I've been wanting to write this post for a very, very long time. In fact, I've been sitting in this metaphorical "closet" for about 25 years now. There have been a variety of reasons to remain hidden, mostly because of my writing career, worried how it would affect my readership and author connections. So, out of self-preservation, I've been publicly silent... However, I think it's finally time to come out. So here goes...
Basically, I'm trans... A transgender male, to be exact. This may come as a shock to some, but I've actually known this about myself for a very long time. Why hide for so long? Well, the most obvious reason is to keep safe. Whether in the work place or on the net, nowhere is safe from bullies, or even the government, especially this current anti-LGBTQI government. It's terrifying, to be honest. And being that I'm not on testosterone, and I am married to a physical male, I can be seen as a "normal" cis-gender person. It's been easy to appear like a typical, hetero female. But the truth is, I'm far from that. I'm a man inside my mind and soul, and a bisexual one at that. Plus, I'm a writer. I'm definitely not "normal."
I first came to consciously know this about myself at around twenty years old. Growing up, I had always felt different than most girls, but I wasn't able to admit my real feelings. My mother wanted a girl, not a boy. Plus, being cursed with a pronounced chest (something that has always held me back, both physically and mentally) only made matters worse. By the age of 13, I figured I was doomed to be a girl, simply because of the way I looked.
Also, I grew up in the 80s. No one even really knew the word "transgender." There were transsexuals, but people mostly thought of them as weird transvestites: "freaks"'with mental problems who get a perverse thrill from dressing up in women's clothing. (And a lot of ignorant bigots STILL think of transgenders this way.) But that's not what I was, so it was easy to ignore what I felt. I knew I had fantasies about being a boy... and that I didn't relate to typically girl things, but I thought I was just unique, and left it at that. I tried to be normal, even dated a boy in my horrible teen years, and felt lost and alone.
Then, in my late teens, I thought I might be gay, since I had always been attracted to girls ever since I first saw Judi Bowker in Clash of the Titans. (20 points awarded to my fellow geeks who know what I'm talking about.) But... Being called a lesbian didn't feel right either. I just didn't feel like a woman. And the more I tried to know about my true self, the more I questioned, and the more I came to realize I was actually a man... Trapped inside this overly female looking body. And it was hell.
Being trans isn't fun. It's a painful, exhausting challenge to be honest with yourself, despite the world telling you who they want you to be. IMO, it's THE most difficult letter in the LGBTQIA spectrum. Not that being gay or intersex or queer of any kind is easy, but the hard thing about being trans is that no one really believes you until your body looks the way they think it should. So, I can say I'm a man, but no one would believe me because I have big boobs and hips. Everything in this often shallow society is based on appearances and simple, easy answers. Hardly anyone wants to look at a person's soul to really see them. They just see your outward appearance and decide what you are. Case closed.
In a way, being gay is easier. Sure, bigots are still jerks and won't accept you, but the only thing you have to do to get people to believe you're gay is to say you're attracted to the same gender as yourself. That's all you have to do and you're believed. You may not be accepted, but you're usually believed.
Unfortunately, for trans, you have to jump through friggin hoops to be believed. You have to go to a therapist and get them to believe you, then you can go on hormones to change your appearance (and maybe surgeries too), and THEN maybe, just maybe, people will believe what you feel you are... But not necessarily. Cause you have to "pass" to be believed. Meaning, you have to look the part. If you go on hormones and/or get surgeries, but STILL don't look the gender you say you feel, people won't believe you. This is why being trans is possibly the hardest road possible, and believe me, I never wanted this path. No trans wants this. We can't help that our bodies didn't listen to our brains in the early stages of sexual hormonal growth. No one knows why it happens, but it does, and it should be believed. We're not crazy. We're not sick. We're just dealing with a human phenomenon the best way we can.
I know it's not a popular opinion to say this (because everyone always wants to have pride about what they are), but I've always felt being trans was tantamount to having to deal with a disability, like being born with a club foot or an extra toe. No one knows why this stuff happens. It's just an accident. I'm sure there is a scientific reason it occurs, and I've read some theories that say it's a disconnect between the brain's sexual hormones and the physical genitalia, but... Who really knows? All I do know is that it sucks.
The main reason that it sucks for me is that I can't afford getting hormone treatment and/or surgery. In America, nothing to do with trans stuff is covered by insurance, IF you're lucky enough to be able to afford insurance. (I live in Florida where we don't have the Medicaid expansion for the ACA, which makes it even harder.) So, being actually believed and seen as male was never an option for me. I had to suck it up and pretend to everyone at my jobs and in my life that I was female, even though I didn't identify at all that way. I had to make small talk with female co-workers and nod blindly every time they made jokes about men. (Not that I'm easily offended. I can still be a feminist with a sense of humor AND be a man.) But yeah... It's been a crazy, crazy life.
I've mostly been hiding and trying to live through my characters in my books. If I didn't have writing, I'd explode from repression and pain. Most writers say that writing is a form of therapy. I'd have to agree. For example, without being able to put my feelings into my main character Ayn from Shiva XIV (who is both trans and intersex), I don't know how I could have survived this long. It was more than therapeutic; it was life-saving! I can be going through the worst day, but if I can lose myself in my creative worlds and characters, I always somehow survive.
Of course, I have a few people in my life who've helped me keep it together, namely my other half, Timothy, and my bestie/soul-sister, Jennifer Juniper. Without them, I'd have given up by now.
Being trans is a constant battle with society, and it makes you feel like a war-torn soldier, ready to collapse. It's hard to stay strong... And every damn day can be a scary, stressful leap across a mountain. Even small things, like going to a routine physical... Where the doctor asks personal questions, like, "why don't you have children yet?" If I answer the truth about how I'm trans and don't feel comfortable giving birth, I'll be instantly judged and asked a bunch of personal questions, and maybe even referred to a psychiatrist. It's easier and far less stressful to hide and remain silent... At least until I can afford to change my physical appearance.
I honestly don't care if people wrongly judge or don't understand me. That's their problem, their limited scope, not mine. I can't change people like that. But when it comes to my privacy and my freedom, I can't abide bigotry and false righteousness. No one has the right to determine who I am, except me. No one has the right to tell ANYONE who to be or how to be. As long as the person isn't hurting anyone, what's the friggin problem? But humanity loves to judge... It makes the ignorant and insecure feel they are above others and temporally more powerful. It's pathetic.
I don't know what humanity will do and if it will ever evolve past these ignorant times, but my own current government is terrifying. Trump's administration has suggested they'll start officially determining gender by physical genitalia and nothing else, thereby ignoring the rights of transgender. What's next, putting stamped rainbows on all who are LGBTQI? Then what, concentration camps?
It's a very scary time... And I really shouldn't be coming out at a time like this. But you know what? This horribly fascist environment is exactly why I'm coming out. I could have remained silent, and I know a lot of people who read this won't be able to imagine me as male, or maybe they won't give a crap either way, but I wanted, no... I NEEDED to do this... Because I want to have pride in who I am. I want to stand with my trans brothers and sisters and yell into the darkness that WE WILL NOT BE ERASED! No matter what happens, even if we end up being labeled, put in cages, or forced to be "normal," we won't stop being who we really are. Nothing and no one can truly silence your soul. I should know... I've been outwardly silenced, but never inwardly. I may have been pretending to be a woman for most of my life, and I'm sure I'll still be seen that way for years to come, but inside, I know perfectly well who I am. I am a man, and like all transgenders, I'm a warrior... and we won't stop fighting for our freedom and our basic human right to exist.