No, we aren’t superman or superwoman, but reading this article can give you a sense of how truly difficult the journey is from awareness to the end of physical transition, a place I’m fast approaching. I realized, as I answered the friend who wrote me about the article, that I should write about that journey, that arc from illness to wellness, from hiding behind a mask to being the woman I always was but hid.
When I started recovering from depression I felt impulses toward self harm. I used to lie to myself, a self protection mechanism, and say I didn’t dwell on the topic, and it would be true to say I did my best to move onto more productive thoughts, but I spent enough time to have considered a way to accomplish the deed. That’s saying a bit. Why? There’s this huge burden of shame that I had been carrying around for years and I had just exposed not to one, but to several people. My shameful secret burden had been revealed to the world and there was no taking it back.
Wasn’t that a hopeful thing? Of course it was, but it was also deeply humiliating and that layered onto the shame I already felt and the guilt or hurting my spouse and it was almost too much with the weight of depression added in. Yet somehow I made it through those weeks of danger. If I thought I hurting myself, even something relatively minimal, I managed to resist. I can’t say it was always easy.
Now, when my depression has been under control for a long time and the shame is gone, and guilt is much less (and I can see where it will be gone someday), those thoughts that come much less often are also much easier to push away. There’s more to look forward to, new firsts in my life, friends unmet, people to help, work to do, joy to share.
The path to transition from the point of coming out took about eighteen months. As I’ve counted time, I started thinking seriously about transition back around 2004 or possibly a couple of years earlier. I went through a long stage of insomnia and I would often read about reassignment surgery and dream about being able to live as I really wanted to live. Guilt and shame, my constant companions, one on each arm, forbade me from taking any action.
My dad had moved in with us a couple of years before in 2002 and was in the house until we moved him to assisted living in 2007. He passed in 2010. He was a major distraction, requiring care. I don’t know how many times we went to the local ER at 5am to sit with him. There’s something vaguely wrong with knowing all the doctors and nurses who work that shift.
My father’s passing clearly opened a gate for me. He died in August of 2010 and not even two years later I’m out. Only one year later I was out of control mentally and falling into the deep depression that would trigger my coming out.
WPATH guidelines require that you live as your target gender for a year before undergoing reassignment surgery and that you’ve been taking hormones for a year. There’s some wiggle room for people who they feel are going to be a serious risk to themselves but reasonable candidates.
I ended up waiting almost two years on HRT and about 18 months living full time before signing up for reassignment surgery. I’m still sometimes getting that question about are you sure. I know everyone who asks this means well, but I also know that they simply don’t understand.
- I’ve been thinking about this since I was six years old, not 56
- I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit for more than a decade
- I’ve been planning on this for close to three years
- I’ve already altered my body on hormones to the point where I can no longer fully return to where I was (as if I want to go back to being unhappy, depressed and suicidal)
- I know the risks better than any of the people asking me the question
- I’ve watched more than one video of the procedure in all of it’s bloody gory reality and I’ve seen the healed beautiful results
I don’t see how anyone who truly understands the above could say anything but I respect your decision and wish you the best results possible.