I spent the summer of 2019 coming out to absolutely everyone as transman. Like everyone else coming out, I faced the initial fears of rejection, anger, disappointment and disbelief. I prepared myself for the worst – that I was going to continue my life more or less alone. Needless to say, I was scared shitless. The thought of continuing my life as a woman, however, scared me more.
Today I will share with you 5 things I learned in that process.
Things I Learned About Supportive Network
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you have probably read about the big epiphany on June 10th, the day that was the turning point of all of this. But you will also – if you have been tagging along here – know that some of these thoughts have been brewing for some times. I was just lacking the words. Missing the right boxes to fit my pieces into. Personally I just discovered that my post on New Year ’18, “Are We There Yet…?” is actually riddled with little signs that something was stirring.
I’m changing…not into something new, but into something I was. What I should be.
I am sorry for the charades, I am sorry for making you think I “settled” – but I will not live my life in the shadows of a reflection. I will not deny myself freedom for the sake of conditional approval. The cost is, as it turns out, way to high. The mirage must go.Quotes taken from “Are We There Yet…?”
I began really focusing on the bigender label some time during the Spring, thinking it held the answers. My “male side” became louder and louder and I believed being bigender explained that. Except, it didn’t balance itself out. One thing I’ve luckily embraced after my major break downs, is knowing when to ask for help. So I sought out help – therapy. Actually, I believe at one point in therapy I stated that I kept my doors open, but I highly doubted it would be “all male”, meaning ‘transgender’ – I didn’t want to see it. Something wasn’t adding up, though.
Being Catched As I Jumped
One of the things I learned in all of this, was that I had the power of a good support system. I told two women at Special Minds, who knew me well, about my bigender-thinking. Their responses, I believe, helped pave the road to actually admitting to myself what this was about. Now bare in mind, I’m NOT saying that all bigender people are just trans that are scared. Being bigender is as valid as being eg. cis and trans or any other gender – it just wasn’t MY box.
And reactions paving the road as I go was generally the case – by each individual being confided in, I met a reaction that made me crave for more freedom. More people to know. As freedom grew, so did my strength. Or rather, my awareness of it. I will deal with that later.
In short, the people I loved, the people I trusted, the people I confided in, one by one told me in their own words, that I was enough. That if this was what I truly felt, then I should not cave, back down or hesitate. I should reach for life and grab it, the way I was intended and supposed to.
To fellow trans people outthere thinking about how to create an environment similar, I’m sorry, I can’t give you any tips on how to create a support system like that. I really haven’t got the foggiest idea, how I’ve managed to surround myself with such beautiful people. I was certain, I’d lose some, that I’d get transphobic mail and all that – but there was nothing. If anyone felt anything negative, they had the decency to not open their mouths.
My Family Is Awesome
After the first coming out talks/letters (those at Special Minds, my therapist, and a small handful of trusted fellow bloggers) – it was time to take it to the next level.
My family (including girlfriend).
Paraphrasing Eminem, things were about to get heavy. Up until then it had been somewhat “safe” coming out – nerve wrecking, but still without the risk of direct consequences in my daily life.
I will write in another post on the “who-to-tell-first” – but it took me 8 days from epiphany to the first talk in the close relations. Mind you, some people go for years with this, so 8 days is not a long time at ALL. I didn’t handle the first one very well, nor the first doctor’s appointment. It was the first time saying it out really loud and I studdered, blushed (even cried) and I neither made myself very clear nor did I sound particularly sure of myself. I knew my feelings – my fear – was to blame, so I practised a bit. Saying “I’m a man” out loud and explaining it was one of the things I learned by myself, out of need.
Then I called my mum – and from then on, due to a rockstar momma bear response, things changed faster than you can ask for Cookie Dough Ice Cream.
Looking back, all I can say is that my entire family is awesome, amazing and complete rockstars. My fears of rejection were put to shame with love and compassion. But that fear also taught me how much I treasure my family and how important they are to me.
Not All Idyllic
Sure, there were a few glitches – of not wanting to call me Elias or he/him until hormones and surgery. I explained that those were just the physical, that inside I AM a man, inside I AM Elias. Eventually – which is a matter of 7 days or so, I started feeling really hurt when adressed as my birthname – so I told them.
And then everything got calm. Again, if anyone doesn’t feel ready to call me Elias, they are just not calling me by name or gendering me at all. I think most people in these trans shoes will know that neutral is a lot better than misnaming and misgendering.
Also remember that we are talking 40 years of habit here – it doesn’t change overnight. But I know that they truly try and that they love and support me.
Identifying the Puzzle Pieces
I hadn’t sat long in my epiphany, before the puzzle pieces started clicking into place. Things I did when I was a kid. Why I had bounced back and forth between male and female expressions. The odd bubble, the distance I felt, when people talked to me. The feeling of staring down a stranger in the mirror.
Especially the latter two had been bothering me. Having my Aspergers diagnosis explained a lot of it, but just like with the bigender label, there were something extra, some missing pieces, not yet in the game. The things I learned with my Aspergers was why I felt awkward, alienated, quirky, different… and to some extend, not quite. I had settled in my diagnosis. Thorough work on myself had secured a very good understanding of how I was placed on the autism spectrum. It also got rid of a good deal of alienation and awkwardness. I was still somewhat awkward, but now I embraced it.
What Aspergers Didn’t Explain
But it still felt like people weren’t talking to me, when they adressed me. I couldn’t identify with female clothing. I felt like an intruder in female locker rooms and emotionally detached from traditional female subjects…I’d understand rationally the new feminist movement, but I did not identify with it – it was about someone else! I will write an entire post about the concept of gender dysphoria soon. Aspergers didn’t explain these things. I couldn’t explain it. Until I understood I was a transman, a man who happened to have female body parts.
The puzzle pieces came raining down, clicking into place. If you have ever made a puzzle then maybe you recognize this: you are putting together the pieces for, say, a flower garden. For a while, you are searching, checking, double checking – but all of a sudden, it’s like your hands and eyes get tuned in, and you find the right pieces in the first attempt every time and the garden just keep building fast. You don’t need to double check, you can feel the right-ness in your hands and fingers.
That was how I felt 5 minutes after I’d said “because it’s where I belong!!” out loud, 4½ minutes after I had leaned back in my chair and said “”Oh fuck!” and about 2 minutes before I said “Okay then, so I guess I know what I have to do”.
I second-guessed me being a man just about as much as I second-guess that my eyes are brown, with greens and yellows. Still do.
The Things I Learned About Myself
One of the things I learned and probably the best – well, still voting – is the fact that I have gone from avoiding people and people and their noises generally freaking me out to liking the company of people and just getting tired or exhausted, rather than meltdowns, if I have been overloaded.
Guys – this is frecking HUGE! Do you have any idea how isolated social anxiety and sensory overload combined can make you? And now I am slowly starting to build local networks, opening up, embracing the social part of life.
I have also taken a good look at some of the dreams I used to have, but never thought I’d see come to life: like travelling a bit. Not necessarily around the world, but see a bit of the world at least. With my anxiety levels having gone down – this could actually be REAL. One day it just might be ME standing in front of the Eiffeltower in the sunset on your Insta-feed. Hiking the Highlands of Scotland, pulling a wooden cart behind me filled with instant coffee (what?! You’d expect me to do without my black poison?!) – it COULD happen, you know! The world is opening up on me, and really all I need now is a steady job, a steady income and a bit of savings and next vacay, here I come!
Walking on Sunshine
The last thing I will mention here is that I learned there is a different side to me. Meaning, after 2-3 decades of depressions, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, self harm – you grow a rather grim view on life – a very cynical one. I still have that – but if you have paid any attention lately, you will know that I’m turning into a bit of a goof ball. Not care-free, not oblivious – just happy, balanced and in tune with myself – and apparantly that is being shown through however and whereever I can spread a little sunshine.
There are rainy days. And while we all have those, you might not know the agony of facing that intruder in the mirror every morning. You might not be aware of how many times during a day a person can be confronted with his/her/their gender – and how that can slowly turn a good day into a pretty grim one.
So I will write about those days too – because ultimately the transgender people need the rest of you to understand that this is not just about a long wait for surgery. It’s at times excruciating and yet sometimes we choose to smile anyway.
Just know this: I will never lose my sight on the sunshine again. I will remain in this positive place, where even on the rainiest of days I KNOW that the pain is just temporary.
Things I Learned About Strength
This leads us to the final lesson I want to share with you: the things I learned about strength.
I have always seen myself as weak. Useless and redundant.
Which is – in retrospect – quite unnerving, because there are actually plenty of situations where I made a difference. Stood up for someone. Held my ground. Changed outcomes.
But I am looking back at the summer of ´19 and seeing the fire, that more or less came out of my ass (sorry, to any of you with visual minds). It took me 8 days from realization to the first coming out talk. 2 months and 12 days to get my name change. Add in an extra 5 days and I was fully and completely out to the world. Sure I have been exhausted – who the fuck wouldn’t be? – but I am far from broken or stressed out.
And 3 months and 16 days after my epiphany I am going to my first job interview – as Elias. As a man. My hopefully future employer won’t even flinch as I step into the room, as Elias, but having boobs. He already knows I’m trans!
The Future Fuels the Engine
I don’t know if that sounds like a small thing – but there is something I need you to understand. Apart from the fact that the timeline itself is insane…
If I get this job, it will be the first place where I can breathe 100% as Elias, as the man I am – because they don’t know my previous name. They are not affected by any habits or presumptions. I will not be confronted with my past or stuck in old roles. There will be no strings on me! (Post launch edit: I got the job!)
And it’s things like these that keep me pushing and going. These future wins and joys are feeding my strength.
I did not know I had quite so much of it.
I mean, for fuck’s sake, there are days I feel like a regular Hulk (just a little bit smaller, maybe…. and less green!).
And boy, was I ready as fuck to take on this dragon! Hey, add that to the list of things I learned – I learned how to fly frecking dragons!!!
The Thoughts of the Aftermath
After my legal name change and closing the circle of coming out, my head went into reflection mode.
It’s not only family and friends saying gradually goodbye to Linda – I am too. And for me this summer was the first big step (of many more) in that direction and naturally that has caused some quiet contemplation, efforts to understand what all of this means. What I gained and what I will no longer deal with, good or bad. What are the things I learned really? Which gifts did this start of a journey come with?
This post is the first of that thought process. Just like I have done, and will continue to do with autism and mental health in general, I am writing to create awareness, knowledge and open hearts and eyes. That means occasionally being brutally honest. It means not hiding failures or mistakes because “they don’t look good on social media”, but rather throw them out there with the philosophy that if people choke on them, they needed to see it.
Everything and Nothing Changed
My hope is that you will see, in time, that I am essentially just the same person I always was. It was always Elias hiding underneath the covers of this scarred skin. I have written before about masks – my female mask was essentially the final big mask that had to go. The mirage had to go. But I’m still loyal and caring to those I love. Goofy when something triggers my geek mode. Stubborn when I believe I’m right (=most of the times). I still write with passion and many digressions (although I have mostly kept my cool in this one) due to a busy busy mind.
And I still swear the shit out of my furballs’ litter boxes. Decent language is NOT one of the things I learned from all of this. And you STILL do not get to blame my parents for that. If you hate profanities, take joy in the fact that due to Facebook censorship, very few of these posts actually get approved for promotion on that platform.
And that’s all for t’day, folks…