About 16 years ago I sat down at a table in my flat. It was evening and I was alone.
I picked up a pen and a notepad and drew a line down the middle of the page. Then, taking a deep breath I wrote the words ‘do I want to be a man?‘ It was the first time I’d ever expressed that thought.
Of course, my understanding was basic, and wrong. It wasn’t that I was asking the question ‘did I want to be man?‘ but ‘do I think I should have been born with a male body?‘ – clarifications which would come years down the line and ones I sometimes still have trouble getting my head around, such is the complexity of gender.
I can’t remember what I wrote in either column. Or even why I had two columns in the first place. I think I was writing a pro and con list of going through with a transition. Even though I can’t remember what I wrote, I know now that ‘pro‘ column would have been seriously underrepresented.
I didn’t know a fraction of the stuff, either about transitioning or myself, that I know now.
Regardless of what I actually did write, I clearly remember picking up the pen and making the list. I also remember tearing the sheet from the page some time later, ripping it to pieces and throwing it in the bin.
It would be another six years before I allowed myself to ask that question again.
Between then and starting my transition, I self-medicated with some drugs and a lot of bad relationship choices. I knew I used both to give me self-esteem but I never knew why I hated myself so very deeply.
Denial was my friend, and I kept him close at all times.
Around the time I first asked the question of myself, I had not long fell out with an ex-partner and incredibly close friend whom we will call Marie.
Having not spoken to Marie for years nor even bumped in to her on the street in our small city, I found her on my mind a lot at this time. Even though it had been me who had walked out of the restaurant all those years ago, thus terminating our friendship, I had spent those intervening years hoping she would realise how she had wronged me and come calling with an apology. My ego is nothing if not a drama queen.
As I thought about her, I realised that none of that mattered and that, if I really missed her, I should simply find a way to reach out.
So that’s exactly what I did.
Through the power of Google, I found a work email and fired off a note apologising for being a total ass and asking if she’d like to meet up sometime.
No agenda, no ulterior motive.
Despite my trepidation, and to my delight, she was thrilled to hear from me and suggested that we should, indeed, meet up.
We quickly acknowledged our own part in the issue that had caused our falling out and settled in to a pattern of talking as if we’d never had a problem in the first place.
It turned out she was running a course called ‘Radical Honesty‘. It sounded like something was perfect for the place I was in my life and I persuaded another close friend to accompany me.
Me sending that one email, to rekindle a lost friendship, ended up changing all three of our lives in ways we could never have imagined that evening. Marie and the friend I brought with me to Radical Honesty ended up having a child together – but it was the honesty of Marie’s then partner, whom I’ll call Sean, that changed my life.
The format of the Radical Honesty group meant that one person would take their turn and tell their life story before the rest of us challenged them on the narratives they were telling themselves. Sean volunteered to go first.
I knew before he started talking that he was a trans guy, the first one I’d ever met, but I hadn’t expected to hear my own insides pour out of someone else’s mouth.
A lifetime of denial fell away as he spoke and I left at the end of the group in stunned silence with a crystal clear picture in my head of what – or rather who – I was.
There was no doubt. No need for ‘pro’ and ‘con’ lists this time.
It was undeniable.
From that point, things moved really quite quickly for me.
I tore myself apart and examined every possible reason and motivation I could have for feeling this way. I knew I was sure but I wanted to be sure I was sure.
It consumed me.
I had been playing with gender for a while, a previous girlfriend coaxing out of me that, at least in a sexual situation, I wanted to be treated as male. That was the crack that allowed the dam to burst at a later date and, to her I will always be eternally grateful for not only encouraging me to explore my own gender, but making it feel safe and normal to do so.
I sought council from Sean, the guy who had told his story, and spoke to my closest friends as openly as I could manage. We discussed any reasons I might have to be hesitant and it was the friend, the one whom I brought with my that evening, who clarified it the most for me with one simple question.
“If you could take a pill and wake up tomorrow in a male body, would you?”
I said nothing, but as I looked at him I simply nodded.
“Then this is something you have to do,” he replied “I can’t tell you if it will make you happy, but what I am sure of is that you will be happier than you are now.”
In that moment acceptance came and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked back. There have been no doubts since.
In accepting my ‘transness’ I started to learn to accept myself, something I had never been able to do my entire life.
I never knew such happiness was possible.