Erasing the Person I Used to Be

Mila Madison

It is something that I find myself constantly struggling with. The life I led in my former existence prior to my transition compared to the person who I am now. We all have a history. There are moments in our lives that we are proud of and also moments that we may regret. Being transgender adds an entirely different angle to it. We are often faced with the conundrum of having to balance our experiences as if we almost lived two entirely different lives. There is a reason that when you ask them if there is anything they would have done differently, so many transgender people say they wish they had started transitioning earlier in life.

It is with wonder and admiration that I look at other transgender people who are able to embrace both the person who they are today along with their past. People like Laura Jane Grace, who was able to continue her music career and even make it better going forward as her true self. Her history is part of the story and she builds upon that as herself today. Even Caitlyn Jenner is able to still embrace her former existence as a gold medal winning Olympian and TV personality while still moving forward as herself. In these cases however, their former lives were already well known and they transitioned in the public eye. They really didnt have much of a choice.

Depending on what age we begin to transition, many of us have entire lifetimes of memories and experiences that we shared in our former existence. They not only belong to us, but the countless people we have encountered throughout our lives and shared these experiences with. This is where it all gets complicated for me.


Looking back on my life, every moment I experienced in my former existence now comes attached with some sort of taint to it. I see an error there. It is a paradox where somehow the universe will explode if I try to comprehend it, or even embrace it. Though I know these moments may have value and meaning to the others who experienced them with me, I find myself not being able to enjoy them.

I started to struggle with this concept again recently with the passing of Aretha Franklin, one of the greatest signers of our generation. In my former life, I was a musician and I was fortunate enough to work on one of her recordings. With her passing, I wanted to say something about the experience I had and how it made my appreciation grow for how talented she truly was. As quickly as the thought entered my mind, I realized that by saying anything I would be essentially outing my past. I couldnt share the name of the song, or show the liner notes of the record without deadnaming myself to the world. In my mind, the only thing I could do is erase this memory and not acknowledge it as if it had never existed.

Moments like these occur all the time. I couldnt go celebrate the life of a colleague who had passed away because so many people would be attending the vigil who didnt know I had transitioned. There have been moments when one of my songs came on the radio and I couldnt say anything about it being me because the people I was with didnt know I was transgender. I cant watch my wedding video with my wife. When my family reminisces about old times, or when they look at old pictures, in my mind it is as if they are talking about someone else. The further along in my journey I get, the more the old pictures look like someone I dont recognize.


It is strange. I realize that physically I had experienced these moments of the past, but I was never truly present for them. I also realize that some of these moments may mean a whole lot to the people I shared them with. I do not wish to take these memories away from them. But for me personally, I just see them as someone elses life. I can no longer recognize myself in them.

I am not sure if other transgender people share this experience. It may just be my own thing that I am going through. The truth is that I find myself erasing these moments of my past. There are many bad things that occurred in my former life that I am more than happy to erase, but there were also good ones that I am unable to reconcile as who I am today. I know there are people out there who are able to embrace the duality of the before and afters of transition (even though we always were who we are) without a problem. I truly admire their ability to do so.

In my case I still see this error when I look back at it all. Yes there are many things that are still with me from my past that today I am eternally grateful for. My family is one example. But as it is with many things from my past, it was if I was watching these things happen instead of making them happen. I feel as though this disconnect I am feeling, this chasm between who I was then and who I am today will only grow wider as time goes on. Now dont get me wrong, if given the choice I would still have transitioned a million times over. It is still all worth it, but there are strange parts to our journeys that we often find ourselves having to accept. This is certainly one of them. All I can do is focus on the short life ahead of me that I get to lead as my true self, and try to make as many new memories as I possibly can.

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Comments (4)
No. 1-3
Erica Kensho
Erica Kensho

I think for a while, during the first 4-5 years, I struggled a little with this, but after 8+ years, I just don't give a crap anymore who knows I'm trans, or what they think. I am who I am... one name and appearance for the first half of my life, and different name and appearance for the second half. I'm not going to deny my past, or be embarrassed by my present. People can either accept me as I am, knowing who I was, and deal with it, or they can go screw and not be a part of my life.

Life is just way too short, and there are too many things I want to do before I leave, to get hung up on the whole trans thing anymore. Don't let the past dictate your future Mila. Don't overthink it. Learn from the past, prepare for the future, but LIVE in the now.


I was telling a story and I came a need to say my deadname ...and I couldnt say it ....was it vanity , was it shame , was it fear of ridicule , rejection , outing myself . Holy shit wtf.....I just blew over it . and no one asked me either which was kind of them ..or just they didnt need to know....who knows .. I feel sad not being able to say it and or for censoring myself . It was a cute story turned upside down by this conundrum . I did enjoy much of my past , and perhaps always felt a bit of an outsider . I spent most of my life searching for my "real " self and now I find that all that has come before now is my life however real that ever seemed to me or not . I am different then I was [ hopefully ] after all the experiences I had whether they were more constructive or not . So perhaps those things I did were the only thing I could do with whatever it was I had to do it with . It all rolls into one And nothing comes for free There's nothing you can hold For very long And when you hear that song Come crying like the wind It seems like all this life Was just a dream..... Robert Hunter


What you experience is more common than naught. When I look back at my first 28 years they have an almost dream like quality to them. I know they are my memories but for the most part I can't talk about them and they seem like a prior life. Women were not allowed to serve on submarines in the early 80's and yet for 6 years that was my life. It was a very profound experience. I was good at it and I loved working in the engine room and going to sea. Flash forward 30 years from transition; I seldom talk about anything prior to age 30 (when I finished transition). If I do, the "edit mode" kicks in as to not out myself. People still treat you differently when they find out and at this point in my life I'm tired of answering the same "transition story" questions. There is so much more to my life than what happened back in '92. The "duality of life" is something that others will never understand but gives us a unique perspective on life.

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