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)