One day in April of 2015, having just recently returned home from deployment, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror. As I gazed into the water stained mirror I didn’t recognize the person looking back. My eyes sad and lonesome, my spirit visibly broken. Now reading just this you may think that this is another PTSD story but how wrong you are. For you see, I was broken not because of what I had seen in Afghanistan as a company medic, or from the death of patients who had contracted Ebola, but because I was once again looking at a reflection of a lie.
For as long as I can remember, from as early as age five, I’ve always known I was a girl. No, not I want to be a girl, or “oh it would be better as a girl” but actually a girl. I thought, acted, played and socialized as girls do. I ran around the house as Wonder Woman because she was my hero, she was my role model. My parents thought nothing of it. I knew better. But it was the 80’s, and being transgender wasn’t something I even knew about. So I continued to pretend, continued to dress up as the boy my mother gave birth to. All the while praying to God every night to just make me a real girl. But of course that wasn’t the plan.
I hated myself.
As time went on, I realized a wonderful, powerful and amazing fact about myself: I loved men. Yup so that means I’m gay “thank God” I thought, that means I’m just gay.
And so, I came out to my parents and for the next almost 20 years I navigated the world as a gay man, pathetically I must admit. I was in relationship after relationship never really connecting with any of my partners. The truth was I still longed to finally be that girl imprisoned in my psyche on the other side of the looking-glass. I was angry, afraid but most of all confused as to why I was forced to witness the damaging and horrific effects testosterone was having on my body, turning me into something I was not and never had been. From the body hair to the oily skin and the ever coveted receding hairline, I was becoming what I feared the most; a man. No longer could I hide behind my perceived femininity of youth because I was looking like a rugged man. People would comment on how handsome I was and how much I looked like my father but they never saw that this was like an arrow through my heart. I wanted to be cute, or beautiful or gorgeous. I continued to hide under the guise of a soldier and gay guy, I pretended and acted the part I had been cast in. In retrospect I did a pretty good job cause no one knew my deepest secret. I even worked out a lot and tried to be that muscular jock, I did Crossfit to butch up. But instead of becoming the epitome of masculinity I became a mean-spirited, sarcastic and unhappy person in many respects. I wasn’t fooling anyone except myself.
I was miserable.
When you try to hold a beach ball under the water its a balancing act. At first, you push it down with such force so that it becomes submerged but then it sways to one side and you compensate. Then it shifts to the other side and you compensate again. After a game of underwater see-saw you loose your grip and it bursts out of the water and there is no stopping it. That is what its like to be Transgender.
My life finally began when I accepted myself for who I was. The start of it all came in the form of a conversations on a couch. At first silence, then the truth which morphed into revelation; my best friend holding me as I let years of anguish and self loathing pour out. With every tear came relief and with that relief came perseverance.
I have been through a lot since April of 2015. I’ve cried and laughed. Been angry and felt despair. I was introduced to the despicable body shaming that the beauty and fashion industry continue to perpetuate. I received my medal for the care we provided in Western Africa, and I’ve come out (again) to my entire family who welcomed their daughter (granddaughter, niece, cousin or friend ) with open arms and I decided to transition.
Through testosterone blockers, estrogen and progesterone I can now see the beautiful woman in the mirror I was all along. Those years that my true self was trying to reach out, screaming to be set free, are over. I will never again be in that dark, cold and solitary looking-glass, instead I will be in the world continually moving forward and fighting, loving, teaching and living. That Jabberwocky of despair, pain, anguish and self loathing cannot follow me any longer.
I am free.