As the weeks tick along, the future shifts into view.
I have an actual therapist now, to work on sorting this gender stuff out. When I first started making the calls to find someone (blessings on my friends who provided great referrals), I thought what I needed was someone to help me sort out *if* I was trans, and if so, how much. Someone to help me decide.
After my appointment last week though (my third), I realized I don’t actually need help deciding. I’ve decided. Sometimes I think the real decision point was actually when I picked up Nick Kreiger’s book (when I first read the back cover, which was about a month before J even loaned me the book, part of me got a jolt, part of me knew). Or maybe when I didn’t back out of going shopping for clothes with J (I almost did. I think I made up some vague excuse about the kids but A, knowing me well, told me she couldn’t tell why, but I was clearly being a big chicken, and thus I had better go).
At that last appointment, we were going over some sort of childhood stuff, or something about how things feel now, and gingerly my therapist said, very sweetly, with a hint of hesitation “what you are describing…. are feelings that many people of trans experience describe.” Given my state when I first showed up on his doorstep (shaking like a leaf) I can hardly blame him for so cautiously stating the obvious. It was nice to get the validation, but my internal response was roughly “Well. Duh.” (though not in as nasty a tone as my kindergartener takes).
With his reassurance, and gentle nudging of a door that has actually been gaping open for a while, I realized I’m more confident than I look, more clear than maybe I give myself credit for.
I know where I’m going.
I want all of it. Mostly I want the body. But I also want the new name, the masculine pronouns. Part of me even wants a new social space, though that feels harder, as I’m less clear what I’m signing up for on that front. What I need is help to find my way there, without losing sight of who I am, and some help to maintain strong connections with my partner, my kids, my friends and family along the way (and ideally I’d like to stay employed).
My list of excuses has been crumbling, one by one. For the last year or two I’ve been saying that maybe things would have been different if I were, say, 10 years younger. But you know, I’m not really that old (I’m 34). And I’m not even sure my path would have been better if I had gotten my act together when I was younger (most obviously, I likely wouldn’t have this particular partner or these particular kids, and they are pretty damn amazing). For a long time, I figured that since I didn’t really feel like I was “born in the wrong body” that this must not be it. Even if the idea kept showing up, kept niggling. Sure, maybe I felt kind of off, but surely if I were trans I would have known more clearly, sooner. But now I can see how hard I was working to cling to that line. All it took was one compelling story that didn’t quite fit that narrative to send that excuse crumbling.
In terms of my actual life, things that really matter, there is my partner of 11 years (we met when I was 23 and she was 30) and my kids. As I first gently tip-toed into these waters, it became clear that Gail was along for the ride, and not just putting up with it, she’s pretty damn enthusiastic. I have to trust this is because we already knew each other so well, that we can both see this is coming from an authentic place, that this is making me more of who I am, more open, more sexually available, and more present, all in ways that are working for her and prompting a similar level of openness and connection from her side. In short, we’re damn lucky. So even if I was using it as an excuse before, my marriage isn’t on the line. It is only getting stronger.
Then there are my kids, and this is a place I go so easily weak at the knees. But after that unanticipated debate a few weeks ago, my daughter has come back, both to me and to Gail, to talk, to ask (really hard) questions**, to already come to a place of more peace. She may have registered her vote that I not change, but if there were ever a kid who were built for this, with such a strength of presence, a deep clarity, a frank unwillingness to brush anything under the rug and the fortitude to hold her own, it is my daughter. Our son is a different animal (albeit a perceptive one), but he can probably roll with the punches, not least due to still being so young. So my kids are already proving they can do this, and I’m proving I am still a good parent even as my world turns upside down. Maybe even a better one.
As an established grown-up now, far more than when I was first out, my parents aren’t a real excuse, but I still think about them, and I still fear losing them (again). But it looks like even they may be able to get there. Our closest friends have already been through this with a friend of mine, and if I tried, I couldn’t cook up better people to support our entire family. Our broader circle of friends is huge. I sometimes joke we have too many. Even if only half of them stick with us, we’ll still have more than enough. And honestly, I think most of them will make it. So friends are no excuse.
The only excuse I have left is my job. It’s a big one. I’m a scientist. I don’t yet have a permanent job. I have research I very much want to do in the world, and am looking ahead to navigating the academic job market in the next 1-3 years. If I start to transition (well, I suppose in a way I have already started, but I mean medically and more publicly), I’ll be on the job market essentially as I transition, or perhaps shortly thereafter. I have no idea how to handle logisitical concerns like my publication history under my old name, and after years of persevering despite the (many many) roadblocks women face in science and math, does it make any sense at all to show up on the job market as a white man? I have no idea what that would even mean, and I fear I would be seen as a very public freak show, so much so that no one could even pay attention to my work. I am at possibly the most iffy point in my career if I’m going to survive as a scientist. This is no time to throw a wrench in the works, especially since I’ve already thrown in two (that would be the kids, I would make the same choices all over again, but I have taken a very real hit career-wise in choosing to parent).
But my job has already been on the line many times. After the birth of each of our children I very nearly threw in the towel. So it’s not very honest to say that I just can’t do this because I don’t see a path forward in science. If I’ve been ready to give it up for other reasons, I’d be selling myself short to say I can’t possibly become who I am, who I feel more and more strongly that I need to be, just because of my job.
And so here I am, only about three or maybe four months after this possibility pushed it’s way up to the surface, feeling more clear and present, as myself, than I have ever before in my life. I know where I’m going. I’m going to be Ezekiel. I have a long way to go, but I don’t need to hem and haw anymore. Twenty-plus years of that was enough. I know I’ll get to keep what’s important as I become him, and I know that I can do this while still doing right by the people I love. The rest will work itself out***.
** In a conversation a few days after that fateful debate, my daughter asked to talk about it, and asked the following of me: (1) Are you going to change your name? (my answer: I don’t know yet, lots of people who feel like I do change their names) (2) What will our friends think? (my answer: they will still love us very much no matter what, and you can talk to XYZ friends about any of this) (3) Can I still call you “Mama”? (my answer: I don’t know, what do you think?) She was stressed out during that conversation, but she came to me, and she kept asking. My child is a force to be reckoned with, and blessings on the therapist who said that if she’s talking to us like that already (she’s also reached out to Gail for similar conversations, that have gotten progressively more peaceful and less stressed), we’re golden (I was worried I’d put way too much on the table too soon by accident in a way that was irreparable).
***Gail just read this post, and in a way that seems to sum up the juxtaposition of the purely practical and the profound that is my life right now, she basically said “Great! This is so clear and good and just exactly where you are right now! Now — will you please get rid of all those girl clothes you are never going to wear again? Because our closet is seriously a mess right now”