking some semblance of predictability. I enrolled in a teacher training, knowing that I wanted to be a Yoga Therapist before I even began the 200 hour training. It was there that I had a definitive moment when I realized that I was not a woman.
I grieved for months. I had no doubts about my realization.
It was no longer a matter of knowing who I was, but when I would become the person I'd been the whole time.
I was paralyzed with fear. If people saw me for who I really was, how would I ever feel love? How could I be worthy, when I'd received so much attention and approval for being who others wanted me to be? Who was I actually, when I let myself stop pretending and be authentic? The thought of leaping into the vast unknown of change was incapacitating.
I waited as long as I possibly could before I took any "steps" toward gender transition. I was massively depressed and suicidal before my wife (then fiance) put her foot down.
I'm lucky I live in Austin and that transgender folks have a lot of great resources here. I got my letter and she and I went to the doctor, where I was prescribed an anti-depressant, an anti-anxiety med, and eventually, testosterone cypionate.
I'd like to say that the meds and the testosterone were a silver bullet, but let's face it: nothing is. It was a hard road from there until about 8 months into HRT and regular anti-depressants before there was dramatic change; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Three months after I started testosterone, my newly minted marriage was in shambles. As my features became more masculinized, my wife became re-associated with a past traumatic relationship. Just by being and becoming myself, I was triggering her PTSD. With the onslaught of hormones and her hypervigilant responses, our relationship became volatile, hurtful, and destructive to both of us.
We committed to weekly couples therapy, as well as individual therapy. I continued my yoga therapy studies despite the chaos and graduated from the Integrative Yoga Therapy program with a focus on Functional Yoga Therapy.
Believe it or not. this is only the beginning of my journey. Two years of hard work later, my marriage is resilient, passionate, and playful. My sense of self-confidence and self-love is even stronger, wiser, and expansive. My connection to community and to the whole world at large is vibrant, compassionate, and peaceful.
I am now post-op from top surgery just shy of a month. Recovering from a major surgery is a journey in and of itself, I've learned.
More to come.