A year ago today my family was on their way here; everyone converging on Samantha’s and my house. We had a really fun little reunion planned, and it turned out great (despite several of us catching a pretty bad cold during the week). We went snowmobiling, ate some great food, did a tour of a local chocolate factory, and went to a hockey game together. By this time last year my whole family knew I was trans; I had come out to my parents about two years before, and my brother and sister had found out earlier that year. There was a moment we were all sitting together that I spoke up and told them how grateful I was for them – and to say thank you to them for accepting me and supporting me. I told them I didn’t know exactly what the future looked like, but that I felt so fortunate to be with them.
Within myself I was so incredibly torn. I knew I was nearing the edge of my psychological and spiritual limits; that I had reached a point in my life where I couldn’t bear any longer going on living a lie. But I was filled with incredible fear and despair at what that could mean. In the weeks before as we had cleaned the house, and I had wrapped presents I’d stop what I was doing and just break down crying. This had been going on for quite a while, but it was particularly hard for me around Christmas. I guess I felt sort of trapped. I knew what I had to do to stay alive and happy, and yet I knew that it would cause such a huge disruption in not only my own life, but the lives of others around me who didn’t ask for nor deserve it.
I guess at the time I sort of knew that this would be the last Christmas I would spend with my family as their son, brother, husband. I felt so bad about that – about taking that man away from these people I love more than any others in my life. I didn’t want to do it. The thing is I knew we were either going to have to mourn him together, or they would eventually have to do it alone. The latter seemed so dark to me; I wasn’t going there. But I knew 2011 meant change.
The worst came when I thought it could be the last Christmas I spent with Samantha. Despite the fact that we can easily call each other our best friend I knew that the coming year would be a difficult one for us. And, understandingly, it has been.
Within a few days of my family returning home I had gone out for the first time in “girl mode” (which, at the time, meant a sweat shirt, hair in a pony tail, and light foundation). Shortly thereafter I attended my first support group meeting because I knew I would need the insight and understanding of others, and had started writing coming out letters that would be sent to close friends and extended family later that year. In March I enrolled in some college classes, got the final approvals and evaluations I needed to go forward with HRT, and on my birthday at the end of March I went full time living as a female.
In many ways the fears I experienced at the end of last year looking forward to 2011 haven’t come true. I still have my family, and rather than tear us apart I think any of us could say we are even stronger than before. Also, last year wasn’t my last Christmas with Samantha. We had even more presents under our miniature potted
But in other ways it’s been a difficult year, even harder than I expected. Despite maintaining friends and family relationships, I know I am losing some. I feel this. I know some people will say the people that matter most are the ones who stay. And it’s true, but I can’t write off some of the other people I care about so easily.
It’s also been a significant challenge to go through some of the technical pieces of transition. Changing my name and updating that everywhere, coming out to people, coming out to my professional contacts and consulting clients, hours of laser and electrolysis to remove facial hair, and numerous other things. There’s the internal piece, too, of going through a kind of menopause while your body gets used to new hormones, doubting whether you have the strength to make it at times, and watching your body change, sometimes painfully.
I’ve experienced some of the deepest sadness this year as I’ve come to terms with what I will lose, and what I take with me. I’ve also experienced a new kind of happiness that comes from seeking authenticity that comes from within. For the first time in my entire life, I have been at peace with my body. There’s a kind of contentment in this that I hadn’t experienced until this year; it’s all I ever wanted, and the most wonderful gift. It’s blissfully normal. Despite the complexity of transition, there’s a real simplicity in being gender congruent; something I think most people take for granted that I’m keenly aware of and grateful for.
I spent a little time tonight going through some of my video logs from earlier this year. I pulled Samantha in and we sat there stunned at how different things are – even just in terms of my appearance, voice, mannerisms. When I made those first videos I was completely overwhelmed at what was ahead of me. Now I look back in amazement at how far I’ve come. I’ve gone full time, started HRT, done voice therapy, spent hours in electrolysis, legally changed my name and gender, applied to various jobs and interviewed as a female, traveled a little, spoken publicly, done more consulting work, and made new friends – all as Madelyn.
I know this next year will bring its own set of challenges. There are still numerous personal and interpersonal things that await resolution. I hope to find a full-time job with good health insurance, to consider the next steps in my transition, and to hold on to as many relationships as possible (just to name a few). But I’m facing the coming year from such a different place than I’ve faced any other year in my lifetime; with a new sense of hopefulness, and an immense feeling of gratitude.