I wrote the following a year ago. I didn’t post it, because it felt like too much—too personal, despite how I have posted very personal stuff.
I am posting it now because many share my experiences. How we battle ourselves. How we strive to do the right thing for the sake of others. How deeply we hurt. How we often go about our lives with no one the wiser regarding the misery in our hearts.
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I spent my entire life trying to put Gina away.
Typical of those like me, I consoled myself as best I could with a small box of women’s things. Every so many months, the guilt would wrack me: “You’re a man. You’re a father. You have to stop this.” I would then put my box of things into the wood stove or tuck it into the bottom of the outdoor garbage can.
It’s calling “purging.” I’ve read innumerable accounts from others like me who spent their lives doing exactly as I did.
Though I often could go for weeks without dressing, within days of disposing of my things I felt the loss. It took me until I was in my early thirties to notice the pattern, that in those days right after purging I always grew moody. Gloomy. Surly. A vital part of me was once again gone and unaccessible. I found myself longing to get her back.
And planning how I would.
And I would. With no Internet in those days, I had to drive out of town so that I could shop where no one knew me. I amazed myself by going into shoes stores, right to the section with the largest women’s shoes, and making my purchases. Dresses and other things seemed a bit easier; I could always imply that I was buying them for my wife. At the wig store, I simply walked up to the wall of hair, found my choice, and took it to the counter as casually as if I were buying some tool for making repairs at home.
When I got to my car, I would collapse in relief, and then rejoice all the way home.
Until the guilt got to me again, and I found myself burning the box.
Purchase. Prize. Purge.
Over and over and over.
All of my adult life.
I tried so hard to be Greg. A man. And everything that goes with it.
In 2013, when my gender dysphoria crushed me and I could only be consoled by the thought of transitioning, I still tried to be a man. When in the spring of the year I undertook therapy, I told my counselor that there was no way I could transition, that I needed him to teach me how to cope with myself.
But I also told him that if I had to completely get rid of Gina, it would be that I was murdering her. When I told him that, I cried. Hard.
Still, I tried to put her away. I had reached the end of my trying-to-cope rope, a man who played a woman on the side.
I was in a constant two-person struggle. Greg was trying to do away with Gina. Gina fought back, determined to get rid of Greg. They became bitter adversaries. For several months, I had to be my own referee—The Objective G, I called myself—trying to get Greg and Gina to reason with each other.
So exasperated was I that I came to say, “No one can live this way. I can’t be two people. I don’t care who I am, just let me be one person.”
Since it was for me an impossible notion that I might ever transition, I was suicidal. My daily chant was, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.”
Through these months, I came to recognize and finally admit to Julie and to my therapist, “When I’m Greg, I always want to be Gina, but when I’m Gina I never want to be Greg.”
That was a hard one for me to reckon with. I tested it, for months. I found it to be true, one hundred percent of the time. There never was a time when I allowed myself to be Gina that I wanted Greg to return. When I was Greg, I always wanted to be Gina. Every time.
Still, I tried to be Greg.
Early in 2014, a year after I crashed, after I had announced that I would be retiring from the ministry, I made one last all-out effort to remain male AND remain in the parish. I was about to take a month’s sick leave. I was finding that I could no longer hold on the way I had been. Here’s how bad it got: I told Julie the Sunday was going to arrive when I would have to send her over to the church to inform the elders that I was unable to leave my bed.
I needed to get away for awhile and try to regroup.
I made myself a promise: I would put away all of my women’s things before I went away for the month. I had to do that, so that I would not run into them in the bedroom and have easy access at caving in. I needed them out of the bedroom for when I returned.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I went upstairs to our bedroom. In two closets and a cedar chest were all of my things. I surveyed it all, then I went to the basement to retrieve four storage containers.
I began the process. I removed wigs and shoes and dresses and everything a woman might own. Tears welled in my eyes.
Within moments, I sensed that I was experiencing what the husband does in finally putting away his deceased wife’s things. Thinking it’s time to move on. Needing to remove the constant sight of her for the pain it caused. Finally trying to begin again.
And finding it impossible.
Feeling like he’s killing his wife by putting away her things, though she’s been gone for months.
When I had in hand my favorite blue dress, I caressed it to my face.
The pain was intense times ten. Not only was Gina dying, Greg was the one killing her.
I finished the task. Four large tubs now filled with my things, safely stacked in the basement’s back room. Two days later, I left town.
The first week of my sick leave, I thought I might have a fighting chance. I dug into God’s Word and prayer. I played Dad and Papa to my host family. I thought positively about my future.
The second week, I cracked. I tried to get back the feeling of the first week. I wrote about what I was experiencing. I had my therapist session via the Internet.
The third week, I broke. I wrote an essay about the process of going insane. Here are the first two paragraphs:
Going insane is a long, slow, gradual process. After nearly fifty-seven years of life, I believe that I am almost there. I am on the brink of insanity.
I cannot control my mind. I know what I need to do, who I need to be, how I need to order my life, but I can’t do it. Because I can’t do it, I am being torn in half. The more I tear, the less of me there is left to tear. I’m almost torn all the way through.
Since January 2013, I vowed to myself that I would do everything conceivable to remain a man. I needed to do this for myself. Even more, I needed to do it for my family and church and friends, to be able to answer every “Did you try this?” and “Did you try that?” with an honest “Yes, I did.”
I put tremendous pressure on myself. Not only was I battling gender dysphoria, I was trying to deal with the rest of the world. You’ve heard of walking pneumonia? In those days, I thought of myself as having a walking nervous breakdown. My mind was never at rest. I was in constant turmoil.
After four weeks, I returned from my sick leave. I felt like I had gained nothing for my effort. Upon arriving home, I immediately went to the basement and put everything right back where it had been.
Later in 2014, after I had retired and we moved to Indy, I would do the same thing—pack it all away, doing so in tears and grieving—only retrieving some things when I finally had to tell Julie, “If I don’t go get some things to wear I am going to fall to the floor and never be able to get back up.”
My last gasp effort, last spring [April, 2015], when I went public with my situation, I did not remove the things to the tubs and the basement. I left them in place. I simply acted as if I had removed them. I could not bear, once again, to consider myself dead.
A person can only die so many times.
Sitting at my computer, I look to my right. There is my open closet door. My women’s clothes, waiting for me to choose my next outfit. I cannot imagine ever again trying to put Gina away.
And yet I continue to press myself, “If I could only . . .”