The need to transition for many of us can literally become a life or death affair. The effects on overall health, the constant stress, anxiety, and self-loathing caused by not accepting your true self can affect the physical, emotional, and mental health of trans men and women. It can become too much for any one person to deal with.
I watched the movie “Different for Girls” again last night. I’d seen it many years ago. I hadn’t intended to watch a movie with a transgender theme, but it was the first time that I could put a label on who I was. I associated my feelings with those of the character, “Kim” in the movie. This was before cellular phones, social media, and the internet were accessible to everyone in South Africa. I happened upon the movie as I was lying on the couch at my parent’s house. It was late at night, and I watched the movie alone. As the plot unfolded and I realized Kim used to be a boy who transitioned into an insecure, somewhat scared trans woman. I knew then that I finally had a label for what I was dealing with in my life. Up to that stage, I thought I was a crossdresser who questioned their sexuality all the time and compensated for it by pretending to be this macho guy doing all things manly. I was living in a conservative household and community, and it was scarier than telling anyone how I felt. While watching the movie, I cried continuously. I really struggled for years after that to accept the reality that I was a transsexual.
Facing your true self, in the end, is unfortunately just as costly as always trying to run from the truth. At this point in my life, I still struggle to see how much good will come from the fact that I can no longer ignore my true self.
My story probably follows the same pattern as so many other transgender women out there. Some years later, I finally told my wife and family the truth. Not one of them accepted the fact that I am transgender, insisting that some sort of trauma must have caused me to feel this way. They stuck to this belief even after telling them I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. In the end, I got back in the closet and couldn’t face hurting them because of who and what I am. Besides, I was married by then with children. My family didn’t deserve this over their heads as well.
I hid my transgenderism and continued with life as usual, with a few lapses over the years, which caused tremendous problems at home when my clothes or makeup were discovered. Finally, in 2009, I accepted myself for the first time, making peace with whom and what I am. I decided acceptance on its own had to be enough because my family still didn’t deserve the devastation and social ridicule that having a transgender husband and father would bring on them. So, I still continued to hide the truth from the world with occasional counseling when I wasn’t coping on my own. In 2018, at 45, I became very sick as the constant anxiety caused my blood pressure to spike to very dangerous levels. They admitted me to the hospital. A slew of tests was done, and I learned much about myself, which helped to shed light on some questions I had regarding my medical history. I always had a sense that something in my past medical history might have played a role in what I felt. In the end, they placed me on chronic anxiety medication, and new blood pressure meds, and life went back to normal. Everyone thought it was pressure from work that caused my health problems, but honestly, as someone who works in education there isn’t that much pressure besides teaching is the one thing I used to enjoy, but also an obstacle to being able to transition.
A year later, I decided to start my transition in early 2020. I resigned from my job, started a business, and planned everything out as carefully as I could. COVID-19 ended up being the new obstacle.
My business struggled and wasn’t profitable. That forced me to take a new teaching position in order to take care of my family. I have often read you reach a point where you can’t continue the lie any longer. I tried to convince myself that I could live with it for the sake of those I love. I have to admit; that I am not that strong. I could not continue living a life where I pretended to be something in order to make everyone around me comfortable and help them feel secure… sadly, this realization meant my family wouldn’t have a choice but to face the facts. They willing ignored it for over ten years. I am sure that my choice to transition will not be accepted by my family. I hope that my two daughters will someday accept the honest version of myself.
My family believes that being transgender or gay is a lifestyle choice. No amount of explaining, the evidence presented, or introspection will likely change their point of view. There is no anger directed at any of them. It took me years to make peace with myself. I can’t expect them to accept the truth so easily either.
Being transgender means you have to face yourself. Seek help and find a way to move forward in life. Choose the path that allows you to transition. It became my necessary step in order to not fall into an endless pit of depression and despair. I feel selfish, in the light of how many loved ones will be hurt, for those that end up struggling in dealing with my reality. They didn’t deserve or ask for it.
As a transwoman, I am starting a new life, but so much of what is good in the life I have built may be lost in tears and pain. I struggle with this. I wish I could make everyone understand I’m not trying to hurt anyone; I am trying to save my own life.
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