‘Transitioning’ Out of The American Dream
Taking the leap of faith as a middle age, middle class parent to embrace a transgender identity and life journey
… I sat on the edge of our bed, shivering in fear of what I was about to do. With a few short words, I was going to destroy a dream and a family I had worked an entire life to be a part of. It was dark in our room; my wife had just returned from putting our 6-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter to bed. As she came into the room, she noticed me there, tears streaming down my cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” She asked in a concerned voice.
I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I was paralyzed with fear, and all I could do was stare at my wife with a dumbfounded expression. My wife must have sensed it because the urgency of her tone increased, and she began to yell frantically
“<Full Dead Name>! I demand you tell me what’s going on right now; you are really scaring me!”
Something happened at that moment, and all of a sudden, it felt like I was outside my body and observing myself in the 3rd person. I felt a strange numbness wash over me and I began to speak, but it felt as though the words coming from my mouth did not originate from me…
The American Dream overall has been rejected by younger people today. The Norman Rockwell picture of America and the nuclear family no longer applies to their vision of the future, or the evolution of the human race as a whole. Personally, I am glad to see it go.
Many of us older Millennials and Gen X, however, were brainwashed at a young age into the importance of the suburban home and the nuclear family. This philosophy was paired with the significance of high-earning corporate jobs that pay for all of it.
As a kid who grew up in a welfare home, I wanted it all the more because my parents couldn’t provide me that “perfect life.” I was determined I was going to grow up and be a “better man.” This meant dedicating my life to this idealistic future and the family values model at all costs. This was impressed on me at a young age and ingrained in my psyche.
Something else also began stirring in my head around the same time. Something both incompatible and ultimately destructive to these goals.
A child of 5
A child of 5 years doesn’t typically comprehend gender beyond basic observations of clothing, toys, and body parts, although they can begin to feel as though something is wrong. I was no different. I had no revelations at 4-years-old that I should be a girl or that my penis was wrong for my body. What I can point out are some distinct early memories that began to shape the feeling that something about me was different:
- I distinctly remember a day where I was in my bedroom talking to my imaginary friend. I was lying on the bed with my feet propped up against the wall staring at the ceiling. I must have been 4 or 5, and I told him (my imaginary friend) “I wonder what it’s like to be a girl.”
This thought wasn’t just a passing musing, and it weighed on my heart heavy, like it was a question that needed an immediate answer. I recall at one point that I brought the matter to my mom, but I don’t remember the conversation or her response. All I remember is the initial question, and how it never really went away and continued to surface for the rest of my life.
- I was six years old, and I crawled into the laundry basket and found my mom’s nylons. I remember pulling them out and feeling the strange material. I liked the way they felt, and I was curious. I put them on and came out into the living room. I remember my dad getting angry with me, but my mom just laughed and told me to stay put. I felt weird but also felt comfortable at the same time. I was in the living room playing when my mom came back from her bedroom with her old Minolta SLR and snapped some pictures. To this day, I still have them in the family scrapbook. I don’t remember anything else from that year or the year after in my childhood, yet this memory is still very vivid to this day.
A 15-year-old boy
A 15-year-old boy’s sexuality comes alive as testosterone floods their body and brain. Everything is new and awkward, and both their chemistry and societal pressure encourages the exploration of physical attraction. This time, I WAS different than other kids of my age.
- I was attracted to girls, but the manner in which I was attracted was different. It was not that I didn’t desire to be close to them; because I did. The difference was that I wished to BE them, not just with them. Whenever I experienced intimacy with a female, I always pictured myself from their point of view.
- It was around this time in my life that I once again came in possession of female attire. I was in a freshman Shakespeare performance, and I was given a few pairs of women’s tights as I was to play Baptista in “The Taming of the Shrew.” Like the other boys, I felt silly putting them on and being seen on stage in them. But it did not take long for that feeling to turn into comfort and enjoyment.
A few days after the performance, the items were sitting in the corner of my room. I put them on, and figured I might as well try to make a full outfit… you know… to experiment. I cut an old pair of jeans down to booty shorts, put on a t-shirt and tied up the bottom to make it more of a midriff shirt, and I put on some calf-length sox and bunched them up like the cheerleaders at school. I also had long hair at the time, so I brushed it out as much as I could, and I went and stood in front of my full-length mirror.
“There was no denying anymore that I was no typical teenage boy, but at that moment, I didn’t care, nor the moments like it that came in the future.”
As I stared at myself in the mirror, I smiled at the aesthetic I had created. But the joy suddenly drained from my face as I mentally began to grapple with the reality of what I was doing. I felt this intense guilt because after all, this was not “right or normal.” I also had this intense fear that my dad could walk in on me at any moment.
Despite all that, I couldn’t get over the profound satisfaction the figure in the mirror brought to me. I closed my eyes and imagined myself as one of the cheerleaders, and I hummed our pep rally chant a while in my head. There was no denying anymore that I was no typical teenage boy, but at that moment, I didn’t care, nor the moments like it that came in the future.
Over the next couple of years, I played around with my gender expressions in secret, dreamed about how much my life would be better as a female. There were so many experiences during this time, so many things that brought me pleasure, confusion, and shame, often all at once.
Despite all that, however, it all came to an end at 18 years. Old. A girl I liked brought me to her church, and the trajectory of the rest of my life changed forever, but that is another story. All you need to know here is that my dysphoria took a backseat to attempt to build a life in church ministry, failing miserably, and then falling back on my old standby… following the American Dream.
A man of 35 years old
A man of 35 years old opens the closet in the master bedroom. I had spent the last 20 years trying to forget what I did as a teenager. I had built myself a castle, and wanted to fill it with love, a family, material possessions… in other words… the American Dream. But I was empty inside and devoid of emotion.
- I blamed my obesity, a previous failed marriage and divorce, the failure of my business, the death of my mom, the suicide of a cousin, and multiple other deaths in my family. But it was all just excuses I used to hide the truth from others; the fact that I hated being a man.
- I hated pretending to have male interests for the sole purpose of trying to bond with and make male friends. I was always better friends with women and rarely made or kept male friends. The ones I did make were typically beta males who shared my affinity for all things nerdy.
- I did glance at women, but when I looked, I didn’t say to myself, “I want to sleep with her.” I said to myself, “that outfit makes her look amazing. I wish I looked like that.” I had lived with this for so long, and I was numb to what I was doing. I never even questioned it anymore; I just accepted that it was a part of me.
All that brings me to this milestone, standing in an open closet. My wife and kids were out shopping, and I glanced over at her dresses. My wife and I are both larger people, but I had been losing weight, so I said to myself,
“it’s been a long time since I’ve even touched women’s clothes; I wonder how it would feel. We are both about the same size… why not see what I look like, can’t hurt anything, right?”
I grabbed a short length red dress off a hanger and slid awkwardly into it. It was a bit tight, but I was able to get into it. I dug through the drawers and found a black pair of tights and some Spanx and got them on.
“I locked eyes with my reflection, and it was as though there was another person there, a woman, trapped in the mirror.”
Finally, I found some heels in the closet; and was surprisingly able to squeeze my feet into them. Also, I found some makeup in a drawer and figured, “might as well,” so I hurriedly threw that on as well.
I wobbled over to the full-length mirror to have a look. I wasn’t winning any beauty contest, but something happened as I stared into the mirror: I locked eyes with my reflection, and it was as though there was another person there, a woman, trapped in the mirror. Constance! Her name was Constance. Don’t ask me why. Don’t ask me where the name came from. But she was Constance from that day on. She smiled at me, and I knew I had opened the door to Pandora’s Box, and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in fear and excitement.
The time came and went, and I went about business as usual. I started a new job making good money and benefits. The work was routine, though, and I had nothing but time to think about the girl in the mirror and how to bring her back.
I had started losing weight rapidly ever since the day I let Constance out. I had tried to express her through cross-dressing, but it was empty and void of meaning. Sure, it was fun, but I wasn’t connecting. So, I tried to find her through sexual experimentation and submissiveness. That was also fun, but ultimately frustrating and unfulfilling. I became depressed, empty, and isolated.
I had just turned 38, and my daughter was born this February. I looked down on that face in the delivery room and suddenly became afraid. I knew she would look to me for guidance and to be a strength in her life. I was reminded about how I felt that when my son was born and how I had failed him in that role.
As the weeks went by, I came to the realization I needed help. This strange darkness I carried all my life wouldn’t go away. I could no longer control the urges and the desire to be Constance, so I started therapy. As week after week I went, I began to tell my life story; my whole life story…. all of it, except for the parts about me wanting to be a woman. Those details were all neatly jotted down in a separate notebook. I was afraid to tell that story just yet.
“…I needed to know. I needed to connect with that person I had met so briefly that one day in the mirror.”
While I was in therapy, closing the final chapters of my life story, I went to Seattle to see an LGBT-friendly makeup artist for a makeover. In my mind, this was empirical research, but the truth was, I needed to know. I needed to connect with that person I had met so briefly that one day in the mirror. I shaved my beard for the first time in 10 years and bought some new clothes online and a wig.
It took almost two hours, and I listened to the makeup artist talk technique, tips about foundation and cover-up product, how to do my eyes, etc. I nodded and asked questions, but all that was occupying my mind was contemplating, “what was I going to look like?”
Finally, the moment came! I stood up on my new heels and walked confidently over to the mirror. I was not prepared for what happened next:
<Dead name> was nowhere to be found. A radiant middle-aged woman was staring back, feminine and full-figured.
Suddenly everything shifted in my mind, and I knew who I was. There was no going back. The only trajectory left for my life was forward, to Constance. I was Constance! I couldn’t go back to who I was; she was in charge. It was utterly, undeniably, euphoria.
I knew ultimately this meant one thing: that I was transgender. It wasn’t just things I did or thoughts that I had any more; this was who I was. The gravity of that would hit later, but at that moment it didn’t matter. I was proud of who I was and confident in who I needed to become. To date, this moment is the strongest and happiest memory I have.
It was a week later, and I was in therapy again. My narrative was over, and as I sat there quietly staring at my feet, I spoke up and said,
“Now that you know my story, I need to tell you the real reason I am here… I have Gender Dysphoria.”
“What does that mean to you?” She asked in a reaffirming tone.
“I think… it means I’m transgender.”
I heard myself say those words out loud for the first time that day. I heard and felt ringing in my ears as though I felt the percussive aftermath of a mortar shell exploding near my head. My mind could not process the truth that this was actually happening. This was no transformation fantasy; this was real life, and it was about to get very “real” for me.
After she let me silently process my new reality for a few moments, she spoke softly,
“You know now what you need to do next, right? You need to tell your wife!”
My wife? Tell my wife? What the fuck is she thinking? I just told ME; I can’t tell my wife yet.
I pleaded with my therapist about how much I had to lose and how afraid I was going to forfeit everything I had worked for the last 20 years. She said if I wanted any chance of saving any of it, I would have to act now! Sooner, rather than later. She explained there is always the feeling with spouses that the trans partner has withheld their truth all these years. Reality is much more complicated, however. Once they learn the truth, it becomes more and more critical they share as soon as possible.
It took me a couple of weeks, and a couple of aborted attempts before the night finally came where I got my chance to come clean. I sat on the edge of our bed shivering in fear of what I was about to do. With a few short words, I was going to destroy a dream and a family I had worked an entire life to be a part of. It was dark in our room; my wife had just returned from putting our 6-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter to bed. As she came into the room, she noticed me there, tears streaming down my cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” She asked in a concerned voice.
I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I was paralyzed with fear, and all I could do was stare at my wife with a dumbfounded expression. My wife must have sensed it because the urgency of her tone increased, and she began to yell frantically,
“<Full Dead Name>! I demand you tell me what’s going on right now; you are really scaring me!”
Something happened at that moment, and all of a sudden, it felt like I was outside my body and observing myself in the 3rd person. I felt a strange numbness wash over me, and I began to speak, but it felt as though the words coming from my mouth did not originate from me.
“I have had a realization in therapy I need to share with you, I have... Gender Dysphoria.”
I started sobbing, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but my wife was confused.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
I can’t recall the exact conversation as I awkwardly tried to explain Gender Dysphoria without using the “T” word, but eventually, her confusion broke, and she said,
“So, like Bruce or… uh …Caitlyn Jenner then?”
I felt a little disgusted by that. Not that I knew anything about Caitlyn, but rather that while I was trying to connect on a spiritual level, she brought up a reality TV star to compare me with.
“No… no, but, well, kind of, I guess?” That’s all I could get out.
The conversation went on for a while longer; I only remember the monotone voice in which I dispatched the truth and the cold shock that befell her face as I spoke. When it was all over, she thanked me for being honest, and told me she didn’t plan on leaving now, but that when I decided to come out, she would most likely leave. We hugged and cried a little more, and then went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up and realized what I had done. I felt like someone had taken a knife, cut open my chest, and exposed my heart to the world. I was completely naked, and every dark recess of my soul was exposed and on display.
While I was mourning the eventual end of my marriage, though, I began to feel new freedom emerge within. There was nothing to hide, no reason I could not go forward with making the impossible a reality. I could become who I was meant to be. I could transition.
4 months later
It’s 4 months later now, as I write this. My wife still has not processed this new reality we are living in, nor has she come to terms with what this all means. It is only now that we are beginning to have a dialogue. I started HRT two months ago and combined with the mental freedom that came from coming out; my entire outlook has changed.
I am no writer, but I have a desire to share my experiences so that others like me know they aren’t alone. I believe there is hope for a new life and a fresh start, even in middle age.
It could fail, and I could lose everything in the attempt, but I still believe I am doing the right thing. So many of us choose to suffer through a scripted life because it’s what’s expected of those living the “American Dream.”
My dream is now to be the most authentic and free version of myself. I can’t see life any other way now, and I plan to live every moment I have left on this planet to its fullest.