Just over three years ago, I stopped fighting and set out on a journey. In almost every way it was a solo journey. Along the way people and friends came and went, and materially I lost much of what I had gained and relative financial security. And yet I persisted for a long time in the insistence that I was still me, I was the same person. So why did I feel so rejected, when essentially the real me was the same?
It wasn’t fair! It never is. Fairness was never promised us. And yet that unfairness set me free to truly change.
As I now watch trans friends following the same route, at different speeds and with different individual experiences, I see much more clearly. I watch them sometimes succeeding in family relationships. I see them turned from their own doorsteps. I see them successfully in work. I see them struggling to find work. I see them almost continuing as normal, and I see them penniless. I see some with excellent clinical or surgical outcomes, and others whose outcomes have been less enabling. Some form relationships, some are desperately lonely. Some appear to celebrate being affirmatively trans, while others disappear. Some float by on a cloud, others really struggle. I can still stand in front of a public audience and read poetry that can only be explained in the context of being transsexual. And yet from day to day I forget. I am lucky, and I am grateful.
And then I reflect. It comes out of the blue to me. I have changed. I have really changed. Not just physically; I can meet people for the first time in years who aren’t sure who I am – do they know me? Mentally, I have become wholly confident that I am being true to myself. The self-deception has completely gone, the half-known fraudulence of being the very nice, understanding man with a terrifying secret has not been replaced with a new deception. What I am now is absolutely what you see. The best bit is that I actually like myself, even when people are unkind about the minority groupings I find myself in. There is still a great deal of unkindness, especially of religious origin and tradition, that would say I am a dangerous aberration, unworthy to be a parent, a destructive element in an otherwise stable society, even something evil, sinful, or just to be pitied – and excluded.
It isn’t that I don’t mind; I do! I hate it when people who have been friends find me ‘difficult’ to accept, or who can never take my word for it that I really am born this way, and happier after treatment. But I find the science of gender, and indeed the history in other cultures, enough explanation of how I came to be as I am.
The change is huge. My head is full of all the memories of my life, most of them good and a source of gratitude, at least for surviving. And I never again need to be something I am not, in order to feel accepted. And there it is. This is where the change finds itself, in authenticity. In authenticity you begin constructing the puzzle of life with the right pieces, the right way up. There is no other way. The inauthentic life hands you pieces from the wrong puzzle, so the picture and shape never form with any great reassurance.
Instead, I am becoming beautiful. A body ravaged and shaped by testosterone is not an auspicious start late in life, and yet I often don’t wear much make-up under my thinning hair, and more often wear jeans. No; it’s what I feel inside. I don’t care that anyone reading this says ‘Beautiful?! Have you seen yourself?!
What I compare is what I saw myself as just over three years ago, and what I see myself as now, seven months post surgery, and in a very comfortable lesbian relationship. The love I feel, share and give, and the love I receive, make me feel beautiful, because it is the most honest and open love I have ever known. It is a learning love and an unguarded love, and in that it is changing me for the better. Our future is no more predictable than any other relationship, but today, right now, it is a gift to be nurtured and celebrated.
For the first time in my life I have been wanted for the complete, authentic me that I am. No compromise. Not perfect by a very long way, annoying in a number of ways I am quite sure. But learning without lies, growing without guilt, developing without deceit. The experience is one I would describe as spiritual, which is why religious bigotry about my gender or my sexuality feels so hateful. It is spiritual, because it is all finding its place in my sense of purpose, of life fulfilment, and of belonging.
Allow me to add this familiar but meaningful poem by Mary Oliver: Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
This helps explain how I feel, recognising myself in the world, belonging as never before, having a place and being part of nature, not an aberration.
This is what I mean by change, this is what I mean by beautiful.
This is what it means to have found myself, and this is where my beginning truly lies.