First off, I have this thing about the GLBTA alphabet, since at one time or another, I’ve been each of those letters. I started off as an “A,” a gay rights ally, living large as a hairy, deep-voiced, straight, white, married guy with two kids. Then, after 32 years (22 married, 10 dating), I left my wife thinking I was a ”G.” That didn’t last because I thought that really, I was just a “B,” so I went back to my poor wife. I left again when I started thinking I was a “T.” Thankfully, that did last, and now I’m a year post-op (both bottom and facial surgeries) dating a great woman with eyesight issues, who thinks that I’m beautiful. (I just had to add that last part; actually, it has nothing to do with the story.) I think this officially makes me a “L.”
It’s not that I’m all that screwed up, at least not anymore. I’ve had years of therapy with multiple therapists. Finally, I found one who actually helped. She kicked the crap out of me before we were done, but at least I figured things out.
At age 52.
Talk about coming to the party late.
Part of the delay was denial. I had the life that any person would want, with a loving wife, two devoted daughters, and a successful career. How could I give that up?
Another reason was my personality. I was a lawyer when I lived as a man. Not just any kind of lawyer; I was an attack dog, son of a bitch, oh-why-do-we-have-to-deal-with-him kind of lawyer and person. Sure, my clients loved me, but almost everyone else–opposing attorneys and their clients, people who worked for me, and others—hated me.
I found that when you’re frustrated with your life, it’s damn easy to attack, and sometimes decimate, other people. I was horrible. I still shudder when I think about it.
I hated myself for what I’d become, but I didn’t know how to get out. I had the wrong life, the wrong gender, and the wrong values.
What started my GLBTA alphabet hopping was a personal epiphany, September, 11, a date that looms large for all of us.
On the night of 9/11. I sat in a church. Midway through the Mass (please, I’m past being Catholic, but I’m going for dramatic effect), I realized for the first time that I’d die someday. I imagined sitting in seat 13A on American Flight 11, watching as the looming tower came into view, thinking last thoughts. One of those thoughts: you coward. I hadn’t been brave enough to be me, the person inside who had been itching to get out from the moment I first wore my sister’s clothes. (Okay, maybe too much information, but hell, it’s part of the story.)
I started to understand that I was missing. The genuine person inside hadn’t been allowed to see the light of day. The imposter who had grown up in a society that couldn’t tolerate “different,” had to go.
I knew that coming out would hurt many people who loved me. Remarkably, many of those people stuck by me. It wasn’t easy, but I’m on the other side now, happy to report that life over here does exist. I’ve even managed to salvage relationships with my daughters and ex-wife.
In going from boy to girl, I got to Ellen. In the process, I lost the attack dog, and I became kinder and gentler, a genuine person. We’re talking really kind, as in I stop for turtles crossing the road. The people in my new life—I had to change cities–can’t imagine the asshole I was.
And that’s how I want it.
One more thing about me: I learned the power of gratitude. Not everyone can make the journey I’ve taken. I’m so lucky.
Make that so incredibly lucky.
In the end, I learned it’s damn important to listen to yourself, to be genuine, regardless of where it takes you, even if it’s to a “T.” I’ll always regret what I put loved ones through, but now, they seem to understand.
Because I finally see and respect me.
Funny how that happens.