A Very Full Life - A Transman’s Origin Story

Nick North
Jun 26, 2017 · 5 min read
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Nick McArthur Transman. Phot Cred: Dana Pugh

“Y“You’ve lived a very full life,” he says to me, while looking down at my chart and simultaneously peering up over his glasses the way doctors do. “I’m very interested,” he carries on.

I deflect the awkwardness of the fact that until the age of 31 I’ve lived my life as a woman by making a joke: “What, not all transmen have birthed 4 kids?” He laughs, “Well not many of them,” he says in a knowing way. He’s the guy that will write me my prescription to start my transition. He’s the guy who write​s​ most of the people in this part of the country’s prescriptions to start their transition.

The truth is I worked really hard to be a woman. As a kid it was made clear to me that girl was the only option. I could be a tomboy if I insisted but at the end of the day I was a girl. No questions. Over the years I learned to play it well. I hid all my sinful thoughts about Mandy Moore by directing them towards Justin Timberlake. The truth is I wanted to BE Justin Timberlake. I wanted all sorts of other things with Mandy Moore. Sorry Mandy.

When I had a crush on real-life girls, I became their best friend and then dated their brother for cover. As you do.

I hid in the church. I wanted to fit in, to belong somewhere. I wanted family. I wanted to be forgiven of all my sinful thoughts.

Then when I was 19, I married the nicest guy I could find. He wasn’t just a nice guy– he was my best friend. If I couldn’t be happy married to him, I’d never be happy anywhere. So I tried.

I tried really hard. I had all the sex. I bought dresses. I grew my hair long. I rocked the skater girl look because it was the only one I could handle. I couldn’t quite find happiness, but I had checked all the boxes. I did everything right. Good job, good husband, big house, nice car. So I had a baby. And for the first time in over a decade I was full to the brim with happiness. That little tiny baby, she saved me. She was all the happiness I could ever need or want. My husband and I were on the same team with her. We made this amazing creature together and for a little while we were happy. So we had another, because what’s better than the happiness from one baby? TWO BABIES!!!

Those babies, they were and are my everything. When the happiness started to fade, we had more. I love them all. I can’t tell you truly and deeply enough how much I love them. They saved me. They made me ME. But the darkness inside me crept out faster that last time. That last time my husband and I weren’t brought closer together. Well I wasn’t, maybe he was. Instead I felt more alone. While lying awake at night, feeding my baby, or just simply lying there, I let some of the old thoughts creep in.

I lay there thinking about women. I lay there wondering what it would be like to be loved by one. To have her touch my chest. To feel how soft her lips were. To hold her delicate hand. To feel her hand on the back of my neck. I realized I was gay. Then I decided just not to be. BECAUSE THAT’S TOTALLY A THING RIGHT?

So I pushed it down. I cried a lot. I did more work. I focused on my baby. I pulled away entirely from the man who was once my best friend and now felt like this person who didn’t even know me. The truth is, he didn’t– I made sure of it.

I knew I was in love with my new best friend Anna, but she was straight, in my mind this meant it was safe to be in love with her. My heart relaxed and let me fall all the way to the deep downs in love with her, there was no danger, because she would never love me back. She had a daughter with a man…sure they’d gone their separate ways years ago, but still. She looked like a straight person. She had the most beautiful eyes, the fiercest hair, the tiniest little hands and the biggest most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. Yes, I was in love with my best friend, but it was safe. She was straight.

Until one night she touched the back of my neck, out with friends, at a restaurant, where we’d both drunk just the right amount of wine. It was quick and fleeting and she doesn’t even remember it, but it’s the moment I knew I loved women. It was this touch that I had been longing for for 30 years. Her touch made my legs shake and my heart jump and my face flush. I knew it deep in my core that I – mom of four kids, one of whom was only five months old– was gay. There was nothing I could do to stop it anymore. My truth was there, I couldn’t deny it.

That night I lay in my very straight best friend’s daughter’s bed, and I thought about how I would tell people. Could I be gay. Would I just need to keep pretending for 10 more years because of the children. I just couldn’t, though. I knew that if I kept this to myself it just might end me. I told Anna in a text at 2 in the morning, because she was the safest place I could go.

Everything got messy and scary and I hurt so many of the people I loved so much, because Anna–turns out–so not straight either. I wasn’t the only one who had fallen in love but said, “It’s okay, because they’re straight.”

A year and a half later our lives look so very different.

I got divorced. It was kind of terrible and hurtful and I wish I could have done it all differently; I wish I could have done it all better. But I didn’t, I just did the best I knew how at the time.

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Nick and Anna Married Photo Cred: Dana Pugh

Anna is now my wife, she is the love of my life. Together we live in a small house with our combined 5 kids who we share with my ex-husband who is still one of the nicest guys I know. She is still my safest place. She makes me more me than I’ve ever been. And through lots of long conversations, lots of gentle nudges and so many therapy hours, she has supported me into being the truest, biggest, bravest version of myself, which happens to look nothing like a straight woman.

I don’t have to wish I was Justin Timberlake anymore. Now, with the help of a weekly shot of testosterone, I get to be the man I was meant to be.

I get to be The Very Best Man.

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