For nearly a year, perhaps it was longer, I became more and more fixated on transitioning. At that point I had never dared identify as trans in public, never said a word about how I felt. I felt that if I dared to say I wanted to be a woman that the world would laugh until I turned into a contemptible little puddle of goo. I knew my world might well come apart.
For the year before I had grieved over my dad and while my dad was a good man and I really missed him, still grieving at six or seven months wasn’t grieving anymore it was depression. With my dad gone, a huge roadblock in my psyche evaporated because I would no longer have to worry about shaming him, just me.
Those months before I came out I sank deeper and deeper into depression as the pressure grew stronger and stronger to admit that I was a fraud as a man, that I didn’t want to be a man and that I was destroying myself trying to remain as I was. It unraveled for the oddest of reasons, my prostate.
The prostate, an unassuming gland, produces a substance (PSA) that is monitored as an indicator that a closer look should be had because the person might have one of several conditions, including cancer, that could raise their PSA. So it was for me that Winter when my doctor said I needed to go get checked out because my PSA wasn’t 1 like it ought to be, it was 4. That was the first of many bad interpretations of PSA that I saw. Since then there have been questions about routine screening of men without other symptoms or family history, but I digress.
I therefore start seeing a urologist, a rather delightful man who examines me and arranges for a biopsy. They call on April 20th to tell me everything is clear. Good new indeed, but people’s heads are complicated. I had been running this fantasy in my head that I would need hormones to combat cancer or some such and while I certainly did not want to have cancer, when I heard the news, that fantasy collapsed. It isn’t a coincidence that two days later I came out to my rabbi.
I’m sitting, barely able to keep still in a ritual committee meeting and after I ask if she has a minute. The second the door closes to her office I melt into a puddle and start talking about this thing that has been bottled up inside for the previous fifty years, that has been bottled with shame and guilt and fear, with the feeling that I couldn’t really be what I wanted to be and I went on for about 40 minutes before she calmed me down and got me to understand that while my life might well be changed permanently, life would go on.
Then I went home and came out to my wife and that was extremely painful and difficult.
Over the following month or so I saw my doctor and a general therapist and they got me started on antidepressants, then I moved onto a psych nurse practitioner for the meds and a therapist who specializes in gender identity issues for the rest. Life very slowly started getting better.
I’d like to leave you with this quote from my journal. It was July 4th, 2012, about ten weeks after I came out:
I was looking at some of the guys and thinking how much simpler it would be if I could be like them and just not have this issue at all. Grow old with my wife, not have to consider spending a bunch of money, not have to worry about coming out and the possible reactions at work, our daughter, and the neighbors. Not have to do any of it.
Let me give you the score. Before I moved, only the wives would talk to me. The male neighbors who knew me before didn’t even know where to look. Our daughter is making progress, I’m somewhat hopeful that she’ll call me in the next six months. My wife and I are divorcing amicably, which is really just formalizing what was already true.
Of all the fears I had, the ones that didn’t come true were that work was fine, all but one friend was fine and most of my family was fine; with her family I have no clue whether I’ll ever be welcome again.
Such is the cost of being yourself and being happy.