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Wins and Losses


Percy

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In high school I had a history teacher tell the class that it takes about 50 years to get a reliable historical perspective on a major event. It hasn't been 50 years since I transitioned, more in the neighborhood of 15, but I'm only now starting to get to where I can step back and write about the experience.

 

To clarify, it’s only now that I have enough distance from that time, a period of roughly 2 years where I was undergoing the physical, social and legal transition from female to male, that I can write about it in any coherent way. Internally, it doesn’t feel like there was much transition. I am who I’ve always been. I don’t think of the essential me as “before” and “after” but certainly I underwent a “before” and “after” experience.

 

I often say that I was fortunate to have suffered very little loss as a result of transition. That has remained true even over the long term. Those two years were thrilling, exhilarating. Have you ever gone 100 miles per hour on a sports bike down a freeway without a helmet? It’s like that. Wonderfully scary. And if you make it...you’ve had one helluva ride.

 

I made it. Exhilaration aside, the ride was really rough sometimes. How rough? It’s taken me a long time to get to where I can look back on it and think about the details. Even now, when I poke around here on G.A. looking for some transgender stories to check out, I often don’t read them when I find them. I know if I delve in, there’s a good chance a scene or even just a phrase could bring all those rough patches back. I don’t want to stumble into that morass of memory and the attendant feelings so, like a cat, I poke my nose in and take a sniff, then leap away and race back under the bed.

 

The roughest part of the ride is when you have a passenger on the back of that bike doing 120. Mom, Dad, my brothers, my grandparents, childhood friends, my employer...they weren’t too excited about riding behind me down that freeway. They hopped on board though and let me take them to this destination. Maybe someday I’ll write in detail about the individual coming out stories. They each deserve their own because they each made the journey with me.

 

I have my entire family intact and can honestly say I don’t interact any differently with them now than I imagine I would had I not transitioned. My family is quite extraordinary. I was prepared to lose them all; I truly was unable to predect how they’d react. I didn’t lose any of them in the long run. That is humbling to say. I’m not good with humility. I’m not sure I’ve ever come right out and told them how much their support has meant to me. I have a win in the family column.

 

In the midst of “winning” my family over, we all suffered a huge loss. It’s not like I told my family members my plans to have a sex change operation and they were immediately on board with the idea. It took a number of weeks and months for most of them to come around. It was especially hard on my mother who felt like she was losing me. She felt betrayed. She was also very involved in her church and they were of the opinion that what I was doing was immoral. Nonetheless, after a few months, Mom asked me for more information about what was happening with me. She wanted to understand more about transsexuality and wanted me to put her in touch with other parents who had children like me. It was right at this time that my cousin Ruth, close to me in age, was killed in a car accident. Gone. Just like that.

 

So we all dealt with that tragedy and somehow the opposition from my family to what I was doing changed. An acceptance started growing. My mom had been saying that she was losing a daughter, it was like I had died. That all stopped. I know she realized that her brother, my uncle, had actually lost a daughter. Ruth was dead. What had happened to her was very different than what was happening to me. An irreversible, tragic loss somehow played into my winning the support of my family.

 

I think my mom would have come around either way. I’d like to think that. But I do not think it would have been so immediate or so total. My uncle, my grandparents, all made sure I knew I was still part of the family and always would be. In the many years since then, that has not wavered. My mom became one of those mothers who talks to other parents of transsexual children. She is totally “out” about me and the two of us are closer than ever. I have the mom I always needed as a kid. She also left her church.

 

Yeah, I know that should be seen as a win, right? Thing is, the church was a broad and deep social support for my mother. She was lonely for a long time because when she left, she lost those social connections. She had to start over, much like she had to start over when my parents divorced. None of us kids live near my mom. She had no relatives nearby so she built new friendships from scratch. She does have friends today. She has also remarried to a really cool guy. But as she ages, I wish I could do more for her. I wish I could say she has this broad and deep circle of support that will be there for her in an instant when she needs it.

 

Wins and Losses. They aren’t black and white. I have a few more I’ll probably tease out in this blog in the future. And, for those of you who do delve into the transgender theme in your writing, I’ll probably get around to reading those stories sooner or later.

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i would certainly like to read more entries by you. while few of us can understand what your particular process of becoming was like, the way you talk about using time to gain perspective somehow made everything hit really close to home.

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