Monday, October 10, 2016

10-11-2016 Entry: Pre-Transition Relationships, to End or Not to End?

I’m finding myself having a hard time reconciling my strong desire to immediately begin the transition process and my need to keep things kind of slow for the sake of my marriage. I don’t feel like my wife is holding me back, but I do feel a bit like I’m holding myself back on her account… if that makes any sense. I’m starting to wish that I was just alone so that I could explore this part of myself without any concern about what she will think or feel about it, but I don’t really want to end my marriage. I am, however, having a hard time seeing how this is going to go or even really envisioning us staying together through all of this. I can’t foresee her really being okay with me being a full blown woman, not when I know she is attracted to men, so it’s hard for me to envision her being attracted to me as a woman. I want to believe that she can do it but part of me almost hopes that she can’t so that I can be free to be myself without needing to hold back for her.” (See: Spouse Issues)

Those were words I wrote almost two years ago at the onset of this journey of self-discovery and as I read them I am filled with an odd mixture of feelings. On one hand I am impressed, if not a little saddened, by the fact that I so clearly understood my marriage was over a year before it actually was. I think in some ways my wife did as well but neither of us were ready to admit it. On the other hand I am reminded of just how trapped I used to feel inside of that marriage. When I read my own words expressing a wish to be alone so I can explore this part of myself without any concern for the thoughts/feelings of another I am forced to look at my current situation.

I am alone. I got my wish. I get to explore who I am all on my own and I don’t have to worry about how it makes anyone feel. That is both a very freeing feeling and criminally lonely one as well. You know that old adage about being careful what you wish for? Well I should have been careful what I wished for, but not in the way you might think. Being alone, for better or worse, was an inevitable consequence of my decision to burn my old identity to the ground and build anew, but what I didn’t understand was how dangerous undertaking such a large project alone could be. You see, with my wife in the picture I was able to build in a slow but steady fashion with constant inspections. Once I was alone, there was no one there to supervise my building. There was no one there to remind me that I needed to go to work, even if I felt depressed. There was no one there to remind me that getting hammered on a Wednesday night with my friends until 1am wasn’t a great way to want to go to work the next day. There was no one there to remind me that my life wasn’t over once I lost my job. There was no one there to remind me that I needed to find work and to save my money while I looked. There was no one to account for my spending or to stop me from drinking most of my money away.

I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to begin the process alone rather than undertaking it together and hoping things wouldn’t fall apart. Now that I am here, now that I have lived through all of the events of the last two years I can honestly say that there are times that I wish I’d done things differently. My wife and I knew things were over once I realized I was transgender. Both of us fought to keep the illusion going that we could make it work. I did everything I could to convince myself that things weren’t over and allowed the anecdotal stories of women sticking with their transwoman spouses after the transition to blind me from what was directly in front of me. Yes, sometimes, with extremely rare frequency transgender women are able to maintain their marriages to women after the transition. That is true, but the vast majority of marriages don’t make it, and the ones that do almost always become platonic ventures for the sake of the children.

I don’t want to break your heart if you are considering transition and you are married or in a LTR with someone who is attracted to the sex that you were assigned at birth. If you are pre-transition and are a transwoman with a wife, a transman with a wife, a transwoman with a husband, a transman with a husband, or a genderqueer/non-binary/etc. person with a spouse/partner, then I want you to understand the reality of the situation. Chances are, with rare exception, your marriage or LTR is going to either end or come to a place that barely resembles the relationship it was before. The person who has the greatest chance, in my experience, is a transman married/partnered to a woman and that is only because much of the time that transman was already rather masculine in presentation to begin with. (I’m not sure I have ever seen a lipstick lesbian suddenly decide to transition to male, but I’ve only been in the queer game for a year so I’m sure it has happened somewhere). Even then, the chances are less than great.

I think I can safely say that had my wife and I just made the decision early on (perhaps when I decided to start hormones) to call it quits then we both could have saved ourselves a great deal of suffering and might have actually survived as friends. Sure, it would have been heartbreaking, because I loved her with every ounce of my being, but we wouldn’t have gone to such extreme lengths to force something that was already over. She wouldn’t have cheated on me, I wouldn’t have gotten so depressed with how my wife didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, and we wouldn’t have bought a house/car. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and I love my car, but I’m not sure I can say they are worth no longer having much of a relationship with my ex-wife and former best friend. I think having her as my friend and having her support present in my life would have been far better than a house that’s too big for just me and a car I can hardly afford with my criminally low paying job.

In three weeks it will have been exactly one year since my marriage fell apart and I think it no coincidence that I’ve started reading these words again. I didn’t plan it this way but something from the past called to me and here I am, continuing my blog through self-reflection over my experiences with the hopes that it will help whomever comes across these words. As this woeful anniversary looms over me I am filled with so much regret and sadness. I wanted so badly for my marriage to work out, for my wife and I to figure out our problems and live this lesbian family fantasy I had built in my head; and it was exactly that fantasy that caused us both so much heartache. I think back to the worst moments of the divorce and I remember how utterly nasty we were to one another, and all of it could have been avoided if I’d just been a goddamn grownup and recognized what needed to be done.

So many arguments could have been avoided, so many apologies wouldn’t have been necessary, so much guilt over the way we were feeling could have been avoided, and so much misery saving up for a house could have been avoided. So much would have gone differently, and quite possibly better than it did while we both pretended to make things work. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I wouldn’t have had to answer the question, “How is your wife taking this?”

Maybe if we’d just made the adult decision I’d still be in contact with my former in-laws. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I’m completely cutoff from any sense of family most of the time. Maybe my nieces and nephews would still be in my life. Maybe I’d still have a relationship with the sister-in-law I adored. Maybe I’d still have aunts and uncles within driving range. Maybe I wouldn’t have lost the family I gained from my marriage. You cannot see them because you are just reading my words but there are tears streaming down my face as I type these words. I miss my family, even if they were her family to begin with. I didn’t think about that when I decided to buy into a fantasy rather than reality. I didn’t consider all I had to lose by gambling on a, “maybe we can make it work,” instead of betting on the more likely, “maybe we can part ways amicably and stay close friends.”

I know I probably sound like a Debbie Downer right now, especially if you are in a situation that pertains to this discussion, but I have to call it like I see it. I didn’t do that then and it hurt me in the long run. I can honestly say that the chances of me turning to drinking the way that I did would have been drastically lower had I called it like I saw it. Maybe I wouldn’t be in AA and maybe I could go to the bar to drink like a normal person. I used to be able to do that. I used to have that control but after the marriage fell apart I eventually lost that ability, and I cannot help but wonder how different things would be had we taken the alternative route.

I simply wish to offer these thoughts and reflections as a means of giving you an alternative perspective on pre-transition relationships. Most people will try to convince you that you can do it, even as they question you at every turn about how you think it’s going (because they secretly think you are screwed but don’t want to hurt your feelings). I don’t want to hurt your feelings either, but I want you to know what you might want to think about as you begin this journey. Even if it might be painful and difficult to end things early on, what potential disasters might you avoid in the long run? How do you feel about your spouse/partner no longer wanting to have sex with you? How will you feel when they break down into tears because you enjoy wearing that new item of gender-affirming clothing you bought? How will you feel as you look in the mirror and see someone that you are proud of, when your partner mournfully sees the person they loved melting away little by little? Worse yet, how will you feel as they ogle someone on TV that is your assigned-at-birth sex? How would you feel about them divulging that they are attracted to a coworker of your assigned-at-birth sex?  How would you feel about them deciding to sleep with said coworker because they can’t be with a woman/man/non-binary/etc.? How might you feel if you lost your in-laws because your marriage ended poorly instead of civilly? How many different ways are you holding yourself back on account of them and how would they truly react if you stopped holding back? If they would react poorly to you no longer holding back then what does that say about your relationship’s future?

I miss my ex-wife. I miss having that friendship. I miss getting to share things with her. I miss getting to see her be proud of me when I did something brave. I miss getting to celebrate in her successes. I miss so very many parts of that relationship that had nothing at all to do with being married, but we cannot go back. I cannot salvage that relationship because we allowed it to go too far. We allowed ourselves to play out the fantasy of making it work for too long and its consequences were nearly terminal. Sure, we still maintain some contact with one another but pretty much only out of necessity. If it weren’t for the shared assets that we still have together we would probably never speak to one another. As it is, I can never have that friendship I want with her because seeing her is practically devastating. Getting a text message from her can be like getting kicked in the stomach by all of the regrets I have over how things went.

Yes, she was angry with me early on because she didn’t want things to have to change, but she was also understanding of why they had to change. If I’d been brave enough to risk her ire for a hot minute while we separated, I could have built on the foundation of her understanding of why things needed to change. As it was, I was too afraid to lose her. I wanted my cake and wanted to eat it too, so if you are in a challenging relationship situation of any kind I want you to ask yourself, are you trying to have your cake and to eat it too? If the answer is anywhere near a yes then I’d encourage you to swallow the bitter pill of reality and call it like you see it. Your two-years-in-the-future self will be grateful you did. They won’t have to write a blog entry like this one lamenting over their failure to do the only logical thing.

I loved my wife, and yet even in the beginning of my transition I knew that I needed to be alone to really be who I knew I was. Now that I am alone, I wish that I’d been alone longer because maybe then I wouldn’t be quite so alone. Funny how that works, choosing to not be alone out of fear results in me being so very alone and cutoff from the family I grew to love, whereas choosing to be alone despite the fear would have likely meant I’d be far less alone and would still have the family I grew to love.

That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes ever:
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” –Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
So, if you are considering chasing that rabbit down the hole into the wonderland of gender transition, then I encourage you to take a good, hard look at what you might be losing out on, either by choosing to let it go willingly or by having it painfully ripped from your fingers. Be you. Become you. Shine brightly as you become that fabulous trans* person you were meant to be, but look beyond the changes of today. The future is impossible to predict, but many of us have ventured ahead of you and have left you bread-crumbs along your trail. We’ve also left warning signs to help you avoid the pitfalls of transition that we either couldn’t or wouldn’t avoid ourselves. This is one of those warning signs. If you are in a relationship before you transition then you need to have a very frank and candid conversation with your partner to decide if staying together is really the best option for both of you. There is no right or wrong answer except for the one you both agree on, but make sure that whatever choice you make is coming from a place of love and not fear.

Well that’s all I have for today. I have a lot of work coming up over the next two weeks so it might be hard to find time to write but fear not, trans-advent is back on course. No more floating aimlessly in an ocean of uncertainty about our direction.

Stay fabulous. Stay beautiful. Stay powerful. Stay you, and never apologize for being your authentic self.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

10-4-2016 Entry: Sometimes the Only Way Forward is to Go Back to the Beginning

Sometimes the best way to figure out how to proceed is to go back to the beginning to remember why you started in the first place. Two years ago when I began this journey of self-discovery I had so many questions and fears buzzing around my head. Last night I started rereading the first entries I ever published on here and I was struck by how uncertain everything felt back then. It was almost difficult to read the words, not simply because they reminded me of a time that was much darker than now but because they were written by a different person. That person who wrote those words in October of 2014 isn’t me. I’m not him anymore. That can be evidenced enough by the quality of the writing, let alone the mindset and mentality.

Even still, I couldn’t help but be brought back to that place once again. I remember typing the words. I remember the emotions that were behind them. I remember how frightened I was and how excited I was. What I was doing, or going to do, felt like madness at the time. To walk away from everything that I was and begin anew in a life I could hardly conceive of, let alone predict, was to take an insanity pill with the hope that everything would turn out well. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where I was even going to start, and yet the surety of my decision to do it was beyond question. I knew that I was going to do it. I knew that I had to do it, and there were times where it even felt like I was meant to do it. There were moments when it felt like providence or destiny that I’d arrived at that point in my life. I think that feeling has gotten lost in recent months.

I wrote in my previous entry that I wasn’t sure if there was any more story left to tell, and I wasn’t lying about my uncertainty. I was really beginning to think that the end was finally here. No more trans-advent, no more blogging about gender or sex or dating or the queer side of life, no more writing, even. I went into writing that entry feeling somewhat lost and alone, unsure if there was anything left to give to this endeavor. It didn’t feel like I was meant  to do this anymore, even though there was nothing else to take its place. In my life there has always been that next thing, the next step in the road to where I am going and it always felt like it was meant to be there for me, but not this time. This time there was no next step, almost as if the road itself had run out and I was left to face a dead-end.

A dead-end. It’s really the perfect description for how I was feeling when I wrote that entry. I was at a dead-end and it was time to collect our bags because the ride was over, except we hadn’t arrived anywhere. This dead-end wasn’t a cul-de-sac where our forever home resided, you know that place you settle down and make your own until your final days. No, this dead-end was in the middle of a field with nothing around for miles and miles. It was like the road ended and there was nothing but grass ahead. Sure the breeze was nice, the sky was blue, and the clouds moved across the horizon slowly and peacefully. It was a pleasant enough place but it didn’t feel right. How could our journey of two years bring us to this place? Where did we go wrong, for surely we did because this was not where we intended to arrive when we set off. I didn’t start this blog to have it fade off into obscurity as I slowly lost interest in the one passion I’ve held my entire life (writing), but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I went wrong.

That’s when I decided to go back to the beginning. I remembered that it was roughly two years ago that I first had the dream that started all of this and I realized that it had been ages since I’d read any of those first entries. I’ve read the first entry dozens of times as it is still my most visited entry by incoming readers, but the entries that followed after it haven’t been read by me since… well since they were first written. Sure I read them over once or twice to check for grammatical errors (a few of which I still missed), but after they were posted I pretty much never went back to read them. At the time they were more cathartic in nature than entertaining or critical/political, so it didn’t seem necessary to read them often. Back then I hardly had any readers at all, so they were almost exclusively written for myself and my own purposes. I knew that I wanted to document my transition, I knew that I wanted to keep a written record of my thoughts and feelings as I went through the process, but I was always so concerned with the here and now that looking back didn’t seem necessary. Even to my (at the time) potential readers the primary effort was to document the current updates more than reference previous experiences.

Thus, as I sat in the grassy field of my dead-end conclusion about this blog wondering where I went wrong, it seemed a logical place to begin. Surely, if I could retrace my steps then I could figure out where that wrong turn was and how to best get back on track, and so I did. It only took about three entries before I realized that the answer to my question would come to me in the most unexpected of ways. You see, as I read my words, as foreign as they might have felt, I realized that the grass I was sitting in wasn’t a dead-end at all. It was a rest stop of sorts. It also wasn’t the result of a wrong turn or some failure on my part to realize the goal of my blog. It wasn’t me giving up on my dreams of being a writer and it wasn’t me handing in my resignation to all of you lovely people out there who so graciously read my words week after week. I was meant to reach this rest-stop, and the only reason it felt like there were no next logical steps in front of me was because the next logical step was behind me.

You see, I didn’t need to retrace my steps along this journey to figure out where I went wrong, I needed to retrace the steps of this journey because to do so was taking the next step. Yes, my transition is over, for all intents and purposes. Yes, I go about my day living as Emma, hardly thinking at all about the fact that I’m transgender or that I ever once was Robert. Yes, I have realized the majority of my HRT results and anything beyond what I’ve achieved thus far will be slight changes to the better compared to the enormous changes that have already occurred over the last 19 months. And Yes, my transition story, in many ways, has come to an end. True, I don’t know what’s around the next corner, but whatever it is will simply be my life story, not my transition story. If I fall in love, if I find an amazing job, if I win an award, if I finish my next novel, if I make new friends, or even if everything turns to shit, those will be part of Emma’s story, not our transition story.

What this blog will become, however, is a place where reflection brings about a wealth of new understanding, ideas, emotions, and experiences. I don’t have any further to travel on this transition timeline, which is why I was sitting in a grassy field scratching my head. What I must do is go back to the beginning and take the lens of today, of this current state of being and state of mind, with all of my experiences and gained knowledge, and reflect the light of truth upon the fears, confusions, and questions of yesterday.

Robert, like so many others out there considering or just beginning transition, had so many questions, fears, and confusions that, at the time, went unanswered. It is time for us to now answer those questions, to address those fears, and clear up those confusions. We thought we’d reached the end because we didn’t have anything left to record of our transition. Our experiment, so to speak, of transitioning from living as a male to living as a female had reached its completion and our notebook was filled to the brim with our observations and the data we collected, but we forgot that the work wasn’t done. The study hasn’t ended, even though the experiment has run its course.

You see, we were so busy recording our experiences and entering the data from this experiment into our log, we didn’t really have time to actually review any of it. If you don’t review the data you collect you cannot draw any conclusions, and without any conclusions then there is nothing to provide to the next generation of explorers/researchers. The time has come to review the data collected, analyze it, and draw conclusions… and that is what Trans-advent must become for now, if it is to survive. It’s time to go back to the beginning and see what treasures were left behind.

I will not begin this endeavor with gusto in this entry, because I fear it would diminish the purpose of this entry, but I will reveal something from even before the first entry of the blog. The first entry of the blog was entitled, “And you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free,” so let me give you all a bit of the truth that has never been shared on this blog. In that entry I talked about having a dream and all throughout this blog I have made reference to that dream. I have only ever given minimal description of what that dream actually was because I didn’t believe it was necessary to divulge all the details. If anything, I feared that to do so would somehow cause people to doubt the resolve I felt about my transition, but as I am safely well beyond reproach on that desire, having legally changed my name and gender and all, I believe it is okay to reveal the details. If I’m honest, I think that it is now necessary to reveal the details of the dream so that you can understand how very little there was to prompt me to make this enormous life change.

I went to sleep in my king size bed with my wife at my side and before I knew it I was lost in the world of dreams. I remember walking along, somewhere outside, with a group of my friends. We were looking for something but I wasn’t sure what. We ended up at this old abandoned warehouse and as we walked through the hollowed and rusted out innards of the building we were set upon by a group of people wearing black combat fatigues, helmets, and armor. They popped out from behind us, from in front of us, repelled down from above us and were all armed with machine guns. Their faces were hidden by their helmets and masks. They told us that we were now going to be their prisoners forever and as it happened the warehouse we were in was actually a secret prison. They began to escort us, rather rudely, to what were going to be our cells, and as we went further into the decrepit building I began to see other people locked in prison cells miserable and unhappy. I began to panic about being imprisoned in this place and started to look for a way out. Somehow I was able to slip away from the group without the guards noticing and I ran down a nearby hallway. I made it halfway down the hallway when a guard came around the corner at the far and halted me, gun in my face, asking me where I was going.

I didn’t really know how to explain myself so I came up with the first thing that popped in my head and told him that I was trying to find the bathroom. Somehow, to my great relief, the guard bought my flimsy story and said that the bathroom was right through the door next to him. I laughed nervously, wishing it hadn’t been so close so I could figure out a way to escape again, and said thanks. I went into the bathroom while the guard stood at the door, barring my escape. I went into the first stall and closed it. I went to pull down my pants to go to the bathroom and to my shock and unfathomable relief, I had a vagina.

Suddenly (because dreams are weird) the bathroom turned into a sort of medical exam room and I proceeded to further strip my clothes off to discover that I was in a completely female body. I was so happy, and as I looked at my newfound body I was surrounded by this odd sort of light and I said (or felt because, again, dreams are weird), “Finally, I’m home.”

And then I woke up to realize it was only a dream, and my heart broke into a million pieces. I’d finally been in the right body and it had been torn away from me, leaving me in this horrible male body I despised. I remember getting in the shower, crestfallen, and standing under the water just looking down at myself wishing I could go back to that dream body. It had felt so real and the relief had been beyond comprehension. I finally got to be me and there was no way to forget how that felt. And that’s it. That dream was what started all of this off. It was an odd dream, I’ll admit, and at the time I didn’t think much of the symbolism in it, but it was the dream I needed to have.

You see, the group of friends I was with was vague and there were no specific faces in it. It was simply a group of my peers and when things got to a point in the dream where I was afraid I would forever be in the same place as them, I knew I needed to get out and find my own way. I think it no coincidence that I was being threatened by unknown and oppressive forces with permanent imprisonment in a decrepit and decaying building. I was facing the rest of my adult life imprisoned in a body and a societally constructed and policed gender identity I hated, and one that was decaying more and more each day. I was so depressed and I was so done being Robert. I was on the verge of faltering under the pressure of that forced life and was getting close to suicide. I think that decaying building was my decaying sense of self as Robert. I think the men in strike gear symbolized the powers of society and family expectations that wouldn’t permit me to be what I wanted. I think I had to break away from my friends because none of them could help me escape, they were too resigned to accepting their predetermined fates. I think the reason the bathroom turned into a medical exam room was because I knew unconsciously that I needed HRT (and possibly SRS) to help me to achieve the body I needed in order to feel at home.

That dream, related to just anyone, would be anything but a smoking gun for someone being transgender, but for me it was enough. Maybe for you it is something more concrete or maybe it’s not even that concrete, but the point is, we all have that breaking point where we tell the fear to go to hell because it’s time to soar. For me it was the threat of forever having to live as a man, imprisoned in a body and gender identity that was decaying and ready to falter; and it took a dream for me to be able to finally realize what I’d been running away from most of my life.

And that is where my transition began, and where the next stage in the evolution of trans-advent shall begin as well. I always vowed to write a memoir about my transition, so perhaps this is going to be first chapter. There will be more to come because there is much that has not yet been reviewed and analyzed. I hope you’ll come along as I begin this new stage of my writing. I am hopeful for the future now because I think that I’m meant to do this.

As always, stay fabulous.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

10-3-2016 Entry: Transition Ends, Now What?

Hello my darlings. I know I have been absent in recent months. I think the reason for that is because on a day-to-day basis, I almost never think about being transgender. I get to walk around and have almost every person I see just assume I’m a cis-woman. I surprise people all the time when I come out to them as transgender, even individuals in the LGBTQ community. I know that this is a privilege; that is not lost on me. I am faced with clients at my treatment facility who cannot claim such a privileged existence. They do not “pass,” and as a result their lives are harder than my own. It disgusts me that this is true. It breaks my heart that they have these struggles and will likely always face them while I get to waltz into wherever I’m going and not really have to worry about it.

There are still times where I’m read as trans or my voice drops lower than I’d like it to and I get misgendered. Those brief moments of being called sir are gut-wrenching and day ruining, so the fact that I must live with the understanding that so many of my transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings face that feeling on a daily basis when I don’t weighs heavily on me. I know many trans people who have the social privilege of being passable (don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of this standard, I despise its very existence to my core) choose to live their lives in anonymity. I can understand why they do that. I can understand how easy it is to just go about your day as your authentic self and not make a fuss about it. Making a fuss draws attention, and sometimes attention is god-fucking-awful.

I guess in a way I’ve been at this crossroads for some time now and haven’t really known which way I want to go. I can either continue to make a stink about how gender politics are bullshit and that heteronormativity is a social construct that needs to be torn down while something more evolved is built in its place. I can continue to wear my trans* identity on my sleeve, taking on the daunting task of educating people about trans* and queer identities, even when some of them feel it’s entirely their right to ask me super invasive questions about my genitalia and my desires for surgical interventions. I can choose to keep bringing visibility so that my transgender siblings who don’t meet the “passable” standards of our society don’t have to fight so hard to be recognized, respected, and valued. I can keep fighting, putting my name out there as the transfem extraordinaire.


I can throw in the towel, close the door on my blog writing, stop endeavoring to be a gender outlaw, and just accept my fortunate stars that I am passable as a woman. I can walk away from it all, handing the torch off to the next transgender blogger with the hopes that their words carry even further than my own. I can walk off into the sunset and leave all of you, my darling readers, wondering where that crazy Emma chick ended up. It would be all too easy. All I have to do is click a few buttons and it all goes away. Sometimes I wonder if I’d even be missed or if my words even made a difference. I like to think they did but in the end, there is no way to know the consequences of my writing. The largest audience I was able to reach with my story was the nightly news report last year with a viewership of upwards of 40,000 people. Surely that story touched someone’s life, right?

I guess the question I’ve been toying with lately is when do I walk away, if ever, from this queer transgender visibility campaign of words? When do I stop being Emma the transfem extraoridinaire and just become Emma… that chick who lives in Minnesota and works in mental health? Do I even want to be just Emma? More to the point, is it narcissism that keeps me writing on here, or is there a higher calling to my words? Is telling my story really just for me, in an effort to gain some degree of validation I never got as a child, or am I true to my word that I want to help others through my story?

I know, this entry is rambling a bit, but I am trying to decide what to do with myself and my writing. There was a time that the only thing I could think about doing was writing, either my books or my blog. I envisioned myself this amazing writer, with books on the shelves of every Barnes & Noble. I thought that writing was my true calling and that it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Oh to be paid to write! How I dreamed that future all the time. I could envision myself sitting in a cabin out in the snowy woods where I could get away from the noise of the city, and in that cabin (which I paid for by my royalties, of course) I would write books upon books. I would dazzle my readers with characters that had depth and deviated from the traditionally predictable paths. I would take them to far away planets and show them the complicated nature of the intertwining of light and dark, that sometimes things could be both at once. I wanted to entertain by getting to tell my stories… I was good at it, too, I think… but now? I’m afraid I’ve run out of story. I’m afraid there is nothing left to tell. I haven’t touched my fiction works with any amount of gusto in almost a year and I don’t know what else there is to say here that hasn’t already been said.

We started together when I was still living as Robert. I confessed to you, to the whole world, that I’d been holding a secret so close to my heart that it nearly killed me. I finally proclaimed myself to be what I truly was (or believed at the time), a woman. I started my journey of confusion, hope, pain, pleasure, eagerness, and fear as I opened the door to my true self more and more. We journeyed together as I discovered my voice and felt the call to become a gender outlaw. We travelled together as I struggled inside my marriage and feared that she and I could never resolve our problems. We walked together as I came out to my family, to my friends, to my boss, and eventually to my job. We held hands as I walked into work as Emma for the very first time and felt the exhilaration and terror of that day. We reveled together as my new life began to unfold and as the hormones began to take effect.

We got to see what it was like to be discovered by a news reporter and to have our story told to tens of thousands of people. We also got to see how the media twists a story to fit their purposes, for better or worse. And then things began to decline. The depression came, even as we were accepted into grad school and finally found the job we truly wanted to do.  It wasn’t long before the depression turned to suicidal thoughts and ideas. Then it wasn’t long before the end of our marriage was to arrive, and our entire world would be flipped upside down. A new LGBTQ+ world lay ahead of us, even as the life we once knew still burned to the ground behind us. Such exquisite pain, such exquisite relief. Such fear and such excitement. So much to see, so much to do, so much to learn, so much gone and lost forever. So many wounds to heal.

Then there was dating and sex and polyamory and play parties and threesomes. It was a queer new world and we loved it, even as it took its toll on us. Then we lost our job under the most questionable of circumstances and the drinking began. Everything was falling apart and the new queer world was oftentimes too cold and scary to handle sober. Down… down… down… down… we fell. The depression came back, the suicidal thoughts came back. What was the point? Why go on?

New meds! Things are getting better! Still can’t stop drinking though. Try to stay sober and fail until we decide we need to go to A.A. Realize we are probably an alcoholic and need AA. Go and get drunk anyways. Yep, we need AA.

Sobriety!! Things are getting better. Things are getting a lot better!! New meds and no alcohol, who knew? Life is good. Meet a girl. Meet another girl. Try to date both of them (ethically). Polyamory is hard but rewarding! Sex!! All the sex!! Yay, I finally get to have lesbian sex!! /happy dance…Then one of them breaks the agreement and sleeps with their roommate. Fall off the wagon and get really wasted with roommate because fuck her. Figure things out, re-negotiate agreement, reestablish sobriety. Things are going well again, maybe the happiest we’ve been in a very long time. Naughty girlfriend fucks up again and we break up. Don’t talk for a week. Start talking again. Decide to go see her. We end up in bed together and she doesn’t stop when we say no, when we plead for her to, when we begin to feel the panic of being held down under her weight as she hurts us.

Hello [trauma], my old friend.  I’ve come to talk with you again, because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains, within the sound of silence.

Come unraveled. Fall apart. Panic attacks. Isolation and distrust of everyone, even our friends. How can there be so much pain? How can a person experience something like this and survive to tell about it? Where do I go from here? How do I keep being a person after this? How can I ever fix something that’s so broken inside? I will never love again. I will never trust again. The only person I can rely on is me, everyone else just wants something from me or wants to hurt me. There is nowhere that is safe. I miss my wife. I miss my broken fucked up marriage because of how safe it was. Sarah could be cruel with her words but she would have never hurt me like this. She would have never done this to me, why did she leave me? Why did I transition? Everything has fallen apart since then… maybe I’m just meant to be miserable. I don’t want to write today… no, not today. I don’t want to write because all I have inside is sadness and pain, and who wants to read that? They don’t want to read that. No, I cannot entertain today. I cannot give them what they want so I won’t give them anything.

Go to AA and feel emptiness there. Feel emptiness everywhere. They don’t have what I need. Alcohol isn’t my problem right now, this trauma is. Decide a week later that one drink couldn’t hurt. The world doesn’t end. Drinking must be okay now, even though we feel so sad and empty inside. Another day another drink. Still under control. Another day another drink. Still under control. Another day and this time two drinks. Still under control, but more fun. Another day and this time 4 drinks, maybe not so under control anymore. Next night, 5 drinks. Need to dial it back. Next night 4 drinks. Why did I drink when I was hung over? Two days of no drinking followed by 5 days straight of drinking. That was just a fun week, right? We don’t have a problem, we got this under control. Two more days with no drinks and another five straight of drinking. Maybe we should go back to AA. More drinking and more lies as we try to cover for being hung over. This is getting out of control, life is becoming unmanageable. Decide to drink Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. On Saturday drink all day long, so much it makes us sick, and then drink some more after being sick. Okay, that’s enough. We have to stop. Time to go back to AA.

A week goes by. Everyday I look at the laptop sitting a few feet away from me and ask myself, am I going to write today? Do I have anything to say? Do I have the capacity to entertain right now? No, things are getting a bit better, the sting from the assault has numbed some, but I still have nothing but sadness inside. No good news to report. No exciting queer life events that I can think of. Is it time to just stop writing altogether? Is our story over?

And here we are. I don’t know if I have any story left to tell. There are things going on in my life but I can’t really talk about much of it because of the nature of my work. My clients deserve their anonymity and I have little to tell you that you’d understand or be able to appreciate without knowing the person I’m talking about. I am currently refusing to date, not that I have many takers anyways, so there will be no dating drama to report. Since I’m not dating and since the last time I was intimate with a person was the sexual assault, I won’t be having sex stories anytime soon either. I’m so unbelievably disenfranchised about politics I can’t bring myself to talk about them on here, so I won’t.

So, I guess the answer to my question of whether or not I want to keep blogging is a resounding… I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to decide today. Who knows, maybe the muse will strike me and I’ll feel inspired to take this blog in a brave new direction. I do feel slightly better having written this, even though there are risks in having done so, but where is the merit in that? I could easily just write in a journal to achieve feeling better, so why do this online unless there is some higher purpose to it? Did my words enrich your life? I have my doubts. I guess if there is any lesson to be learned from this entry it is this:

Eventually transition becomes a thing of the past. I used to say that I would always be transitioning because I’d never stop growing and becoming this person, but transition really does end. I am still growing and becoming this person, that is still true, but I’m not transitioning anymore. I am Emma. Robert doesn’t exist anymore, except for a few loose ends on the paper trail of life. I don’t think about being transgender all that often. I don’t focus on my transition or the effects of the hormones anymore. I look in the mirror and I smile because of the beautiful woman I see looking back at me. That’s me and I’m her, and we are exactly who we were supposed to be. Sure, I still have dysphoria from time to time but that’s because I have body image issues that I’ll likely always struggle with. But what once was an all-consuming obsession over every transition detail has slowly faded into this feeling of contentment I have about my gender presentation. My have now extends beyond my shoulders and my face looks more feminine that it ever has before. I just get to be me now, pure, unadulterated, awkwardly cute, Emma. The lesson here is that no matter how impossible it might seem at the beginning of a person’s decision to transition, eventually it becomes old news, in the best possible way.

I remember lying in bed, watching youtube videos of transition timelines and just being amazed at how different they could look. I would watch them transform slowly but surely into these lovely, happy people and I’d envy them. I also felt an enormous fear that I’d never be able to experience that myself. It seemed like it would be impossible for me to actually live as a girl, let alone one that almost no one realizes isn’t cisgender. I NEVER thought it could be me. I was going to try anyways because living as Robert was awful, but I always figured I’d be readable. I had no hopes of actually passing, even as I wanted to experience that feeling a great deal. I remember how hopeless I could feel at times that I’d ever get to be the person I wanted to be. Now, it’s just my daily life. Now I get to be me and although I reject the notion that a person’s value should be tied in any way to their passability, for better or worse, I live a passable life. I cannot promise you that you will experience the same results from HRT, but I want you to know that I never thought I could. I never thought I could and yet, here I am, living it daily. If I would have let my fear stop me for a second time (it succeeded once when I was 25) then I wouldn’t know what it was like to be my authentic self. I would have never been able to look in the mirror and be filled with joy at my reflection like I can today, even without makeup on.

So if you are thinking about transitioning, just starting transition/HRT, or have been at it for a little while, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is reachable. It’s a long road. It’s a hard road, even without a divorce, a lost job, alcohol struggles and a sexual assault. It might be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it does end. The chapter of transition does come to a close, followed by another awesome chapter called your new life as your authentic self. Eventually transition won’t be everything you think about or spend time/money on. Eventually you just get to be you, the real you. Now I cannot promise what that new life will look like. I want to say everything will be great for everyone, but sadly our world is a fucked up place when it comes to transgender people. I’m white, educated, and previously middle class. My experience will be vastly different than say, a black transwoman with income or housing insecurity. Her life will not be as easy or as safe as my own, and it’s important to remember that when considering transition. This could very well put your life in significant danger, and I would never encourage someone to transition while they are living in a dangerous situation. Get safe, if possible, first and then transition. I don’t want to read your name on Autostraddle as another life taken.

Anyways, I think I’ve rambled long enough. Hopefully there was something of substance in this for you. I’ll have to keep thinking about my desire to keep blogging but until then, continue as you were. Fabulously, of course!


(Per the new custom, here is a picture taken of me yesterday)