Undrowned


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Living with intense anxiety my entire life, I learned to avoid a lot of things.  The biggest thing I avoided?  Risk.  Everything in my life was divided between “inside” and “outside”.  I drew a circle around myself.  A very small circle.  This was my safety perimeter.  This was my inside.  Everything outside of that circle represented danger.  Basically, the rest of the world.

Growing up, I developed a lifestyle of strategies to manage those risks.  I stayed close to home, figuratively and literally.  I avoided any situation or circumstance where I had to venture out alone or exist independently without my safety-blanket of the familiar.

As  a kid and a teen, I was able to get away with this, because my life pretty much existed within my family circle.  And I fostered it by sticking close and never letting go.  But after high school, my carefully pinched life began to fall apart.  My anxiety increased, because now I had to deal with adult things.

All this is a long preamble to one of the reasons (and there were many) that it took me so long to transition.  My delay involves more than confusion about gender, sexuality, or self-identification.  The fact is, I’ve always been an emotional mess.  I was just able to mask it by doing all the “normal” things “normal” boys  were  supposed to do.  Except I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a boy and, as I grew older, had absolutely no inkling of how to be a “man”.

Hitting my twenties, I found myself unable to work, unable to make friends, unable to have any romantic relationship–and to be clear, that means not just emotional intimacy, but also sex.  Never.  Ever.  Not once. To this day.

So by the time all my peers were working, finding partners—living adult lives—I was essentially surviving on wishful-thinking, even as I grew more fearful of the world.  I drank in secret and I told no one else about my worries.  I never left home.  I hid.

When I was twenty-four, after a summer of anxiety and paranoia (basically going crazy without anyone knowing it), I attempted suicide by cutting my wrist.  After that, I settled into decades of depression, anxiety, self-medicating, and avoiding having a life.

Until now.

But the secret is, transitioning isn’t simply about one thing.  It’s about a lot of things, all of them interconnected.  I had to deal with my life-long depression and anxiety before I could deal with all the medical and mental issues transition brings.  Last November, after two years on Prozac, the desire to affirm my true gender overwhelmed every sense of my being.  The thought of it made me so happy, so ecstatic, that I wanted to cry.  All the time.

I guess my whole point is this:  I never thought to myself, “Wow, if I could be a woman, all my anxiety and depression will end.”  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t until I had dealt with my anxiety and depression that I finally realized:  “Wow, I’ve always been a woman–now I can deal with it.”

It’s a lovely thing to realize.


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Of Hormones And Age

Perhaps it’s a generation’s unease with technology, and social media in particular, but the Internet is not exactly boiling over with the voices of older transgender folk. Since my nieces consider anyone over 30 to be “really, really old”, I’ll just say that I’m over 30. Way over 30. By many, many miles!

For years, I avoided stamping the universe with my public presence on the Internet. But now I am on Twitter, Instagram, and…I am embarrassed to say…Facebook. I would like to believe I use these services creatively and with a certain degree of panache. And for the most part, I do. But I’m equally guilty of posting my share of cat photos, too.

When I first began researching the possibility of transitioning at my age (with one heart-attack already embedded in my medical chart), Google yielded…well, not so much. Except for blood clots. Lots and lots of info about blood clots.

But I didn’t need (or want) anymore stories on the statistical probabilities of age+hormones+risk. Due to the stent already in lodged in my one of my cardiovascular arteries, I was well aware of all the associated health risks.

I just desperately needed to hear the personal accounts of people transitioning at my age. I needed to read stories from actual souls, and not just from research papers (although the straight dope should never be ignored–my first piece of advice to my trans sisters and brothers). I needed the calm voice of someone who had been there and done that.

But most transgender people (most people, period) on Twitter and Facebook are under 30. The ones I follow who happen to be over 30? They consider themselves old-timers and veterans. Curse them!

And yet, I’ve learned a great deal from these young people in this great, new age of possibilities. Their stories have not only inspired me, but they’ve educated me in so many areas of transitioning. Especially how to deal with the day-to-day struggles of living in a society that is largely uncomfortable with non-conformity. But still, it is nice to have someone your age to talk to….

One of my hopes for this blog is to reach older people who are considering transitioning. I’d like to be a helpful voice in the wilderness, if I can.

For now, at the very beginning, the best I can do is to translate my personal experience into something more meaningful than mere bio.

One caveat. I have lived a most chaotic and yet insular life, psychologically-speaking. I am not your ordinary trans person. But, then again, neither are you.