Debra Believes "It's Worth It!"
I knew from very young that I was different from other boys around me and yet I couldn't quite put a finger on what it was exactly. I grew up in a very closed-minded world and yet it was all I had ever known. So it's really no wonder that any gender dysphoric feelings I experienced were subconsciously buried deeply in my heart before they could even reach a formed idea. Of course there were hints along the way but like those subconscious feelings, they were snatched away, even fought against mercilessly.
This is why I didn't even discover crossdressing until age 27. But once I did, it began something that what would soon burst the bubble that I had thought was my perfect life. The fabric of my heart that had sealed away each gender dysphoric feeling, thought, and idea began to rip at the seams. I struggled with questions like: "Why do I feel like this?", "Am I damned to hell?", "What will others think?", and even "How can I live like this?" I worried about the losses I would incur from transition. I could lose my family, my wife, my home, my job, my friends, and maybe even my soul. And yet I couldn't keep on living like I was.
Don't get me wrong, I had lived a full life, I was successful in my career, a college graduate, married, and a home owner. Yet in my heart, I knew something was missing, something was off. If you go back to old pictures of me, you can see it in my eyes even when I smiled; no light there. And now I finally knew the reason for that feeling, I knew exactly what was missing and yet the journey loomed before me. So much pain; so much loss.
Many of us end up in quite the same conundrum: transition or die. Those around me expected me to find a third option; an option that included living and yet fighting against that part of myself that was trying to emerge. What they may not have realized is that by pushing me away from the idea of transitioning, they were not pushing me toward any third option, but instead toward the only remaining option I saw before me: death.
On September 2, 2009 at around 5:00am, I attempted to commit suicide. The details of how I went about it are not important but the fact that I was unsuccessful is something I am thankful for now in so many ways. However at the time, I was in a bad state. I committed myself to the psych ward of a nearby hospital because I didn't know what else to do. I felt so lost, so numb. My family and wife came to visit me there but not much was exchanged. There was still no solution. None of them would ever even suggest transition.
During an exercise at a group session at the psych ward, we had the chance to open up about ourselves and my blatant honesty with everyone was rewarded with acceptance. That was the first glimmer of hope I experienced. These strangers that didn't know me from Adam were accepting of the fact that I felt like a woman inside and intensely needed to transition my body and my life to match. While sometimes it truly is easier for people who don't know you to accept you, it still told me that if I could make this change, it just might be worth it.
I began transition and things did not get any easier. My parents became immediately estranged from me, my wife separated from and soon divorced me, my church all but excommunicated me, and many friends dropped off the map as well. I grieved for my losses, all of them, periodically throughout my transition yet not without beginning to appreciating life. The dreary Seattle weather outside my window was of no consequence in comparison to the rays of sunshine in my heart. I had embarked on a journey of self discovery and what I had discovered was freedom.
I no longer had to try to be something I was not. I no longer had to hold back ideas, emotions, and expressions that were never allowed in my past. I was recognized, complimented, and loved by many people I met along the way. And they loved me for who I really was, not the facade I had tried to put up for most of my life before. I was also blessed with a supportive employer and coworkers who made my transition at work so very easy and an adopted mother who became somewhere I could call home amidst the absence of my birth parents.
I found I was no longer the introverted person that spent so many hours locked away at home living inside a video game but instead, constantly enjoying time and events with friends, acquaintances, and the little bit of family that was supportive. My body began aligning correctly from both the absence of testosterone and the injection of estrogen and my eyes learned how to smile. I experienced dating for the first time and with men to boot! And though it's true that I came across many who either had the wrong intentions or couldn't even begin to comprehend my past, let alone accept it, I also met many men who understood that I was simply a woman.
When the time finally came to have Gender Confirmation Surgery, I was both excited and nervous. The first few months of recovery were difficult for me, more so than the other girls around me. I had my own experience of depression, impatience, and worry in how things were healing. With the help of my surgeon and supportive family doctor, I was able to get through it, another milestone in my life complete. You can't imagine the wonderful feeling it is to finally feel right with your own body in so many ways.
And so I stand before you today, a woman who has experienced a mix of both negative and positive. Did I lose people in my life? Yes. Was there pain involved? Yes. Did I cry my eyes out at times? God yes. But was it worth it? YES!
If you are experiencing gender dysphoric feelings and feel like transition or even life might not be worth it because you'll lose so much or even if you are somewhere in your transition already and still experiencing bouts of dysphoria or having doubts in general, please know: it is indeed worth it. Seek out help, don't give up; there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.