About seven or eight years ago, I forget exactly when, I made a declaration. And then I realized that declarations are not destiny.
I said if I ever realized I was transgender, I would/could never transition because I couldn’t imagine straddling the polarized gender binary that existed in America at the time.
It turns out, it is quite difficult. But it is also an incredibly rare and liberating life experience. And I know this because I actually did end up choosing to transition. There are many moments each day that I wonder what my life would have been like had I limited myself and stuck to that declaration I made years ago, a denial and refusal based on fear.
We all experience these “cliff moments” in our lives, times where we choose whether or not to jump. My decision to transition happened slowly at first as I made small but noticeable changes in my appearance. It then picked up speed as I pursued clinical support to make an informed and mindful decision. But it eventually came down to a coin-toss. Having lived one way for so many years, 34 of them to be exact, I could not imagine a new identity into existence. Having nothing and no one to tell me I was definitely making the right decision, I simply chose to “be” transgender.
I had the same fears anyone has when making some kind of major life change.
What will people think of me?
What does this say about who I am or who I was?
Who will love me and who will leave?
What if I change my mind a year or five from now?
Am I running from or toward more self-acceptance?
I deeply feared rejection — of those I knew and from society at large. I worried that if I changed my gender identity, and much of who I was as a person, I would lose the security I thought I possessed in relationships and in my career — two ways we define ourselves. It turns out that security is a fickle, precarious thing. Some of the people I expected to bail, did indeed bail. But some who promised their unconditional and unyielding support, eventually renounced it. Some transgender people took issue with the way I expressed myself. As I shared more details of my process, I found myself surrounded by many people, cisgender and transgender alike, who sought me out as a friendly, accessible resource for information and inspiration. I experienced the rejection I had feared, but also an outpouring of acceptance and support I hadn’t expected.
This dichotomy became difficult to internalize. I began to question my decision as the rawness and impact of my transition set in. I took some time away from sharing — and focused my attention on my coaching business. I questioned my withdrawal of visibility and advocacy, but I knew I was of no use to anyone, least of all myself, as I battled feelings of resentment, fear and shame. I thought it best to sit those feelings out and see what emerged.
Sure enough, the time away from sharing my process so publicly allowed me the space to focus on healing and addressing the moving parts of such a tremendous change. I could sit with deep questions and the undulating waves of grief. It was a death, after all. Rebirths of any kind require the death of something, or someone.
As much as I feared personal rejection, I also feared a lack of financial security and career opportunities due to societal stigma. My career remained stagnant until I truly stepped into my authentic self-expression as a person and as a professional. I have only received more access to more opportunities, despite my fears to the contrary, mostly because I now see myself as worthy of them. My critics say I’m benefitting from male privilege, but my status as an out transgender person says otherwise. A quick Google search reveals the truth — a truth I don’t try to hide. If I’m accepted or turned down for an employment opportunity, I never truly know if my identity is the reason why. The self-confidence and self-acceptance born of my transition has provided me with an equanimity regarding the opinions of others. Fragile though it still may be, it’s there nonetheless.
My second biggest fear, more than the abandonment or rejection of those I loved and depended on for support, was the permanent changes I’d make to my body. I was undergoing processes to profoundly alter my body for the rest of my life — nothing of what I was doing could be undone. After considering this solemn truth, I chose to move forward and be responsible for any consequences that followed, including my own regret.
Such intentional choice to change my body made me only love it more, perhaps even for the first time in my life. I joke that I often feel like a centaur but one of my own grand design. Where I once felt disconnected and uncomfortable, I’ve come to feel rather like a work of art — like Michaelangelo’s David as he emerged from the marble, only not with such enviable muscle tone!
My transition has taught me many things, namely the powering of acting in spite of fear. I’m experiencing a life that never would have been possible had I stuck to a fear-based declaration years ago. By choosing to live without limits, I’m setting myself free and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
Previously published at medium.com.