I’ll begin with a few notes to set the stage. I am in my very late 50s (that means 70), and felt something was different about my gender identity long before I knew there was such a thing as a gender identity. Like most of us, I got pretty good at the whole hiding and denial thing, right through 35 years of marriage(s), kids, overcompensating sports and military services. I was underdressing, though we didn’t call it that, until my 50s, when I started to realize I needed…not just wanted…to allow myself to feel, dress and interact with the world as a woman.
I am in no sense unique, having read the posts of so many others here or on other social media. It seems eventually, many of us reach a point where something has to give, and perhaps a point where the runway ahead looks a lot shorter than the runway behind us. As a pilot, that means either take flight or something else.
I also doubt I am unique in dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions, particularly in my acceptance of self. There have been times when I was utterly confident that I needed to come out and live something like full time. One or two setbacks could plunge me into self rejection and another cycle of denial and repression. Again, I know I am not the only one.
So, is it any different today? Well, for one thing, what’s left of the runway is beneath and behind me. Short of what is called the impossible turn, I pretty much need to stay airborne and fly the circuit or perhaps plan finally to head to my new destination. (Forgive the flight analogies;). I’ve opted for the latter.
So what is my heading and where am my heading!?! I retired just pre-covid to a northern resort community and set out immediately to integrate myself in the areas as a woman, or whatever people who met me judged me to be…I’m good with either one. Covid messed up progress to some extent. Obviously there were fewer opportunities to get out and mingle. Those weeks of mandated or self imposed isolation took their toll on my confidence. It took a while, and I began to emerge once all that seemed to be behind us.
My first attempt at retirement wasn’t entirely successful. I’ll blame covid for the boredom. After 18 months, I found myself back at work part time, unfortunately in male mode. Fortunately, it’s mostly remote, so I don’t have to make many compromises, nor very often. Frankly if I were to advise the soon to retire…I’d suggest that you take a part time role, rather than going cold turkey. Its too much too fast. (But I digress)
I still find myself questioning my authenticity as a transwoman. Isn’t that odd, as if anyone would willingly subject themselves to potential scorn, discrimination or harm? I think really what I may be questioning is my ability to present myself convincingly as a woman, despite certain physical tells. I find that my willingness to step out the door and towards the scrutiny of a not always encouraging world lies in being able to accept that I am imperfect, just as anyone else. I can’t control and honestly don’t want or need to know what every person thinks when they see or interact with me. I am grateful when I am accorded courtesy. I am delighted on those occasions when I feel accepted, either as a woman or a transwoman. And I have been ecstatic when somehow I have been perceived as a natal female. It happens, and much as we are not supposed to care, it is a real confidence booster when it happens.
So, where does that leave me today. I am still in and out. I live far enough from family and old acquaintances to feel I can maintain a dual existence for the time being. At the same time, I am tending towards a stage in life where I care less about what others think and more about enjoying the time I have left.
The basic rules of flying are 1) aviate – fly the plane, 2) navigate – know where you’re going, and 3) communicate – let others know what you’re doing…in that order. I’m trying to apply these to my life. I hope you’re able to do so in your own life.