On December 16, 2022, Brielle was officially, legally born. She’d been gestating for nearly 6 decades, but with a family court judge’s ruling, Brielle burst out onto the streets of Pittsburgh. How did these events set up? I suppose it all began in 1960. I have clear memories of discovering my older sisters’ dance and ballet costumes. They were silky smooth to the touch and had lace and sequins and I fell in love with female things right then. But being a boy in a small town in West Virginia, I may as well believe I could fly into outer space as tell anyone I felt like I should have been born a girl!
Fast forward to 2014-2015. My wife had to spend an extended time away for family health problems. My crossdressing had been very limited and sporadic, but the feeling of being feminine never left me for long. That year, I discovered the wonders of Amazon Prime. I started buying clothes, shoes, lingerie, and discovered breast forms and hip pads. I was so immersed in it when I was home that I became frightened I would not be able to keep the two halves of my persona separate and abruptly purged everything one evening.
For a few years I felt more at ease with my decision, and that I may have “gotten it out of my system.” However, I still had a lot of social anxiety that only worsened. Looking back, I should have known it was gender dysphoria that fueled the depression and the social anxiety, but that was a term and diagnosis that was unknown to me. I had lived with this feeling of not fitting in as a male for nearly 60 years, and it just seemed like a burden I’d carry to my grave. I didn’t know who to consult nor what to tell them.
Fast forward again to the end of 2020. The world was in lockdown. We had moved to Pittsburgh two years earlier and I was working remotely at home. My wife was working part time but she was gone sometimes from early morning to well past 6 many days. I had not been crossdressing for several years and was not actively dwelling on the feminine side of me, but an innocent Christmas return to a department store launched Brielle just like an Atlas rocket launching a satellite into orbit! My eyes went to the women’s lingerie section, and I saw a set of packaged women’s panties. Suddenly I decided I needed to get them, and the floodgates opened.
Within a few weeks, I had some clothes, a wig, shoes, bras, makeup, and breast forms. I felt more at ease working in feminine attire and was able to remain that way the entire day when my wife was working. No one knew or guessed another, feminine persona was hiding behind my male mask. After several months of near-daily expressions of my feminine self, I knew I couldn’t go back or even stay where I’d been. The egg didn’t just crack, it exploded into a million bits. But how do I tell my wife of 40 years I’m more and different than the man she thought she married? No matter, it had to be done whether it destroyed our marriage or not. She needed to know, and I was killing myself slowly in fighting this losing battle with gender dysphoria. I still assumed I was “just” a crossdresser and coming out to her would allow me to at least not feel guilty around her. The more I opened up in therapy, the more I knew I wouldn’t be mentally okay to stay in that mode. I had to transition to begin to love myself and others properly.
This was the apex of our relationship. She could not stay in a marriage with another woman – even one she had really known all along, but never met. Sadly, we will be divorced in early 2023. We still love and support each other, but it is tragic that we couldn’t find a way to make it work. To be that trans “power couple” I had envisioned we could be. I’ve been on estradiol since March 2022 and passed a year on spironolactone in late November 2022.
I set a goal to socially transition by the end of 2022, and I have accomplished it! I almost missed the opportunity, though. I applied online with my county for a name change, but never heard back when I requested a court date. To my horror I saw there was one letter missing from the email address! Once I corrected that I heard back from the court clerk. By now it was already November and my chance to get to a judge before Christmas was almost zero, I thought. It didn’t get better when the clerk told me since I’d lived in two PA counties and only lived in the state for less than five years it would be very difficult to do the necessary adverts of the name change.
She referred me to a pro bono attorney who specializes in transgender name change. He said he could get a waiver for adverts and seal the court records, since I am at risk for harassment. He also got me on the last hearing day for 2022! Meantime, I decided this was the time to announce to my coworkers that I am a transgender woman and would be presenting as Brielle. My Manager and Technical Leader already knew of this for about a month, but I wanted to find the best time to come out to everyone. Now was that time!
I thought the announcement would be part of our regular monthly team meeting, but my Manager set up a special Zoom meeting for early the next week after my court hearing. I drew up the announcement text for the HR contact and myself, so we covered all the HR “boilerplate” about harassment, and I took a couple of minutes to basically outline what a transgender person is and is not, and how I just want to live and let live. I worked remotely that day, but the next two days I was in the office – as Brielle for the first time! What makes this strange is that all my team except two people do not work in Pittsburgh, so I won’t even see most of them day-to-day. There are many other employees of the postal facility where my office is, so they will not even have a “heads up”. Should be fun, I thought!
So, on a cold and snowy late fall Friday, with no family or friends to support me, I made my petition before the Family Court Judge for Allegheny County, PA. The judge was very friendly to everyone who came forward to change their names. Some were trans like me, others were being adopted or getting away from abusive past relationships. Each person got applause and affirmation as the judge declared to us all in turn, that we would now be known as the name we requested in the petition. It was practically a festive atmosphere that put me at ease completely. I was now legally Brielle Hope Sayre!
When I got home, I toasted myself and virtually toasted with my gender therapist in a Zoom session that evening. My daughter would have come, I’m sure, but she lives 5 hours away. My wife felt like she could not express happiness for me if she attended – I understand, but it still stings. I have local friends, but they all have jobs and obligations, and I didn’t ask any of them to attend.
I had passed major hurdles in mid-December 2022 and I have many more to go. I have to say so far, I have had zero negative responses. There was one humorous incident on my second day at work as Brielle. I usually keep my office door closed, but not locked and a staff member came in to empty my trash. It may have been the surprise of seeing anyone in the room, but he recoiled and said “whoa!” Nothing else, I’m nearly sure he recognized me, but his initial reaction was so funny I laughed once he’d gotten a bit away from my door.
So, life begins for Brielle. With many plans and dreams – some fulfilled, others on tap, and still others beyond the horizon. I know I am strong enough to overcome any obstacles since I have already overcome so much. Living as your authentic self should never be this hard, but until all of society gains compassion for people regardless of age, sex, gender, faith, and political affiliation, we will continue to struggle with bigotry and hate, in addition to our own internal biases.
Meantime, Brielle Hope is out and about, proud of her new-found freedom and ready for what is next! “What might that be” some of you may wonder? That will be for a future article!