I have debated for quite awhile whether to share this very personal and painful essay with you my readers on this blog. I wrote this to submit to a national magazine for an essay contest. This particular piece is one of the most revealing and difficult things I have ever put word on paper about. I’ve debated seriously about publishing it here, and weighed if I thought it would help younger people not make some of the very painful mistakes I made, which is why I am posting this. I came to the conclusion it was more important to post this than the importance of my own comfort.The style in which I chose to write this article does not mention that what I am speaking of is being a woman of transsexual experience. I did not want to be so public about myself. Some may criticize that decision, but I do want a modicum of anonymity, though it isn’t exactly a State Secret about this aspect of myself to a moderate segment of the professional community and in the gender community itself as I have so many friends all over the country who I have met giving workshops, through Pink Essence, Facebook and Google+. That’s fine, but I’m a private person and don’t feel the need to make this a central aspect of my public identity. It serves a purpose for those who know because I want to be of help, but I don’t feel that is a carte blanche to open myself up to the world in general. Some people may think I’m copping out by not being out to everyone I meet, but it really isn’t anyone’s business what my medical issues are or what my genitalia are and how they got there. No one would ever enquire of a woman of non transsexual experience what their genitalia are or how they came to be and I wish to be afforded the same dignity and privacy as they have. So without further delay I give you the story about myself.
The decision that I most regret in my life was the day I first made the decision to not decide. Because of this decision to not decide, my life became a war of attrition within myself. I find that my life has consisted of a slow drift in which I would strike a bargain with myself over and over again. Each time I would concede a bit more and have faith that this would be the end point, only to find myself drift some more. No one knew anything about what I failed to decide for the first 37 years of my life. When someone did learn of it, it was a very disturbing and painful event. However, it allowed me to come to the conclusion that I needed to accept this and continue to become more comfortable with myself. The consequences of not coming to terms with me would be serious.
Even with this, I continued in the same way, deciding not to decide, but allowing the concessions to continue as they became manifest in my life. Somewhere the tipping point was reached. It happened three years ago when I made a decision that I should have made when I was 22, or 27 or even at 37. I was 51.
Though I finally made the decision to decide, I’m sure you must be wondering what is it that I regret by not making a decision. After all, yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not promised to us. We only have today.
I regret living with fear. I regret that so many people I have known, some loved, many wonderful people, have missed out in knowing me as equally well as I have known them. I may owe some of them an apology for not trusting when they have proven themselves again and again. I regret that because of my decision not to decide for so long that I limited my own ability to reach my full potential in many domains of my life.
When T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me.” It held a lot of significance about my decision not to decide. It left me with being incomplete and life would not offer the same opportunities others have had.
What I have been so indecisive about is about my identity. I have known this about myself since I was able to acquire the language to name it. I was very young then. Then when I was about 10, I began to go to the library and read about others who shared similar struggles. I was a very advanced reader for my age. That was when I became unhappy about who I was, as opposed to being confused about who I was. The battle of attrition began. I figured out all kinds of ways to be ok with myself without having to deal with reality, but they either only worked temporarily, or not at all. I did things that not many people did. Sometimes they were things that were dangerous with potential for serious injury. I should have been killed six times over because of serious accidents I was involved in. They might not have been my fault, but I was responsible indirectly (which means I was responsible) for making choices that put me in those situations. I had no wish to die, but I wasn’t very happy with my life. I was careless about myself.
Through all these years since I first read about myself, I continued to follow new publications and articles and learned quite a bit about myself that made me unhappier for a variety of reasons. I always wanted to understand and know my own truth. I continued to read and be current. Most of what I read seemed to be right; some of it was way off base.
I avoided serious relationships for many years so as not to have to be open to people or hurt them in some way. I’m sure I puzzled some people who would try to get close and were pushed away. I was very lonely for a number of years. There were some very fine people I decided to protect from me that under different circumstances I could have been very happy with.
Finally, I met someone and decided that I was wrong about myself. I could have this side of my to remain only with me. Eventually this person became the first person to know me completely. I’m very sorry that I must have inflicted a great deal of emotional pain on this person due to my unwillingness to make a decision with personal integrity, though that person also inflicted a great deal of emotional pain upon me as well. Nevertheless that does not justify my lack of sharing myself openly for me. I was at fault for a lot of our conflicts as well.
Even with the person to who I am spiritually bonded now, who I told at the time when our relationship became serious, it has been a painful burden to bear over the course of our relationship. It makes me extremely sad that even though I had progressed to the point to be able to be transparent about myself, it has been a painful experience for us as a couple. There have been very few who have traveled this path together. We define ourselves in relation to each other as well as we define ourselves. It is not clear that we will be able to travel together forever, though we hope and pray so. We stay in the moment, or at least the day. We remember we each have a process we are going through, more or less of our own design. We feel it out as we go. Sometimes we are afraid. Sometimes we are just sad. But then there are other times that are happy. They renew us and remind us why we are in this process together, and that is a good thing.
Even now with the decision made, the battle of attrition has become a different battle. The battle has become about how long I will wait to allow myself to finish this process, if at all, so the next part of life can begin. There is a need for immediacy that must be as carefully approached as I approached my own truth. While before I had dug my heels in, I am now accelerating towards something I did not ever wish for and I attempt to exercise restraint as a matter of judgment. I now grow impatient, yet the need for patience is even greater than before.
I have also been mindful that there is very little left to do, just two important things and when I complete that that aspect of my life. I’ll be there.
T.S. Eliot wrote in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” I don’t want to do that anymore. I have learned that you have to live in the moment and it will pass, whether it was good or bad. We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow. That’s enough to live with myself today and be at peace.