Out of Darkness and into Transition:
My past experiences saved me, shaped me, and can help me to be a better person and wife now.
Trigger/Content Warning: Suicidal Thoughts and feelings of failure and hopelessness.
While it is easy to dwell in the past and focus on things that we wish we could have done sooner, that we could have done differently, or even things that we wish we never would have done at all- and I am just as guilty of this as any other- it is important to remember that many things that we have in our lives can also be traced to the chain of everything that had transpired previously, for better or for worse. There are numerous places along my path thus far where one choice could have led me down a drastically different path altogether, or where my story could simply have ended.
If we really think about it, our lives are really like a “Choose your own Adventure” book, but one in which we rarely get a chance to put a finger on the page where a decision was made and go back to start over in the event that we aren’t thrilled with the outcome of our previous choices. I wanted to ponder a few big turning points in my life that for better or for worse, lead me down to what in all honesty is a wonderful life that I should be thankful for. While I put my thoughts to text, I hope that the reader might be able to identify a few moments, even not-so-great ones, in their own lives that may have ultimately led to positive character building, opportunities, or an improved situation overall.
I write this as a thought exercise for myself, primarily. I am still very early in my Transition to Womanhood and it is extremely hard to not observe others- both Cis and Trans- and see how things appear to be going so much smoother for them. This, of course, leads to feelings of failure, that goals are out of reach, or pure envy. I am able to admit that dwelling on these things causes and has caused a pervasive sense of negativity that takes away from the good things that I have in life. It makes it hard to see that even if my current situation is not perfect, it is far from terrible and that I have much to be thankful for.
Each event will be in Chronological Order, with the outcome and alternate paths noted. Every one of us could likely benefit from writing a tree of events like this in order to reflect on where we have been, how it led us to where we are, and where we could be going. In other areas of my blog, I have described both my childhood and the most recent years so this will focus primarily on the in-between times.
- 2002: High School Graduation/First Years of College, 18–20 years old
What happened: Instead of focusing on my studies, I spent a lot of time in the Student Union Building playing pool, hanging out with friends, exploring the woods to the South of Bozeman, Montana, and having more nights of junkfood and raising hell with a few friends than I ever could have imagined. I never dated. When my parents moved back to Spokane, Washington- a place in which I had fond memories of from growing up there- I chose to put my studies on hold and follow them along with my brother back to Washington in the hopes that I might find more adventures there.
What I could have done differently: I could have invested more time in my School work- the choice not to cost me dearly in retrospect, both in extra student loans and delayed or hindered my path to the role of a responsible adult. Maybe cutting the umbilical cord from my parents at that time could have provided an opportunity to explore who I was to a greater degree at the time and I could have made peace with my gender identity far earlier than I did. Had I transitioned at 20 instead of 34, I could have had a much greater chance of passing and maybe could have avoided some very expensive surgeries that I feel I must now struggle to save/pay/work towards.
*2004–2006: Adult Rite of Passage and First Marriage, 20–22 years old
What happened: I was encouraged to try my hand at the dating pool, and I ended up meeting my first girlfriend/future wife. She was four years older than I was, had already finished college and had previous dating experience. So not only did I feel competitive and underachieving, but she also had a lot of emotional baggage from her own upbringing and relationships and I was unable to identify this because of my inexperience and lack of anything to compare to. Though she displayed signs of being abusive and possessive, my own lack of self esteem kept me in this unhealthy relationship right up until the point where I chose to propose when she got a job in Southern Idaho because I simply didn’t know what else to do. We married on July 15th, 2006.
In this time, I also got my own apartment and had my first foray into the drinking world- and like many I went a bit crazy. I will admit that I had my share of wild nights with individuals (during several of my ex’s and I’s separations prior to getting engaged/married) or random groups of people I met at the bar — whose names I could not recall to save my life. Between alcohol and working a variety of warehouse-type jobs, I tried to cover up my insecurities in life with cars I could barely afford but helped cover them up. This was how I learned to hide. Whether it was my gender dysphoria that I desperately tried to ignore or just as a way to prove to myself that I wasn’t a failure — I was able to use objects, an image, or other superficial, meaningless things as a way to forget that I was not okay on the inside.
What I could have done differently: While I did manage to finish an Associates’s degree just prior to moving to Twin Falls, I could have seen more value in myself to acknowledge a bad situation and to walk away from it. Once more, I missed a chance to grow on my own as a person. Maybe I could have buckled down, worked my way through school while exploring my own identity instead of staying with a controlling, cruel partner who told me how to dress, how to be, and how to look in order to feel like I was wanted or worth her time. My parents had moved back to Montana in 2005 after only a year, so I could have had yet another opportunity to Transition and deviate from expectations as opposed to trying to maintain the status quo.
*2006–2009: Escaping Darkness, 22 to 25 years old
What happened: This is what I would call some of the darkest years of my life. When we moved to Twin Falls, I found myself unable to find any meaningful work and attempted to go back to school, yet again. As Twin Falls did not have a University, I had to commute out to Pocatello- a 240 mile round trip- several times a week, via a mix of driving myself and riding a bus that I had to catch at 3:30 in the morning. My marriage continued to be one of distrust, abuse, possessiveness, and brow beating and as such I not only had very little of myself to put into school, but also ended up in a place where I would escape to the bar at all hours of the night, street racing, and tinkering on my car and those of the few friends I had made at any chance I had in order to avoid the inevitable moment that she would flip from pleasant and nice to vindictive and mean in an instant. As you can imagine, she was diagnosed as bi-polar at this time and was taking medications which did little to help. Though I came within 3 classes to getting my Bachelors in Geology, many of my classes had sub-par or barely passing grades and eventually I got to such a low point that I had to back away as I had nothing left to give.
My struggles with dysphoria and gender identity resurfaced yet again. I purchased just a few months of hormones from an online pharmacy and started taking them. One close female friend in whom I had confided did my makeup for the very first time one night at her house. I began trying on some of my partners clothes when she wasn’t at home. I barely knew what I was doing and had no concrete plan but in my desperation, I was hoping and praying for anything to make both the pain and guilt go away and provide some sense of peace.
Things deteriorated at home to their lowest- and on April 22nd, 2009 I came as close to the edge as I have ever been and I hope I ever will be. I felt that I had nowhere else to turn. After a particularly bad fight where things turned physical, picture frames were smashed and things were thrown at me, I found myself trembling, sitting alone in my dark bedroom and cradling a .40 caliber handgun in my lap. Never before or since, have I ever felt such a sense of hopelessness or worthlessness. Not only did I feel I had no way out of this mess of my own making but I felt that I would never be able to escape from the biological cards that I had been dealt at birth. I didn’t have the resources, the knowledge, or the mental clarity needed to do anything about that right now.
I flipped the safety off, loaded a cartridge and tried to raise the gun towards the side of my head, but my survival instincts kicked in out of nowhere. I didn’t have any answers- but I knew I had to get out of there. I had never had a suicidal thought in my life and a feeling in my gut told me that this wasn’t who I was- gender identity, aside. I didn’t know how, but I just had to be stronger than this. The next day, after a fit-full nights’ sleep on the couch, I packed what I could into the trunk of my small convertible and drove to Billings, MT where my family lived. I didn’t know what I would do there, but it seemed like the safest place I could be right at that time.
I will never forget the moment I pulled up to my parents house, walked through the door, seeing my Mother standing there with her arms open, and the subsequent outburst of tears that followed. I didn’t know what I was doing, but at that moment I felt emotionally and physically safe for the first time in months. I stayed with my parents for a short while and began the process of getting back on my feet. We had procured most of what I had left in Idaho over a quick weekend trip to my now-vacated apartment and my Mother helped me get a job at a trucking company that she worked for doing office work. Eventually I got another apartment and tried to find some kind of new normal.
What could have happened: No way to sugar coat it. I could be dead and likely would be if I hadn’t found this sudden strength out of nowhere. That moment would come to mind over many following moments when I felt a sense of despair -I could always remind myself that I was a survivor.
- 2010 to 2017: New beginnings and a sense of stability, 26–33 years old
What happened: While I would subsequently go through several jobs and a few short-lived relationships, I did feel a renewed sense of inner strength for a time. I had literally escaped hell and the knowledge of such drowned out every other thing weighing me down, including gender dysphoria, for a long time. I was able to once again turn to expensive cars and eventually weight lifting as ways to feel confident or “masculine”, and as such- valid in the eyes of my peers.
Through life’s interesting twists and turns, in 2012 I happened to meet the woman that would inspire me to give marriage a second try. Kayla was different than anyone else who I had known before- not only did she have a soft warm smile and bright eyes that lit up the room and a great sense of sarcastic humor that matched my own, but she was career driven, independent, of strong mental and moral character, and actually encouraged me to be the best that I could be.
Within a year of meeting her, we had moved in together, I had finally gone back to college and gotten my Bachelor’s Degree- not the one I had worked towards as a huge portion of my credits failed to transfer- but it was still a degree that I could say I had worked for, actually earned, and could say that all the student loans over the years weren’t for nothing. Shortly after that I stumbled into a job with a company that I have worked for to this day. We eventually purchased a house and all seemed somewhat stable until life found a way to bring my gender identity back into my life and in a way that I could no longer ignore.
As I had said, I describe the last stretch of time before coming out in several other blog posts, so I will attempt to avoid describing things twice here.
You will notice with that last section of time, that I did not include a “what could have happened” part. That is because I feel that to imagine any other course other than the one I am on now is exceedingly difficult. I feel that everything prior, every misadventure, every good decision and every bad decision all served in a cumulative manner to lead me to right where I am. To avoid a repeat in history or returning to a dark place that I knew could happen if I had to force myself to live as a man, I made the choice to come out to my partner in 2017 and take steps toward living as my authentic self.
When I began to seriously feel a need to transition and asked myself “would it be better to be dead than to attempt such a radical change of course”, I knew that my course was set. The last time I had felt such a thought, it was a call to action. This was no different, only this time I had experiences from which to draw upon and a belief that things COULD be better and that there had to be light at the end of the tunnel. After what I had been through, and as stubborn as I knew myself to be capable of being, that I had to be give this a shot.
I will be the first to acknowledge that lately as I approach my first year of Transition, that I am guilty of spending too much time focusing on the path laid out in front of me — the surgeries that I have yet to figure out how to arrange and finance, the social hurdles I have yet to face, and things of that nature. Doing so takes away from the here-and-now. The knowing that even if I am far from complete in my own mind (and who ever really is?) or the frustration of my views of where I am at versus where I feel I should be as I observe others’ Transitions or lives in general…that at least I acknowledge that I finally feel like I am on the right path overall.
Throughout the years, there are times where I unconsciously chose a path that seemed to postpone the inevitable. While I would have loved to have transitioned when I was younger, I feel that this delay was part of the path that fate must have intended for me. I began this part of my journey when I was emotionally ready to embark on it and when I had the right people in my life to love me for who I really was rather than to belittle or make me feel like garbage for who I wasn’t.
I know that I have so many choices yet to make, but aside from the days of my childhood, this is the most stability and peace that I have had in a very long time- in almost every way. In order to keep moving forward, I need to be mindful of where I have been without dwelling on it or letting it be a driver of fear and uncertainty. I need to be thankful for the choices that I had made, whether regretted or not, because I can’t change my story up to now. I can, however write pages going forward, and not only am I grateful to be alive to do so, but am going to strive to appreciate the journey forward as well as those that mean so much to me and have held me when I was week or cheered for me when I needed it the most.
I dedicate this to my wife, Kayla, without whom I would not have found the strength to get this far. She is my rock, best friend, and has been an invaluable part of my journey towards a level of freedom that took over 30 years for me to find. As I work towards the different facets of my transition, I will strive to not forget that this transition is not just about me. When I took my vows, our lives became one. Hence, this is a promise to remember that and to strive to love, honor, and cherish us above myself..
If you are interested in my story, you can follow me on Instagram under the user “avidlyallie”. I have taken the approach of leaving my entire pre-transition life up to the present visible. If you look back a ways, one can see every back and forth, up and down, subtle hint as I came to understand and admit who I was.