There are other vague pictures of memories in between, but the next clear memory that contains any type of narrative thought that I remember is of me sitting at a mirror by myself in my older sister’s bedroom. The furniture is white and decorated with little gold inlays and frills around the edges. The bed has posts and even a flowered canopy and I am feeling like I am in such a wonderful and happy space. I am clearly wishing that it were MY room. I am looking at a face in the mirror, with large brown eyes and beautiful long lashes, My head is tilted unconcernedly to one side like I have seen my mother do and I am batting my eyelashes up and down. I look so pretty and I know that I am a boy, but looking in the mirror I am amazed that I am seeing a pretty little girl, and I am so happy that I am looking so pretty. I feel light and confident in the mirror, and I have the distinct feeling that if I can hold my head gently to that one side and keep batting those pretty lashes, that I will become that girl. My hand twirls around the picture on my sister’s Snow White princess teacup set as I gaze on and on at Snow White looking out over the opening of her wishing well.
There were other memories and toys and friends. I had my GI Joe, and I really liked it, I had my illustrated Bible storybook, I had the paper dolls from the church children’s magazine, in which I put the pretty dress and buckled shoes on the girl. I don’t ever remember putting the tie or suit jacket on a boy. It would be tedious and cliche to outline every early memory in great detail, which is why we usually have to pay rather good money to very nice people (therapists) to get anyone to listen to such stuff for very long, but bear with me for just a moment longer. I had my friends in the Private Eye Club. Four of us were in that club and we scrawled a large single bloodshot eye with magic markers on white tee-shirts which we would wear as we roamed large circles on swift bicycles and dared to put pennies on railroad tracks, AND THEN WAIT FOR THE TRAIN so we could recover the gleaming charm after it had been flattened by the pounding of a thousand clackity wheels. I also spent a lot of time playing with my friend’s sister, we dressed Barbie, we cooked with an easy bake oven and I got really very good at the rhythm and clapping of the many chants of girlhood with my sister.
“Say say oh playmate,
Come out and play with me,
And bring your dollies three
(cross cross, slap thighs)
Climb up my apple tree
Slide down my rain barrel
Into my cellar door
(cross clap slap thighs)
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever More, (clap) more (cross), more more!”
My therapist is a very nice and competent person. She says that she finds transgender minds to have a certain unique beauty because they have thoughts and feelings about being female and have often also learned the roles and joys of being male.(or vice versa for ftm individuals). My early memories certainly reflect both types of experiences. Rather than outline all of my associated experiences in excruciating detail, I will simply state that I have gone through life appearing to society and to my wife and family to be a rather typcial, if not sterotypically masculine male. I have married, had kids, participated actively in my church in the very typical male roles. I have felt mostly shame and embarrasment at the thought of wanting to be a woman, and I have spent a good bit of my life actively trying to suppress or ignore those thoughts and just move on with my life. My life has been wonderful, and I have many joys and great things to be thankful for (wife, family, kids, faith), but the pain at not being who I deeply and persistently feel I am is very real, it engages me now every day, and the incongruency is palpably painful.
One way to picture why this might be so painful is to picture if it were to happen to you. Picture that you were to wake up and find that you have been attacked by a malicious genie who has put you into a body of opposite gender from the one you are now. Imagine you are a woman, and you wake up to find that you are in a man’s body, or vice versa. You can imagine that this would be a distressing and shocking turn of events. You would want to do all in your power to try to get back to being who you really are, no matter what society, or anyone else might say about it. You would feel desperate and urgent. Now imagine that everyone around you from your family, to your friends, to your boss, to your church are telling you that you are wrong, you really are a man and not a woman. Many treat you with revulsion, or confusion, or maybe even with outright hostility when you try to assert the truth you feel strongly inside. You may start to react with shame from the way you are treated, you might start to feel that you yourself might be wrong, and in an effort to survive, you may just go along with it, hiding your real self from others, and you may even try intermittently to hide it from yourself, but you soon find the veil you have tried to weave over your own mind is insubstantial and frail. It cannot cover the gnawing truth you are trying to bury. You likely often feel terrified, and may often want to scream, or other times you might just want to curl up in a tight ball and hide. You might even eventually just want to die
But we know we aren’t wrong. The clear memory of looking at my “little girl” face and eyelashes in my sister’s room has always been a strong and enduring moment in my mind. I “knew” then how I felt, even though I did not particularly know what I knew in terms of verbally defined categories. I felt happy and free and light and pretty as that little girl gazing back from my sister’s mirror. When I cast my mind back and compare how I feel on days when the gender dysphoria is particularly strong with how I felt on that clear day in the mirror, it can really feel like I have awakened abruptly into a nightmare, made all the worse because there are few to none around me who understand how I feel or to whom I can turn for comfort.
I have been blessed in recent years to be able to discuss this with some who are close to me. My wife is aware now that I am a transgender person, and she remains loving and supportive of my efforts to work with her on this issue. I believe we have differing viewpoints on what it means to be a transgender person, and it remains very painful for us both. Although we have talked considerably about this, the fact remains that she is not a lesbian. She does love me, but I don’t think it would be fair to ask her to stay with someone who had become a woman. We have been through other troubled waters together, and have come out stronger. We have lost an infant child together and found our love and faith was strengthened in our shared grief. I would not want to lose my wife, and I continue to desire her. As painful as it is to be in the nightmare of gender incongruity, it is certainly no nightmare to be with her- it is rather, a delight. I find it would be a greater nightmare for me to lose her, so I am trying to choose love over congruity, but it is too painful for her to have to discuss this with me every time I feel that I really need to talk with someone. I am glad at least that I can now be honest with her, but I cannot be comprehensive, it is too painful for her.
We both also agree it would be very traumatic for our adolescent children if I were to transition socially. We have not told them at this time. I think our daughter realizes that something difficult has been going on, but she remains close to us both, and she remains vibrant as she moves forward to grab the joys and terrors of her own adolescence. There are many who have said that their parenting jpoys and relationship with their children were improved by transitioning and I have observed that this may often be the case. I am joyful for those families. I have prayerfully decided, however, that it would be a tremendous trauma for my children if I were to transition, so I again am trying to choose love over congruity. Perhaps I will tell my children someday, I long to share with them, but I will not do so only to meet my own needs to their detriment.
I have spoken with a faith leader (member of our stake presidency) about this, and feel better at being able to be honest with who I am with this good person. He has been understanding and kind, but is not really positioned to be there with me all the time about this. Despite the kindness of this man, the reality is that the general policy and acceptance toward transgender transitioning in our church makes it very difficult for transgender people who undergo some degree of social transitioning. There has been much written about this particular situation, but I will simply say that I love and believe deeply in the mission, world-view, and truth that I find in my faith and in my particular religion, and I do not want to endanger my standing there. This is also a deeply personal decision that many may find difficult to understand, but it also involves trying to choose love over congruence, even though it sometimes makes me want to scream. I do not really have anyone at church with whom I can deeply discuss how my difficulties effect me.
I have a therapist, she is great, I pay her. She is worth it, she is so kind and competent and I can’t even begin to describe the good she has been for me, but she is not family.
10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
In talking with God I have felt a distinct presence that knows and accepts me. As I have increased my honesty with those around me (wife, church, self), I think that God has in kind given me more answers and comfort than I received before. Specifically, he has told me that I no longer need to be ashamed of who I am. I may still choose love over transitioning for the reasons I have listed above (to be clear- I make no assertion that the decision not to transition is the right choice for all transgender folks, this is VERY personal), but God has been clear with me that I can pitch the shame. I am not going to go back there, I am not going to be ashamed of who I am. I can now accept myself for the transgender woman I am, that I am a good girl, and a fine woman trying to act like a good man, and a daughter of God trying to be worthy to be one of his sons if that is what He would have me do – even though he has placed me in a setting where I have a little bit of a beard and lead a local male service group at church (High Priest Group Leader for those Latter-day Saints who might be wondering), I know that he knows who I am, and continues to love me, and I have faith that he will help it to work out. I don’t feel I need to be cured, I need to be made congruent, and I am trying to be humble enough to place it in his smarter-than-mine hands to figure out what form that will take, and whether it will occur in this life or in the eternities I don’t really know.
I have Faith in God, I have hope that he will make everything right someday, I have little hope it will happen while I am alive here on Earth. So my hope is imperfect, and God knows that my faith has its moments when it is shaken. At those times, I will tell him that I believe, and simultaneously ask him to help my unbelief, and I will strive to keep going. But I know he loves me, and it may just be possible that the importance of learning faith and hope, may pale in comparison to the importance of learning how to love. As good ole Paul taught, of faith, hope and love: the greatest of the three is love… More on that at a later date, but love may turn out to be more terrifying and wonderful in its scope than anything else we might consider, but I still believe it will be worth the effort.
If you have made it all the way to the end of this gargantuan tome, I TRULY LOVE you for that. thank you. If so inclined, say a prayer for me. Love, Lona.
All rights reserved: Lona Gynt October 2015