It is a question I was often asked when I saw people for the first time after coming out as transgender. Are you happy? It is a genuine inquiry, and one with good intentions behind it I am sure. I do appreciate the fact that someone would care enough to even ask. The problem is that I didn’t always answer the question honestly. Most of the time I would just say yes if I really didn’t want to get into it. The truth is that to me, it was a loaded question at best. The real answer is that it was much more complicated.
"IN A PERFECT WORLD YOU WOULD COME OUT AS TRANSGENDER AND THEN IT IS ALL RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS FROM THERE."
In a perfect world you would come out as transgender and then it is all rainbows and unicorns from there. For most of us, that is the furthest experience from reality. To start with, I spent a lifetime of kicking and screaming before I accepted the fact that I was transgender. To this day I am still working on accepting myself for who I am. What I do know is that I never truly considered my own happiness. I was worried about everyone else around me. I didn’t want my wife to lose a husband or my kids a father, my parents a son, and so on. I was consumed with guilt over what I knew I needed to do, to finally come out. I was preparing to face a difficult road ahead and I was well aware of how the world treated people like myself. It was terrifying.
The choices in front of me were pretty clear in the moment that I accepted the fact that I was transgender. It was either suicide, or I just come out and deal with the consequences. The first option would always be there, so I decided to take my chances with the second. One thing I did know is that the person who I had pretended to be all my life was gone and never coming back. This was my only chance to save myself even if I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to. I was still concerned about how it would affect everyone around me. I had to consider that they all might have been better off with me being gone rather than me being transgender. Avoidance was no longer an option. This was truly a moment of life or death for me. I was either going to live as myself or not live at all. Either way it was going to affect the people I loved the most.
"I MADE THE CHOICE TO TRY TO LIVE AND BEGAN THE PROCESS OF COMING OUT."
I made the choice to try to live and began the process of coming out. I would now test the integrity of every relationship I had ever cultivated. Deep down I had always believed that the love between my wife and I had transcended everything, including gender, but it is still scary as hell when you push it to the point of actually having to find out. In my case I was lucky. When I came out to my wife she accepted me without condition, and she helped me to realize that my kids would be better off having a parent who was transgender rather than no parent at all, and the same with everyone else around us. I am honestly not sure if I would have been able to move forward if not for her, but at that moment living became a genuine option for me.
I eventually began the process of transition and came out to everyone else I knew. I started to live as my authentic self as I endured all the losses as well as the surprises. Throughout the process I had learned that I was much tougher than I ever thought I was. I would experience some of the worst hate and some of the greatest acts of kindness I ever could have imagined. My eyes were open for the first time, as the woman I always should have been. Everything had seemed as if I were experiencing it for the first time. I finally wanted to live, and that was something that I was not used to.
"THE REALITY IS THAT IT WAS ALWAYS ABOUT SURVIVAL..."
Looking back now, it was never about any of the things I usually hear people say. It was never that I “felt” like a woman. It wasn’t about being in the wrong body. I never needed a reason to justify it. It was not about chromosomes or body parts. It was never vanity or just wanting to wear dresses or makeup. It was certainly not about sexuality or being with men. The reality is that it was always about survival, and the only way to do that was to accept the fact that I am and always have been a woman. No amount of avoidance or denial would have ever changed that simple truth. It doesn’t matter what other people think or have to say about it. I don’t need anyone else’s consent to exist. This simple answer is that I needed to accept this fact in order to survive, and in the end that is what I did.
So am I happy? Honestly I have only just begun to think about what that means. Throughout my entire journey it had always been about survival. I was so busy fighting just to exist as myself that my happiness wasn’t really an option to consider. Now here I am. I survived, and a part of me knows that survival will always be piece of the equation. After all I am transgender in today’s society. But as far as happiness, I will just have to see. Perhaps there is room for myself in this life that I have been living? I would like to hope so. What I can say is that I am happy that I have reached the point where I can actually consider what happiness really means.