I’m talking to people in their 40s and 50s, who are like me, carrying around baggage and aren’t so free in their choices the way they would have been. I’d like to reflect back on some of what I’ve learned on my journey in dealing with shame, guilt and responsibility, and what haunts me still.
Shame, shame is a powerful force in the psyche. Avoidance of shame will drive people to extremes of behavior. Shame kept my mouth tightly shut about being trans for 50 years. Shame is the sense that if the shameful truth or behavior is known that the group or the tribe will ostracize you, that you will be expelled or ridiculed or shunned.
Shame for me was born out of a sense of being alone, of being the sole person with this bizarre problem. Even though I grew up and knew better that feeling never really left me. Shame was born of fear that I would be rejected because people wouldn’t understand that I just did not feel like a man on the inside, that they would ridicule me, that they would point and laugh and laugh and laugh. Shame was the feeling I could only be a pale twisted echo of what I wanted to be, an ugly duckling that could never aspire to be a swan.
But I wasn’t alone, there are hundreds of thousands of trans people in the US. I wasn’t rejected, most people were decent and accepting and supportive. Perhaps most amazingly I’m not the awful looking twisted creature I feared. I’ll win no beauty contests, but I walk down the street without people calling me a witch.
Once shame was conquered there was guilt. How could I destroy my family. Guilt is hard, because we do need to weight our good against their good. Yet to do that effectively we need to think carefully about our real options and consequences. For me I felt it was transition or give in someday to hurtful impulses, and where would they be then? The pain I’d impose would hopefully be transient and I would get to be a functioning living happy person and they’d keep me, perhaps not as a husband but still a friend and a father or parent.
My advice to you, the reader I described, is to own up. Admit to yourself that this is a hard road and that there will be pain and loss, and also that there will be growth and joy. Do find a good experienced therapist, there are mental conditions that look like transgenderism that are not and deserve treatment before you do anything permanent.