Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Ch 13: Gender Discussion and Reaching your Breaking Point, how to know when you need to 'come out'
Today I want to invite anyone who has a particular topic they would like to see discussed to post a response or email me directly at email@example.com to help facilitate the conversation. Because while it is helpful to me to share my story my end goal is to be helpful to others and starting a back and forth dialog I believe is the first step to appropriately engage the community. I also want to reference the fact that I will jump back and forth between the story and current gender variant issues to make sure the story itself and individual chapters stay relevant to the 'trans' community.
Once again I hope what you've read so far has been helpful and if there are stories you would like to share, or opinions in how I can reach a larger audience or make topics more relevant for my readers please share those ideas as I'm not opposed to growing and expanding as I write. Any Trans artists out there I want to start today by letting you know about the new transgender startup magazine: Here is literary journal startup http://themlit.com "THEM is a literary journal of trans* writers. As such only authors that identify within the trans* umbrella will be considered." Secondly congratulations to Delaware on being the 11th State to pass marriage equality for gay and lesbian individuals.
Ok, now sidetracking a little bit as I found this interesting and didn't know it until I searched for it, and am surprised how little positive 'trans' news hits the main stream media that I wanted to share it here for others who may be interested to see.
"Lana Wachowski Receives HRC Visibility Award
Lana Wachowski, the critically acclaimed director of the Matrix trilogy and the new movie Cloud Atlas, opened up about her journey as a transgender woman while receiving HRC’s Visibility Award in San Francisco in October. Wachowski shared her highly personal story in hopes that her words could serve as a beacon of hope for gender non-conforming youth who feel the same discouragement and isolation she felt as a young person," (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/video-lana-wachowski-receives-hrc-visibility-award).
If you follow the source link they also post a video on her speech given for accepting the HRC Award. By her example and others like her, I hope to one day be able to stand up and state my story and do some public speaking events to spread awareness. Overall, just nice to see some positive news every once in a while.
Now staying with HRC, I read the Transgender Visability Guide they have posted today and wanted to talk about coming out, where, when and how. Here is the link to the PDF of the guide published by HRC as free information: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/transgender-visibility-guide.
So to start with the introduction the HRC uses the term transgender differently than many of us use it and define it in their opening remarks. "But for those whose gender identity or innate sense of their own gender doesn't match with that assigned to them at birth, unraveling and expressing it can be complex and difficult.
Many of these individuals come to identify as 'transgender,' an umbrella term that describes a wide range of people who experience or express their gender in different, sometimes non-traditional ways.
Those of us who identify as transgender must make deeply personal decisions about when and even whether to disclose and be open about who we are with ourselves and others - even when it isn't easy," (http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/transgender_visibility_guide_042013.pdf).
A lot of times as we have discussed before but I will go into more detail now, we are taught to think in terms of male and female as black and white absolutes. Now even beyond male to female and female to male individuals, based on the HRC definition of transgender they include crossdressers, gender ambiguous individuals (meaning individuals who do not want to be either male or female or want to be seen as both) and any other gender non-conforming individual. We all face our own issues and problems and each instance is unique so I can only speak from my experience and share in this discussion what has worked for me.
"Some transgender people who wish to disclose this truth about themselves to others have reached a breaking point in their lives where it's too difficult to hide who they are any longer.
Whether it's the cross-dresser burdened with a secret he or she has hidden from his or her spouse, or a young lesbian who feels she doesn't fit into a traditional gender role, transgender people often feel compelled to share who they are in order to build stronger and more authentic relationships with those closest to them.
After disclosure, many people feel as if a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders. In the process of sharing who they are, they may also break down stereotypes and other barriers by living more open lives," (http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/transgender_visibility_guide_042013.pdf).
For me, I reached this point probably a little more than a year ago, I was tired of sitting at work and not being able to talk about dresses or other feminine topics. I was tired of hiding my true self and feeling like I was living a lie, so I had to talk to someone. Now I had been having this struggle with my wife for about five years, now a little over 6 years ago I had started cross-dressing again, after we got married settled down and I was beginning to feel more confident in myself. I didn't hide anything from my wife as I experimented with what exactly my inner feelings meant. Granted I probably didn't tell her as much as she would have liked, and we were going through other marriage issues that had nothing to do with the gender dysphoria. So after a couple years of doing this, I realized it wasn't enough, my therapists told me to go out and buy pink 'male' shirts and to try to express myself in a feminine way that wouldn't jeopardize my marriage.
I remember vividly the breaking point though, the 'ah-ha' moment where I had thought about it, was excited about it, drove to see my counselor at the time that night, walked into his office sat down and said, "Everything makes sense now, I'm a woman." And in looking over my life I was able to piece together why I felt like such an outcast and was struggling with these inner feelings so much. While at the time when I was a child I was so focused on taking care of everyone else I didn't stop and take the time to look at my own issues and ask myself the question of 'Who are you?' Then in college I began to ask myself those questions in Human Sexuality and other courses, but then I met this wonderful woman who became my wife and once again I buried the feelings because she wanted and married a 'man' so I had to be a man. Then after a couple years of marriage I had as I stated above started coming out of my shell as I gained confidence in myself, and finally I got to the point where I felt like I was suffocating. Like all the lies to people about saying I'm a guy amounted to this huge pile of guilt that I didn't know how to handle.
After my 'ah-ha' moment I talked to my wife about the idea, and she was concerned and didn't want to lose her 'husband,' so once again I tried to burry my feelings for the sake of the marriage to take my wife's needs and considerations first before my own. Granted at this point in time the whole idea was very new to my wife and from her perspective she may have seen me as being selfish, but from my perspective I was being selfless. This confusion and miscommunication especially if your trying to convince your partner that you are 'right' causes a lot more strife than just saying 'I understand how you feel, though I don't feel the same way I can respect where your coming from.' By acknowledging the feelings and focusing on the expression of what the other is feeling instead of who is 'right' and 'wrong' you can both put yourself in the other position and see how they could feel that way.
As, HRC states, I did feel a huge weight come off my shoulders after I had figured out what my issue was and to some degree who I was. While many of you may find my experiences helpful in your own decisions it's important to remember that, "You have the right and the responsibility to decide how, where, when and even whether to share your identity with others, based on what's right for you," (http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/transgender_visibility_guide_042013.pdf). It's also important to remember that if you do confide in someone this type of information tends to spread quickly, so if you don't want your friend or significant other to tell anyone else it's important that you state that.
So, after the 5 years of struggling along with trying to meet my wife's needs and express myself as female without actually being female I came to my boiling point. We went to couples counseling one night and I sat down, looked at my wife and told her with a straight face that I was transgendered, and that I needed to move forward in the process for my own well being and happiness, and that hopefully the change would have a positive impact and bring those around me closer to knowing the true me. At this point I told her I understand if you can't handle the situation I am going through, and it is not necessary for you to stay if you so choose. We left the meeting and went to dinner, sat quietly and didn't say much, at this point kind of thinking we may be broken up, but then we got home and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said 'I can't imagine a life without you, I want to try to make it work.' So we both acknowledged that we still loved each other and wanted to move forward.
From here in the 'coming out' scheme, I talked to my mother, my brothers, a couple close friends or co-workers in one on one settings asking them to keep the information to themselves as I wanted to be the source of disclosure to others. I then wrote a letter, one for co-workers who weren't upper management and one for other family and friends. I had the letter written for a few months before sending it, after reading 'She's Not There,' and trying to determine the timing of the release of information. Overall after I sent the letter I had a high number of positive responses and largely didn't hear any negative responses. However, I was and still am waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop where someone is going to have a highly negative reaction and part of myself is trying to 'harden' or prepare myself for that negative reaction, though feeling like it is going to happen some day does cause a lot of anxiety, so I probably have to let it go and be more optimistic about the kind-hearted people of the world.
In the end, those are the methods that worked for me, and I think that not hiding the process as I began to cross-dress and things from my wife helped go a long way with her being able to get small doses of exposure and accept me a little bit at a time. But perhaps I will ask her to write something from her perspective to share with you, she tends to be shy about these sorts of things, but maybe I can convince her even if it is only a one time thing. Overall we all change as we grow, and in relationships, whether friendships or intimate we have to learn to change with those we love otherwise we tend to lose good friends and lovers.
to be continued...