Losing him, loving her

I am sitting at my desk staring at the pile of papers that need grading and finding myself continually distracted from this task by what should be a happy day, Valentine's Day. It is just around the corner (at time of writing) and, of course, I and my cofounders of our transgender support group have worked to put a celebration atmosphere together for our meeting on Valentine's Day. It isn't easy.

For many of us, Valentine's Day is a painful reminder of love lost, not love gained or celebrated. In coming out, we all too often lose family, spouses, children and friends. This, of course, doesn't include the careers we give up; careers we loved. As most who read my submissions to Interrobang know, it is also a major factor in my staying closeted at work. This is only one of a couple of remaining barriers, though.

In coming out, for us, it really is more than just informing others. It is also about coming out to ourselves. This is a long and involved process of self-acceptance that all too often is preceded by a suicide attempt. The net result, if we are lucky enough to not slip through the cracks, is to find a therapist that is transgender affirming. I was lucky.

While we are born male or female, there is a physiological, neurological and genetic element to our gender identity that compels us to identify opposite to our birth/sexual identity. Societal conditioning pressures us to suppress this identity and we learn to live in our birth gender. It is very difficult and very painful for us to live this life since it quickly becomes chronic anxiety and depression. We are very good at masking that, too.

Bringing this person we have suppressed through our lives to our conscious self is, as I said, a long and painful journey for many. It is different for everyone, though, and often that has much to do with our age when we begin this process.

In this process, we learn to listen to that person inside. Often s/he is a precocious teenager that has not been allowed to grow up. Initially, this person is very demanding. S/he wants to experience the things in life that were denied. Sometimes this can result in what appears to be some very bizarre behaviour and presentation. If cross-gender hormone therapy is introduced during this process, then we see someone going through puberty for a second time. In my case, HRT was started well after this stage, thankfully.

In this process of growth — yes, growth — we learn to listen to that person and more importantly to act appropriately while, for lack of a better descriptive, we integrate this personality into our own. Really, though, it isn't integration because that suppressed person has always been there and always had some "say" in what we did. It was our choice to ignore that.

Most importantly, though, we learn to love the person we have become or are becoming. This is often confusing, of course, and to the uninitiated or inexperienced therapist, a time when poor or false diagnoses can be made. Really, though, what is there to diagnose? This is a physiological condition. The mental health aspect is to help guide us to find that love of self, thus overcoming the anxiety and depression that haunts us daily.

To find this love, we have to lose something. That is, of course, the stringent rules and barriers we have placed in front of us who have controlled our lives.

For me, losing that male gender role has been impossible due to my continued need for employment and certain societal expectations and roles. However, finding Kimberley has been an immense joy. I had to learn to trust her before I could love her. Many others see her, not my male persona, regardless of my presentation. They are precious to me.

I look at others in our community and see their successes and their failures. The ones who have succeeded in transition found that love inside and embraced it. They are the ones open to possibilities of love in a relationship, and many find it. Others struggle with this concept of opening themselves up to the love within and, consequently, struggle to find it outside.

In a few days, it will be over, of course, and it will be life back to normal. For some of us, though, the struggle will continue. For those of us with partners who struggle with our transgender, we can only hope that their grieving over a lost partner is replaced with love for the person in front of them.

Their journey is not much different from our own. Perhaps their next Valentine's Day will be one of joy and celebration. I hope that is the case for so many, for we have love to share with them. They need only to seek it for themselves.

Kimberley is a transgender advocate in London and region and actively involved with LGBTTQQ community groups. She is also a part-time professor at Fanshawe College.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
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