Sometimes when you get a chance to look back at a moment in your life, you are able to see things that weren’t so clear to you at the time they were occurring. As a transgender woman, I tend to experience many of these moments. They can come from old thoughts, stories told by others who knew you before transition, pictures of yourself in your former presentation and so on. They can at times make me cringe, but sometimes they reveal things that only now am I finally able to fully understand.
It started out so simple. I was hosting a fundraiser at my home for our transgender community center. We had about 40 people in my house where we held a live streaming event and recorded videos for a National Coming Out Day. My friends at the community center have become my family, replacing those who I have lost over the years. Sunday dinners at my place have become a thing these days as our family continues to grow, and this event happened to take place on the same day. And on this particular Sunday as we were talking about how we all came out as transgender (those of us who had come out), the subject somehow turned to my former existence when I was a singer in a rock band. Though I never have performed as my true self, there were plenty of recordings and videos of the “old” me performing. After at first being reserved about it, I decided to say, ”to hell with it” as we popped in a DVD of one of my shows. After all, this is who I was at one point and I had guessed I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
“IT IS STILL STRANGE TO ME WHEN I SEE MY FORMER SELF, AS IF IT WERE SOMEONE ELSE I WAS LOOKING AT.”
As the show started I braced myself for a bout of dysphoria as the images of me came on the screen. It is still strange to me when I see my former self, as if it were someone else I was looking at. I quickly realized how much I have changed since then. I have lost so much weight. My face is so different as the result of hormones. We all laughed at how big my nose was back then as I had to swear I haven’t had any work done on it. Everything looked different, the width of my face, my lips, and even my eyebrows. My body now has more curves compared to back then. My friends all commented how they wouldn’t have been able to tell it was me had I not told them. They certainly didn’t see a man on the screen either as they commented on how feminine I was even then, but they still wouldn’t have known it was me. I realized in a physical sense I have changed so much just over these last few years. The good thing was that it wasn’t making me dysphoric as I thought it would, and my friends seemed to be getting a kick out of the whole thing.
There was something else I saw however. I watched this person, the former me, standing on the edge of the stage with the whole world going on around “him.” There was smoke and crazy lights, girls jumping on the stage and dancing, the band rocking out behind him, and everyone having a good time. The only exception was me, the person I was now looking at. He was in “his” own world, disassociating from the fun that was going on around him, not able to enjoy a moment of it. The sadness in his eyes, the mind so far away, doing what “he” did best, but it was as if he were in some kind of tunnel. This person was alone, in the middle of all these people having fun around him. He was bringing joy to others, but was unable to enjoy it himself. He was just a passenger to that moment looking on but unaware. He was physically in the room but somewhere else. For the first time I could see the effects dysphoria was having on this person, my old self. I felt bad. I felt stupid. “How could it not have been so obvious to me?” I said aloud as I watched this person in pain. Now, it was beginning to bother me.
“IT WAS OBVIOUS LOOKING BACK AT IT NOW.”
I had to leave the room for a minute. I wasn’t feeling dysphoric, but I was embarrassed that I couldn’t see what all these people who didn’t know me back then were able to see so easily. That performance was a moment that I had thought was one of the few good ones in my old life, but now I was able to realize the dark haze I was in. Even in my best moments I couldn’t enjoy my life in my former existence. The “he” I was trying to be was always really “she.” It was obvious looking back at it now.
Eventually, I went back into the room. I was a little quieter this time though. I realized I couldn’t have figured it all out back then. My mind was clouded by testosterone, even if I never really had a lot of it. With estrogen, I was able to finally think straight. I was finally able to understand who I was. Life couldn’t have turned out any other way for me. I know now that it would be impossible for me to ever go back to being that person, living a life that was just going through the motions. Even with all the losses I have experienced as a result of my transition. All the bigotry I have been on the receiving end of and being seen as less than by society. All the struggles I have faced just for being who I am. Yes, it was totally worth it.