Not in my wildest dreams

Everything changes this week, as I tell you that which many have suspected has been coming: I no longer am fighting to be male. The fight was so bad that I thought I either was going to lose my sanity or that I would kill myself.

Please, give me a few days to roll this out. This has been coming for awhile, as things have been worse than I have admitted, trying to spare folks my constant fluctuating. I have not spoken of it sooner for a variety of reasons, primarily because I had many things I first wanted to publish and, even more important, I needed to be sure that I was not, once again, going to waver.

Today, it is important to me that you know this period of my life never was imaginable to me—hence the title of this post—that I might actually get to live as a female.

When I was a kid, there was nothing of what we have today, with transgender people in the news. We had three TV channels and the newspaper, but even if the Internet had existed there was no news about transsexuals. My first recollection of a female impersonator did not come until I was in my teens, perhaps seventh grade. When I saw the man, singing as Barbra Streisand, I could not believe my eyes.

In my eighth grade year, there was a tiny piece in the newspaper about a transsexual who had been murdered. Her picture was with the article. I was so intrigued. Despite how shy I was, I clipped the article and took it to school. I mustered every last bit of gumption I possessed and raised my hand in science class, mentioning the murder and asking what a transsexual is. I don’t recall what the teacher said, only enough to remember that he did not say much. That fourteen-year-old Greg dared to bring this up in front of his peers informs as to how deeply these things penetrated.

Remember these facts about my life: I was in the middle of a brood of kids, five of us at home. We were small town, religiously Roman Catholic, traditional, conservative. I grew up to be very serious about being a Christian, and a good person, and a hard worker, and one who knows what he stands for and stands up for it. As I described myself on April 29 in “Who Am I?” I always have been as straight as a yardstick.

Here is how my upbringing affected me. Though my daily thoughts were about being a girl—I often said to myself, “The only thing that I truly want in life is to be female”—I never fantasied about it actually happening.

I only realized this a few years ago, that my thoughts could not extend that far. I dreamed of dressing as a girl. I wanted people to see me as one. I placed myself into a thousand different situations, putting myself to sleep at night with the hope of at least being able to dress and appear as a girl.

But, I never, ever dreamed that I could actually change sexes. My wildest fantasy was this: I thought that if I had been brought up in a liberal, non-religious family, maybe I could have run away from home, headed for Chicago, and become a female impersonator.

It’s not that I didn’t want everything about being female, even as I didn’t yet hate being a male. I was glad to grow up and get married and be a father . . . and I was so envious that I never could carry a child inside me. (Men: do not dare to say this to a group of women, which I once did and was laughed out of the room.) I would not say that I suffered from dysphoria, ill feelings, in those years. I didn’t yet hate being a guy. Being a girl was out of my reach. Unfathomable. The craziest notion on the face of the earth.

Even so, every single day of my life I longed to be female. Now that I have learned so much about gender dysphoria, I believe I know the reason, that my brain did not form male, though my body did, because of an artificial estrogen my mom took when pregnant with me. That I have several signs in my body informs me that I have a physical malady, not one which is strictly psychological, which explains why no amount of faith and prayer and counseling and effort has been able to change how I feel about myself.

It was only in 2012 that I finally allowed myself to think of myself as transgender—and it made me very happy. This was a year before I was crushed by all of this. Throughout 2012, I could only be comforted by allowing myself finally to think of myself as transgender, a thought I never could conceive the first fifty-five years of my life but, even then, I could not conceive of anything past that.

In January, 2013, I was crushed. My self-hatred consumed me. I wanted to rip to shreds the male in me. I could not look at myself in the mirror. I told Julie I thought I might need to transition to female. We began reading like crazy. I started therapy in an effort to remain male. Julie and I had a list of eight reasons there was no way I could transition, headed up by my being a Christian and a minister, our marriage, and how this would impact our children and family, and rounded off by the various practical aspects, summarized as jobs lost and economic impact on us.

By that summer, I decided I had to transition. I wish I had kept track of how many times I changed my mind, finding it the most absurd thing in the world that I could become a woman and not ruin every last thing of my life.

I retired just over a year ago. I kept fighting to remain male. By last December, I was inconsolable. For all of the steps I had taken—both pastoral and psychological counseling, hormone replacement therapy, spending large chunks of my days dressed female at home in order to publicly live as a male—there was a step that I now knew I had to attempt.

It’s called the Real Life Test. Tomorrow, I will tell you about it.

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