Letting go of my old self to create space for the new
Just a little over a year ago in August 2016 I hit upon the realization that I am transgender. There was a sense of euphoria on discovering this, much like one has when working on a puzzle for a long time and finally putting the pieces together. Suddenly there was hope for a less anxious and more happy future!
Aside from gender dysphoria, a common trans experience is gender euphoria. A sense of elation that you get from doing gender re-affirming activities. For some trans women like me it’s putting on more feminine clothes or painting our nails. For the first few weeks, as I celebrated the gender euphoria, I read a lot about being trans and understood that transitioning to your preferred gender has been proven to reduce dysphoria and depression. However despite all the evidence, empirical and otherwise, it was still very difficult to accept this new reality completely. I had invested a lot into my identity as a guy. May be a little too much to try and overcompensate. Even though I knew that I would be much happier living my life as a woman, it was still an unknown and despite the challenges I experienced being the wrong gender, I had gotten comfortable in that life. I knew how to navigate the world as a man and keep my head above the water.
After the initial few weeks, I was left with a void within. A lot of my old personality kinda vanished overnight but a new one didn’t take it’s place for a while. I felt like I had been dropped into a new country where I didn’t speak the language and even though things looked familiar and interesting, I had no idea how to orient myself or navigate. There was a sudden and certain disconnect from a lot of aspects of my old life. My facial hair is a good example of it. I always kept my facial hair trimmed but not shaved in my past life. It was almost like my cover! As a woman, it depressed me but I was still not ready to let it go permanently. I took months to start the process of laser hair removal and when I finally did, I felt a lot better. I have since then had a similar experience with a lot of steps in my physical transition. There is an initial reluctance but then there is a true sense of happiness.
Letting go of my old clothes felt similar. Early on, I would dress feminine and feel good but then I would be tired of being this new person. It was overwhelming for me to put on make up, something I felt was essential to being presentable early on. Also, I felt the world looking at me when I presented female and it would overwhelm me constantly. I would then switch back to my old style for a few days since it was familiar and comfortable and then find myself depressed again in a couple of days. Presenting masculine was easy for me but it was definitely not good for my mental health. I repeated this cycle for a while before finally donating almost all my old clothes.
I even felt alien in my own life as an entrepreneur and in my business. I was suddenly running a ship someone else had sailed for me. Someone else had done the heavy lifting and I didn’t feel like I could carry on in their shoes. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to do things the old way and that I could find a new style of managing my business and working with people that felt more ‘new me’. Since then, I have gone back and forth many times trying to imitate my old style and finding a new groove that works better.
Finally, I knew that I had to pick a new name but I sat on that for weeks and when I finally did pick a new name, I was very hesitant in using it. A new name suddenly wipes out a lot of your past and gives you a fresh start (which is why it’s so recommended in the trans world). It’s great but also very overwhelming. It feels strange to ask everyone to call you this new name and it feels even stranger to respond to it. Like everything else I did (or will do), it eventually made me happier and now I can’t imagine going back to using my old name.
Over the course of one year, I have had similar experiences many times and I feel that the old person that I used to be is almost gone. His essence is still here but that person had their own struggles and aspirations and when I look back at my old photos (and memories), it’s like I am looking at someone else’s life. It was painful but essential to let go of that identity to create space for this new one, the one I find myself much happier with. In the truest sense, all identities are made up and being trans has helped me experience this truth. Yet, like a movie or a book that’s fictional you still enjoy one more than the other :)