I was spending time with one of my good friends yesterday. He doesn’t know this gender question is on the table, and we stuck to our usual favorite topics (bikes, kids, projects, summer plans).

Ira, who is almost three, was playing one of his favorite games, in which he ruminates over a train schedule and takes pretend trips, making up stories about which trains are coming and where they are going.

My friend joked that Ira was just like him, that he loves to plan trips, mull over timetables, and cook up adventures.

I asked my friend what he had in the works, what his dream trip would be, and he said, “Well. I haven’t worked out details. If I think I might really want to do something, but know that it will be impossible, I have a rule that I can’t plan it. I don’t want to get so invested in wanting something if I know it can’t happen.” (he has a 17-month old, so some adventures are harder than they used to be).

But he then went on to detail about four or five trips that he clearly wants to take, paused, and noted, “Hmm. I guess I’m not following my rule so well…”

After that post last week, I felt like I was back in a good head space, that I wasn’t spinning out of control, that maybe this wasn’t such a big deal. I’ll just dress a lot cuter, keep my hair cut, and have better/more sex and call it good.

But now that the door is open, I feel like I can’t hold back the wanting. Or I can try, and sometimes I can manage to catch a breath, but like my friend following his “rule” about planning trips, I keep failing.

And like those grand train adventures, it feels like wanting something I know I can’t have, something I still can’t see clearly, but every time it shifts into focus I pull the emergency brakes and careen forward at the same time. I could believe everything would be OK if someone told me for sure I could keep my pronouns and keep my name and still be “Mama” — if I knew for sure I could get this settled without asking too much of my friends, boss, colleagues, kids. My wife. My family.

But then Gail tells me she’s having pronoun confusion in her head, that part of her is thinking of me as “he,” most of the time. And then my kids call me “Mama” and for a split-second I wonder who they are talking to.

I feel like I should have studied the timetable more closely, that maybe I didn’t understand the stakes. I wonder if it was a more apt analogy than I realized when I said this feels like a drug, like I’m always looking for my next hit. Maybe whenever I insist I’ve got this in check, it’s just the transparent protest of an obvious addict. I worry that like a drug problem, if I don’t get out now, I’m going to destroy everyone I love most, everything I’ve worked so hard for. I wonder if it was better before, when I didn’t know I could feel like this, when I didn’t know what I was missing.

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