Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Road to Acceptance - Part 2

Previously I described how I was starting to rethink my life as a result of the passing of my father and other events in my life, and how I was overall dissatisfied with myself. Addressing my transgenderism was a natural part of this change as it was something that had played itself in my mind over my life. Here's the rest of the story.

Understanding this desire to present myself as a female went from something that I tried to ignore to an obsession. I had always wanted to know someone else who was like this, but I was always afraid of being outed and having my life as I know it change drastically. I was also afraid of being ridiculed, so I kept it very tightly to myself. I assumed that most others like me were the same, so I appreciated how hard it was to make that first contact with someone. It was getting harder for me to go it alone, however, and I wasn't at a point where I felt I could discuss this with my wife.

As a part of my recent job I was looking at web sites trying to find interesting ways that people were collaborating to work together better. Somehow I ended up looking at MySpace when I suddenly got the idea of searching for cross dressers. I found quite a few here! I started to read profile after profile, and reading the stories I found I realized that my experience wasn't unique.

Soon I had set up an email account and set up my own fledgling page there. Next, I decided to take a chance, picked a couple of people on MySpace who looked friendly enough and asked them to become my online friends. They both added me within a day! I had made my first contacts! Soon I was adding more and more, and some people were finding me and asking to add me as well.

And the stories - I was starting to read the stories of the people I was befriending online. Cross dressers, transsexuals, and others. It was amazing to see how similar they all were to mine, despite the differences. There were a few who started as adults but the vast majority were like me and first started in childhood. Many felt the fear. Some had told their SO up front, but most were closeted, single, or divorced. Some were part-time, some were full time. What shocked me, though, was learning that there were many who went full-time but didn't want an operation. This was a shock to me, but it also seemed to make sense.

One day I pulled out the old pair of heels I had bought a few years earlier. I put them on in my office (with my door locked, of course!) and did some work for a while. It was scary - I was at work - but it was also very exhilarating! I started to do this regularly. This was the beginning of me returning to dressing after all these years of denial.

No sooner was I starting to add people and dress that I started to get those old feelings of guilt and fear, and started to get that "urge to purge". Maybe it's not the right thing to do. Maybe I'm moving too fast, or it's not what I really want to do, just some strange urge inside of me. I don't know - it's just a lot when you're alone to try to sort out. And that's when it hit me - how alone I was with all of this. I was in my mid-40's, and I never really shared this with anyone, never really had a long-term friendship with someone who was like me.

Somehow I decided that I should fight the purge. I wasn't going to throw anything out this time. Instead, I decided to focus on putting together a full outfit. I didn't know where to start, so I decided that shoes were a good thing - I could guess my size easily, and I knew that I could find my size at Frederick's of Hollywood. So I ordered a pair of four-inch heels. When they came in the mail I was nervous and excited. (BTW, I eventually did put together a full outfit, but it took me several months, mostly because of life issues and concerns about sizing - unlike all my previous attempts I wanted things that fit right and looked good on me!)

Thanks to my MySpace friends I was finding new web sites and books. I had read My Husband Wears My Clothes years ago, and I decided to get a new copy and read it again. One friend mentioned a newer book - My Husband Betty, written by a wife of a cross dresser, so I ordered it as well. I like both books but I really connected with My Husband Betty - perhaps because I had more in common with the author, generation-wise.

One day I noticed one of my new friends mentioned a makeover place in her profile - FemmeFever. I had always wanted a makeover but I was too scared, and I didn't know how to pay for it. But I had saved a couple of hundred dollars over the past year and decided I could afford it. It still took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to call Karen there. I finally did, and she was so nice. She immediately added me to her mailing list, and she said I could call her anytime if I had any questions or concerns. She seemed to understand how to talk to me (she's done makeover for over 3000 people so she has a good understanding of our needs and concerns). I was worried about my confidentiality and how it would work out, but I decided it was worth the risk. And I would get pictures, and learn how to do makeup, and everything! (Of course, now I realize that they have a stake in our confidentiality, too - if they were blowing the cover on all their clients, eventually they'd have no clients left!)

I was about to take a big step - getting someone to make look as close to a woman as I could possibly be! But I still didn't know what I wanted to do with this. Was I just a cross dresser, or was I really a transsexual who was denying her nature? Then I discovered the term "transgendered". The site I saw it at used it as a cover-all for all types of related behaviors, including cross dressing and transsexualism. I don't know why, but it clicked with me. I realized at that point, for the very first time, that I had found a middle ground. For the first time, I could say:

I am a transgendered person.

This was the moment that I accepted myself. It still sends chills down my spine thinking about it. But it wasn't enough for me to just say it quietly. I had to do something more dramatic (there are those who think I am a drama queen - and they'd be right to think that). I took my new heels from my office, went to my car, and drove to a quiet spot in a nearby park. I put on the heels and got out of my car. No one was around.

For the first time in my life I didn't hesitate. I had wanted to do this for all my life. I cleared my throat and spoke loudly:

"I am a transgendered person. I am both male and female."

I just stood there for a moment, in my heels and male clothes. No one was around. Nothing moving. I said it again, louder. Then silence.

I smiled. I couldn't explain the feeling of happiness that was going through my body. I had finally taken one of the biggest steps in my life - I had accepted myself as transgendered. I didn't know where it would lead me, or what it meant to my future, or for my family or personal life, or my job. All I knew was that I was finally being totally honest to myself for the very first time in my life.

Then I felt the fear come over me. What about my wife? What about my kids? I needed time to think. But I didn't want this to stop. I was finally acknowledging a truth how I had felt for my whole life!

I got back into the car, went back to work, and hid my heels. I called Karen at FemmeFever and scheduled an appointment in a couple of weeks for a makeover. I was afraid, but I felt I needed to keep moving forward. I was both excited and scared. And a little sad, because I had to take off the heels and go back to hiding.

As I drove home, I started to think about how I was going to tell my wife. How would I come out to her? I needed to start planning how, exactly, I was going to prepare her. I knew from my discovery years ago that if I said I was like this our marriage was over. Could I accept that risk? Frankly, I was to the point that I could.

We only had one more year with our son at home. Perhaps I could deal with this after all.

Then I made one more decision - the next day, I started to shave the tops of my feet and the backs of my hands. I wanted something that said I was different, but not something so noticable that it would telegraph my changes to the world. She was so wrapped up in our son that I was sure she wouldn't realize it for a while. And then I switched from an electric razor to a normal razor so I could get a closer shave. A couple of fateful decisions, but I was oblivious to the fact that my wife would notice more than I realized.

Anyway, I was now in planning mode for what I was calling my one year plan for coming out. Which ended up turning into my 3-week plan, because I ended up coming out a lot sooner than I had planned (several days after my makeover). But I was doing research, and I had made so much progress in accepting myself by then that I was able to take that risk - marriage, friendship, everything.

And I had finally accepted myself as transgendered. And it was liberating!

(Note: Edit: Fixed the title to be consistent with Part 1)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Road to Acceptance - Part 1

This is the start of my description of how I came to finally accepting myself after 40+ years of trying to figure this stuff out. I've broken it up into a few blog entries because it just got too long and there was a lot I wanted to say. This part deals with me getting to the point where I needed to reconsider my life from the trans point of view.

In a previous entry I wrote about how I went through a long period of denial. It wasn't easy, and I had lapses, but you could argue that for the most part I was "successful" in evading my trans nature for the better part of a decade. So how come I decided to accept myself and come out?

The story starts on a cold, snowy Friday in upstate New York. It was my father's funeral mass, and I was given an opportunity to speak about him. I spoke of my feelings of loss, of the good times and sad times and of love and memories. I alternately had people laughing and in tears. So did other speakers. Then we buried him and did the things people do afterwards.

We had a long drive home the next day, and I was now deeply depressed. I had a sense of both loss and relief (relief over the end of his struggle with Alzheimer's - a disease he was so deathly afraid of because of what it did to his mother). Years before he started to phase out of reality my father had had a falling out with my brother, who he felt never really grew up or was all that responsible. I was the son that made him proud and happy. We hadn't always been close, but in the years between the death of my stepmother and his sliding into Alzheimer's we became close. He was one of my best friends in the world. I really missed being able to talk to him.

I was living the kind of life he dreamed for his children, especially for one of his sons - happily married, a good career, and grandchildren, including a son to carry on the family name. I was glad that I made him happy, but I also felt like a bit of a fraud. If you looked deeper you would find the flaws. How our daughter just couldn't get out of the house fast enough when college came around, and the unease that our son was starting to show (that would ultimately lead to near-suicidal bouts with bipolar disorder). And how my wife and I were bickering all the time about everything.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, my sadness started to affect a lot of things. I was already somewhat unhappy with my job, and my performance wasn't up to par. I was being asked to move to another department (my manager at the time couldn't tell me face to face he was unhappy with me - not his style). I started on a new project in a new group that was not the most thrilling for me, but I knew that I had to move on at this point.

During this time the relationship between my son and my wife was also going downhill (I didn't realize it at the time but my own relationship with him was going downhill, too). I thought neither was listening to the other. And I was building up resentment to both of them because they were always fighting. Our son spent the following summer away at a college program, and while that gave my wife and I a break it wasn't the best thing for him. We discovered later he nearly committed suicide there, stopped only by a chance phone call by a friend.

And my wife. I wasn't sure what was going to happen with us in the future. I could tell she was unhappy with things. I was unhappy with things. Part of my Catholic upbringing was that I really didn't want to divorce. My parents hadn't, but my mother's parents had, and she went through hell because of it. My wife's parents had also divorced, and I was afraid that it would be a lot easier for her to leave.

And my weight was going up. I was trying to diet but not making progress. And that meant my health was on the decline. It was getting harder for me to breathe some nights.

I have this facade of myself as some sort of boy scout - trying to always do the right thing. Sometimes I almost convince myself that this is the truth. But then I'll think about how I really am - I can be very obnoxious, loud, nasty - and I didn't feel all that honest.

And I had that strange urge to dress in women's clothing. When I used to dress I would feel such an amazing feeling of happiness, only to have it followed by fear than depression. This wasn't normal! I wanted to be normal! My only real knowledge of the trans world at that point was transsexuals like Renee Richards, "shemale" pornography (which I despise), and how cross dressers were portrayed in the media (prostitutes or buffoons). I just couldn't understand why I felt this, and I would think about how much time, effort, and money I put into buying clothes, dressing, throwing them away, etc. When my wife caught me years ago it nearly cost me my marriage, so I was trying to not do it. But the thoughts never went away, and my denial was less than perfect. I was failing at that, too.

Sometimes I would just sit in my office and just think about this. I was so depressed. There were moments where I wanted to just get the hell away from it all, just get in the car and drive until I was so far away nobody would bother me and I could figure out what to do. Anything to get away from the hell that was in my mind!

I was good at putting things off - I've done it most of my life. But it was getting harder. Reluctantly, I started to realize it was time to deal with it. I had to either figure out how to make it go away for good or else figure out how to make it a part of my life. And the latter idea scared me, because I knew it could cost me my family.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Luckiest

"I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

So about a week and a half ago I bought a very nice skirt for myself at Ann Taylor Loft (where both I and my wife love to shop). It was a skirt I'd wanted for months, but I couldn't bring myself to spend list price. Patience paid off - I found it in the sale rack for $15 US! Because our life was filled with a lot of events, though, it took me a few days to let my wife know about it.

The other night we're lying in bed and she turns to me. "That skirt you bought for yourself?" she started.

"Yes," I said.

"It's very pretty."

I was in a combination of shock and happiness. I don't know why I'm shocked by these comments now - it's not the first time she's said that - except that after all those years of lying and hiding and living in fear I am so surprised when my love lets me know she likes a purchase of female clothing I buy for myself. It's such a small and stupid thing, but her approval means the world to me!

So anyway, these conversations don't just end there. I never know what to expect except that I will be surprised by how much love she will show me, and this night was no exception. She used to tell me that my being trans doomed us to a life where one or the other of us would always be sad, but tonight she said that she thinks she's getting over the sad feeling. Of course, given that I'm not out to our kids, and they're home the times that I am, I haven't had an opportunity to fully dress and go around the house like I'd like, so there is the likelihood that not seeing it for a while has put enough distance, and that the next time I do dress it will evoke that sadness, but perhaps not. (BTW, she feels bad that I don't get those opportunities these days.)

The next thing she said that she was shocked at first to learn that even when I'm dressed or feeling feminine that I love her very much. It bothered her because it caused her to think about her sexuality when she perceives me as female. Now she realizes that it was silly for her to think that - and that she would be even more bothered if I wanted someone else (or a man). What was amazing is that she accepts me for how I feel inside, not necessarily how she sees me outside.

But then the most amazing statement - she said that she really wants to love me even when I am dressed, and she's going to work towards that, but she's not sure when or if she ever will get there. She is concerned about her sexuality, both how she feels about it and her perception of it. If I present as female and she loves me does that make her bisexual?

I think this is such a big question for many wives who try to accept their transgendered spouses, and how they can deal with their spouse and both the internal and external perceptions of their own sexuality can be a deal-breaker for a lot of marriages. There are now books that touch on this (it's a big portion of Helen Boyd's book She's Not the Man I Married, and it's also discussed in some of the essays in Virginia Erhardt's book Head Over Heels).

What blew me away was that she's wants to make me so happy she's willing to try and reach out to me in my feminine state. It means she's trying to focus on the core of me that's unchanging and getting beyond the physical. She understands that I'm middle path and that it could mean that someday I could decide that I'll transition to a full-time female. In fact, I'm sure that her fear is that I'm holding back deciding to transition because of how she would feel and react. The truth is that I'm not willing to commit either way on transition for more than just her feelings (although her feelings do factor into it a good deal). But that's another discussion.

(One thing I wonder is that women in our society are raised to be more giving towards their husbands. This was a recurring theme in Head Over Heels, and I'm sure it plays a part in how she's dealing with this. But her parents divorced when she was young, and we're not at a place where if we were to get a divorce she is not worried about the kids any more. Of course, economics and inertia also do come into play here, but I don't think that would be enough to keep her here. I am convinced if she really was unhappy with me it would be over.)

She also asked me if I wanted to come out to our kids or to my siblings. I told her that I think the timing's wrong for the kids and that I don't really care about coming out to my siblings either way. I would love to come out to the kids because I'm sick of the hiding and the secrets. In fact, I told my wife that I feel bad that the situation makes her have to join me in keeping the secret. She understands this.

"Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

I think what's really helped my situation with my wife is partly that I've been patient and listened to how she was reacting to my revelation. She did have 12 years of thinking about it (when she had discovered me before I went into denial) so it wasn't a total shock, but that she has accepted it as much as she has is really a shock to her. That she'd even stay with me through a transition is even more surprising. I haven't really pushed things like going out as much as I'd like to, or even as hard as I was early on (but by pushing I did get push-back which helped me to understand better how she feels).

I can't take all the credit - coming out a couple of weeks before your youngest child shows you he's cutting himself and had planned his suicide probably did as much for the acceptance and communication than any action I did take. But I have made it clear to my wife that she is the most important person in my life, and that I'm going to do things to try to make her life better and happier, and that I love her so much more than she realized.

If there is any lesson here, it's that how you treat your wife - with respect, dignity, patience, and love - helps, but that you can't discount timing or luck, either.

"I am, I am, I am the luckiest."
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Review: She's Not the Man I Married

Title: She's Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband
Author: Helen Boyd
Publisher: Seal Press, 2007

When I was on the road to accepting myself one of the the biggest stumbling blocks was how I would deal with telling my wife and how she would react. Certainly she wouldn't embrace or accept his, but Would she leave me? The only resource I could find was Peggy Rudd's My Husband Wears My Clothes, which is excellent, but for some reason I couldn't connect to it. Some of the people I was talking to online recommended My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd. I read this and was blown away by the scholarship and the depth of information in that book. I could connect to Helen and her cross dressing husband, Betty, and the cross dressers, transsexuals, and in-betweeners that she documented. And it was very readable.

So when I came out to my wife it was with My Husband Betty in my hands for her to read. Oh, she read it all right, and asked a lot of questions that she wouldn't have otherwise asked, and somehow we have achieved a place of love and understanding, thanks in large part to the honesty and open communication that we achieved with that book.

It was curious, then, that I approached She's Not the Man I Married with some trepedation. How would this book differ from My Husband Betty? Was there any more to say on the subject?

Well, it differed a lot. And, yes, there are new things for Helen to say.

She's Not the Man I Married chronicles the changes in Helen and Betty's relationship. It's a much more personal view. Betty has changed since the last book, namely, further down the transgender spectrum so that she no longer considers herself a cross dresser, but neither does she consider herself a transsexual. She has slid down the slippery slope, but has she found a landing in the middle? Or has she found her bottom? Helen ponders this in the context of her own life, personal and physical issues (Helen was a tomboy as a youth, and talks openly about dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which causes her body to generate an elevated testosterone level).

She also touches on her needs in a relationship - sexual and emotional - and how Betty's increasing female presentation has caused her to think deeply about how both of them are perceived by the greater world at large. Helen bares a lot about their personal life, to the extent that you can almost feel like a voyeur looking in the windows of their apartment.

And there is a lot of ponder of gender roles and the gender binary here. The thesis here is that perhaps we're too quick to view the world in a masculine/feminine way, that, perhaps, we should instead look at people on a spectrum, that there is a mix of masculinity and femininity in all of us. And this binary extends to how they are perceived again - are they a lesbian couple, just because Betty presents as female? Or are they hetro, because of their physical sex? Even nature doesn't always acknowledge this binary - otherwise, how could you explain intersex individuals?

Reading this book I was trying to understand the underlying theme of this book. Towards the end, it hit me that I was overlooking the obvious. There is an intense love between these two that goes beyond that of most couples, yet this love is setting Helen's assumptions about what she looks for on its ear. She is definitely walking the fine line between her love for Betty and her need for a male partner.

Let me address one complaint I've read in other reviews of this book, namely, that the book is overly repetitive. I disagree. I found that the repetitiveness felt more like a personal Rashomon, where Helen was reviewing the same event through several different lenses and trying to get to the core truth for her.

Most of us cannot get to the level of honesty to ourselves that Helen presents in this book. Look beyond the subject of a transgender husband. Despite her protestations that it could all fall apart, you see two souls, deeply in love with each other, dealing with that big question - "Is love enough to bridge the gap?"

I sure hope so for them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy US Independence Day!

And I pray that our leaders in Washington come to their senses and realize that they've alienated us from the rest of the world. We are a republic that has chosen the path of empire. That was the last thing I expected when we were attacked on 9/11/2001, but that's where we've gone.

All I can do is sit and think about how precious freedom and liberty are, and how our actions have limited the freedom and liberty of others. Not that we're the only ones - the terrorists are worse - but as my mother used to say, 2 wrongs do not make a right.

God bless America. Please help her get back on track.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Parenting and 20/20

Helen's article on the 20/20 broadcast about transgendered children is very interesting take on that show. She talks about some of the issues related to parents allowing their children to go through gender reassignment at a young age, specifically with respect to the fact that these children will not be able to become biological parents because of hormone use and surgery. I'd like to look at the parenting angle and then circle back to the trans side.

When you have a child it's the most amazing thing in the world, but it also comes with huge amounts of worry. Will my child have a defect that makes it hard for them to live independently? What about a mental defect? Will they opt for a career that gives them the money they will need to live comfortably? Will I be able to guide them so that they can make the best choices for them in their life? What mistakes will I make raising them that will cause them to rebel against me?

Young kids are so easy to take care of. You are the adult, you are infallible in their eyes! It's so easy to nurture them, make them feel better when they're scared, sad, or hurt. They hit little obstacles and you try to teach them as best you can how to manage through them. And they are grateful for all the little kindnesses that you give them.

Even from the beginning children have strong needs and wants. You, as a parent, need to help them make the correct decisions for them. It's a journey from dependence (you making all the decisions) to independence, and you get approximately 18 years to help them on this path. When and how to let them go and make their own decisions is very hard, as is helping them to deal with their mistakes.

Ah, mistakes. Even the tinest mistake you make could have long-term ramifications. late picking up your kid at school? Perhaps that's the start of a feeling of neglect from your child. Or you make an offhand comment about what your child is eating or looks that could drive them to anorexia or bullemia.

The only training most parents get is how they were raised by their own parents, tempered by things they did and didn't like. For example, while I loved my father, he was emotionally distant for most of our relationship, due partly to the fact that he was working 12+ hours a day and just wasn't around. I vowed I wouldn't make the same mistake, and for the most part I didn't. But I made different mistakes that he didn't make, and some of them have had painful consequences.

The two of us were able to provide a loving, safe home where our kids had just about whatever they needed and wanted. You could easily convince me that we spoiled our kids, but both of us grew up in families that were below the national average (my wife's family was out-and-out poor), so we were more than likely overcompensating for that. We didn't want our kids to feel want. But want is necessary - eventually they are on their own and can't always have everything they desire.

When your child is born the first thing that you find out is the physical sex - a boy or a girl - and you start a whole set of expectations for them based on that, even if you try to fight the traditional social scripts. And then this all gets upended because your child feels so strongly that their body is out of sync with the way they feel. Heart-wrenching.

When we watched the 20/20 show about transgendered children we were so amazed at how much these parents loved their kids, to the point of putting their children's desire to live a different gender ahead of their own desires. That was amazing to see.

Back to Helen's issue - yes, a side-effect of these children going through gender reassignment is that they will not have their own children. And not only are they making a decision not to have children but the parents are giving up any hope of biological grandchildren from them. And the parents have to know this (if the doctors involved are not giving them this information then you could argue this is malpractice, so I'm sure they know).

Consider this, however - there is no guarantee that your children will even live long enough to have children. There could be illness, or an accident, or even suicide (god forbid!). We had to confront the latter possibility with our son, who is bipolar.

Your children could also end up homosexuals who never conceive a child. My wife and I discussed this possibility a long time ago, and we both realized that we would be more than accepting if this did happen. We love our children, and we want them to be happy.

Even if they end up in straight relationships, then they might be the kind of people who, either because of their career or a lack of desire or other reasons, just don't have kids. Or they or their spouse could have some medical condition that forbids them to have kids. There's just no guarantees that they would have children anyway.

In our case, our daughter wants to be a mother, and our son wants to be a father, so I think it's very likely we'll be grandparents. Both are straight and very happy with the relationships that they have or have had. I do think I will be a grandparent someday. These families in the 20/20 show might have the blessing of their transgendered children becoming stepparents or adopting children and making them grandparents that way.

Yes, you need to factor in the possibility that your children may want children of their own. But between it being a long way off and their being no guarantees in the first place, how much do you factor that into any decision you make? Especially when your child is so unhappy with their current situation that they may take drastic actions that could result in even more pain? The last thing the world needs is more parents who are so miserable in their life that they pass their misery on to their children. It's a really tough call; I am glad that I did not have to deal with that. I really don't envy those parents, either way.

Perhaps I am factoring in my own situation. I am one of the transgendered people Helen talks about, who is so happy to have had the opportunity to be a parent. I did go through years of pain, however, and everybody's threshold is different. Most parents have the best interests of their child in mind for any decision they help them make; it doesn't mean they make the right decision, just what they thought was best, given their understanding of things at the time.

There are other parents who are not accepting of this, so the children have to deal with the disconnect between their physical sex and their gender. They tried to illustrate this in the 20/20 episode, briefly showing transgendered people who ran away from home and became prostitutes to stay alive. The cynic in me can see that these might have been chosen because they helped make the decision of the parents supporting gender reassignment more palatable. I'm sure there are in-between stories that didn't get presented, but they might have blurred the thesis. My own growing up was this of feeling that disconnect but being too afraid to say anything for fear of ridicule and punishment. And the choices I make have affected a few lives (at least my wife and children, if not more).

I do think that Helen's right to question some of the reaction that the 20/20 show got in the trans world. She makes some excellent points that I hadn't considered. Sometimes we trans-people "drink the kool-aid" and jump to conclusions about how wonderful it would be for kids to have this support because we wished we had it, and we will think how lucky these kids are. They're lucky in that their parents love them, not in having that gender disconnect.

About my depression

This is really hard to discuss, because it is so painful and personal.

I am dealing with a low-level depression. Some of it has to do with being trans, but not all. I also have lost people near and dear to me over the years, including my mother when I was a late teenager and my father at the end of 2005. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years before he went. The day I had to move him into a home was the hardest day of my life, and while I know it was for the best, it was also the beginning of the end. Two and a half years later he was gone.

I've had several friends pass away over the years, including seeing a friend get sucked underwater by a strong current when I was very young and another who had a similar experience in his early 20's (and of whom a portion of his body was found 24 years later in the area where he disappeared). The latter was a really good friend who helped me deal with my mother's sudden death and even stopped me from taking my own life out of despair way back then.

I'm also depressed about the roller-coaster relationship with my son. Things are going better than before, but he has finally been diagnosed as bipolar, not just depressed. He has gone through hell, and we've been there for the ride. Sometimes I think of the smiling little boy I used to read bedtime stories to and who just gave me hugs and told me how much he loved me. Now I'm glad when he doesn't scream at me too much. I know he cares, and there are other transgendered people who are separated from their kids because of circumstance, but it still rips your heart out, let me tell you. But I focus on loving him. The past month, though, has seen a dramatic improvement in how we relate to each other. He did have a major relapse about a month ago, but I think that how I handled interacting with him about it went a lot better than the last few times, and I think he senses I'm really trying to reach out and be sensitive to him.

Because of my depression, and a recent relapse of my son, I've also gained 8 pounds. I now have to work very hard to diet. I lost 25 pounts last year, I can't afford any give-backs. The problem was when my son went through his recent hard period I would just reach into the pantry and grab out whatever tasted good. And keep on grabbing. My father was a baker, and we learned bad eating habits when I was growing up because he would come home with a big box of day-old baked goods. It wouldn't last the night, but the habit has lasted a lifetime.

And the kicker is - I am normally an optimist. I know I'll get through this. I also hate to wallow in self-pity, but I don't like to keep things hidden. (what a change for the trans-person who was hiding for 40+ years and is still hiding from most of the world). I really don't like being dishonest or lying.

So here I am. I am not being treated for it, but I acknowledge its existence. I feel like accepting depression is a lot like accepting being transgendered. I don't know if I'll get treatment for it or not - my wife is not too into therapists (her experiences have been with bad therapists in the past, so I can't blame her) and I'd really like to try to see if I can deal with it myself for a while. At least accepting it has made me more sensitive to my down moments, and that's a good thing.

See? I told you I was an optimist!