The woman I am, not the man I was told I needed to be

by Kira Wertz

At the height of a serious drinking problem my wife dropped a bombshell. “I’m sick of this, there is to be no more alcohol in this house from this point on.” She was telling me I had to figure myself out if I wanted to save our marriage. What ended up happening was probably not the result she’d hoped for when levying that ultimatum.

Alcohol allowed me to feel okay expressing emotions that a man would bottle up. It offered me a glimpse of a life I wanted. Since the moment was often buried somewhere between “somewhat buzzed” and “totally wrecked”, it was short and fleeting.

I did a lot of introspection when I was told I needed to sort myself out. Eventually I rediscovered the secret that I’d hidden since I was a child. I was a girl.

As a young boy, I remember going to sleep every night praying that I’d awaken as a girl and that the world would act as if nothing happened. Eventually I buried the girl and lamentably accepted the boy.

I still struggled to realize who I was. I’d stare into the mirror and say, “I’m gay;” as if attempting to convince myself. It felt wrong, because for me it was wrong. It’s not like I was oblivious to the existence of transsexuals, as they were called back then. I simply couldn’t fathom it because it was poorly understood. There were no resources whatsoever - we’re talking pre-internet.

Jump ahead almost 30 years, it’s August 27, 2016. My wife and I had finished dinner. The distress on my face was obvious. In that moment, she thought I was either going to tell her I was gay or that I wanted a divorce. What she got was my confession that I have always felt like a woman and that I needed to transition.

It’s now been almost 10 months. I began counseling within a week. Wigs, wardrobe and makeup quickly followed suit. By November 11, I was out to nearly everyone and living and working full-time as a woman.

The speed of beginning transition was not fair to my wife. And in hindsight, one could argue that not being honest with myself meant never being honest with anyone. It was time to be honest.

This highlights one of the most important aspects of being transgender: We must reveal ourselves as soon as possible. The thought here is that we may prevent the collateral damage we’d inflict on loved ones by presenting as someone we’re not.

The benefit of early revelation is also early affirmation. There was no hope for me as a child. Today we have the knowledge and resources to save a trans child’s life before puberty brings bodily dissociation to levels of suicidal ideations and attempts. These are issues that I, too, have grappled with for decades.

Right now, our political climate is one that is changing to marginalize us and force us back into the shadows. There is no better time in history than now to reveal ourselves. Otherwise we can only expect to lose much of the progress we’ve gained.

We have the power to show the world that living our truth brings us joy. The wonderful thing about joy is that it’s virulent. Joy will show people a light that they have directly or indirectly affected. That’s the power to change their spirit towards acceptance and love. We cannot hide and expect that the world will freely give rights to those who are invisible.

That being said, I refuse to glaze over the process of transition. I want to hug you all and say it won’t be a painful process; it won’t result in fractured families or dead friendships. But I cannot lie, those things can happen.

But, the compulsion to withhold your being is derived from fear; fear of loss, rejection, joblessness, homelessness, assaults and  harassment; you name it. Understand that fear can control you or it can empower you.

So, ask yourself, are you going to live your life honestly, casting aside the fears that hold you back, and lead the best life you can? I still have fear, but I know that when I die it’ll be as the woman I am and not the man I was told I needed to be. There is a peace in that which I’ve never felt before. Regardless of where you fall into the spectrum, I wish the same for you.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – August 11, 2017 @ 11:15 a.m. CDT.