A year ago – I can’t believe it’s been a whole year – I posted about my struggle with depression. It was something new for me. I talk a lot about the things I’ve done, or my observations of the world, but not a lot about myself. But it wasn’t just that. Last January I resolved not to let the depression win. I determined to find my way out of that numbness. I refused to die by suicide.
Names, as they say, have power. And once I put a name to my demon everything slid into place. It was obvious, almost comically so, this thing that had been plaguing me for my entire life. Fighting it became so much easier.
My demon’s name is gender dysphoria.
For the uninitiated, gender dysphoria is when who your mind conceives itself to be doesn’t match how your body has developed, and the friction of that difference causes distress. If they plugged me into the Matrix, my residual self-image wouldn’t look much like me – it wouldn’t even be male.
The only effective treatment for gender dysphoria is gender-affirming care, and over the past year I’ve begun a series of changes, both social and medical, to help both myself and others see me as my true gender. It’s been terrifying, awkward, expensive and exhausting.
But the results have been amazing.
I am happier, more positive, and just generally feel my emotions more than I ever have. The once-daily thoughts of self-harm have vanished. Even in the moments that have been the worst, I can’t help but smile, because I know I’m moving through it, not at an end. I’m also lucky to have a supportive wife, family and friends that have been loving and kind when I’m at my most vulnerable.
Coming out, however, has been an agony. So maybe this post is brave, or maybe it’s the coward’s way to avoid having this conversation dozens of times.
There are, of course, some questions folks are probably going to ask, so here’s my best attempt at answering them.
- I don’t understand. That’s not a question. But the Human Rights Campaign has a great introduction to understanding the transgender community.
- Are you changing your name? Not at the moment. It’s in the cards. We’ll see. It’s still a work in progress.
- Should I use different pronouns for you? I prefer feminine pronouns – she/her.
- You never said your gender. You caught that, huh? My whole life I was raised as a middle-class cis het white male. I’m accutely aware of how much privilege that grants me. The labels associated with my identity don’t yet feel like things I’ve earned, and there’s a part of me that feels uncomfortable taking them. I’ll get there eventually.
- I have opinions about this. Great! I’m aware that trans folks – especially athletes – are cause célèb amongst certain circles these days. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your feelings.
I’m optimistic that with some distance I’ll be able to share this experience with more detail, less artful prose and more funny stories. Until then, I am so grateful for your support.