I knew I was not comfortable with the gender I was expected to be – without having any language to understand it – before the age of 4 or 5, about the time I first began to understand gender roles. I really can’t remember ever being corrected for being effeminate as a child, but somehow I quickly learned to play the role that society and my parents expected of me. I would secretly play with my mother’s things and very soon began dressing in feminine things whenever I could do it secretly, knowing I must hide. That became the pattern for my life until I finally transitioned – trying to live as a male, cross-dressing secretly whenever I could, and always feeling intense guilt and self-loathing about it.
I cried myself to sleep at night for many years as a child, hoping and praying for a miracle to wake up in the morning as the little girl I dreamed of being. As I grew up, I gradually gave up that hope in miracles, and just lived two lives, one in public and one in secret. In these past three years, transition has become that dream-come-true, in slow motion, as natural as water running downhill, culminating with GRS.
My adolescent years were very difficult, with stunted social development, and very poor performance in school, well beneath my potential. I was lost and confused about who I was, but terrified of anyone learning my secret, so I was hiding in plain sight. I would often get picked on or beaten up for being a “wimp” or a “sissy.” I didn’t think I was letting anyone see my feminine side, but somehow the bullies knew I was an easy target. That pattern would repeat itself later in the Army.
In high school, I never dated, I just hung out with a few pot-smoking nerds. I was not interested in guys, and girls were not interested in me, except occasionally as a “safe” friend. I barely graduated, and joined the Army at the tail end of the Vietnam war. Not ready for college, and trying to escape being drafted into the infantry, I enlisted as a photographer, and was again beaten up for being somehow different.
I first learned about transsexualism in my mid-twenties, and was amazed to learn there were other people who dealt with the things I did. I read two early memoirs by transsexuals, “Canary Conn,” “Conundrum,” and the fictional “Orlando,” and fantasized about transitioning, but that was the late-seventies and with no internet and very few resources, it just seemed an impossible dream.
Fast forward through a thirty-one year marriage, raising two sons, developing a career in engineering (without a college degree), and then sales/marketing/business development in the electronics industry. I finally went back to school, got a BA in Business Management, and an MBA with an emphasis in international business. But that was the public side of my life, my secret still well hidden, with a growing sense of despair at ever living authentically, and frequent guilt-ridden thoughts of ending my life.
A major breakthrough came for me when I learned that my spouse suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. I came to realize that her limited intimacy and communication idiosyncrasies were simply how her brain had developed, not her fault, and would never change. Soon after, I awoke to the epiphany that my transsexualism was simply how my brain had developed, not my fault, and would never change. I let go of the guilt and self-loathing, finally embraced who I am, and began coming to terms with what it would take to transition and finally live my life authentically. I decided to transition rather than walk in front of a commuter train, and wrote a coming out letter instead of a suicide note.
I have lost some family and friends on this journey, and gained some new friends, and happily my authentic self. That letter to my family grew into my website at: http://TheresaS179.Weebly.com