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!