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.