Saturday, December 21, 2013

The (Coming Out) Letter

In this blog is the coming out letter I wrote to my parents and presented to them a little over a year ago.  When I entered therapy, primarily for gender issues in December 2011, one of the main issues and concerns I had was how in the world would I ever be able to come out to my parents.  I even brought this up to my therapist on our very first meeting.

Here I was an adult worrying about coming out to my parents and I saw it as a major stumbling block to moving forward with transition.  In fact, many years ago I had resigned myself to the fact that I could not transition because of my parents or at least I could not do it while they were alive.  I wanted and needed them in my life, as they are really the only family I have, but I compared coming out to them with climbing Mount Everest.  It seemed like that big an obstacle, insurmountable.

In my childhood I made a couple of attempts to come out, once by proudly walking out in front of my family dressed in my grandmothers clothes, complete with wig.  Looking back, I think I was trying to express myself in the way that I felt was normal.  And at that time I learned it was perceived as wrong so I went through stages and many years of either hiding or suppressing my true feelings. 

By the time I got to the therapist's office, my situation (or dysphoria) had become a crisis.  It had been building up to this point all my life, but particularly over the previous 7 years as I starting allowing myself to be myself part of the time and began to accept the fact of who I really was.

The process of self acceptance was a long, arduous journey and in it lies the story of my life.  I had always felt female inside but that point in time when I realized I actually was female, and it was not just a part of me or something dark within me, had only occurred 5 or so years before I walked into that therapist's office. 

Most of my life was spent burying the pain of being in the wrong body and wrong life without ever trying to fully understand why I was the way I was, or more importantly, what I could do about it.  I tried to bury my feelings any way I could and lived most of my life as numb as I could be.  I fought it.  My real life was a fantasy in my head and my reality seemed bleak.

I found myself at death's door many times during my dark years, and indeed I embraced the idea of death throughout most of life.  One of the first things I told my therapist was that I was going to die soon, but I had been thinking about that and saying that for as long as I could remember.
 

Now I had reached a point in my life where I no longer wanted to die, I wanted to live.  But in order to live, I could not keeping on living a lie.  I knew that, as a woman, I could not keep on living life pretending to be someone I was not.  It had never worked for me and I had never felt right.  I imagined myself an alien free to roam the earth in disguise, but longing for a peaceful life back on my home planet.  Now I needed to go home.

So my mindset had gone from wanting to transition, which I had done since I first found out about it, to Needing to transition.  I tell people now that in my experience (transgender) adults only transition if they have to, when there is no other choice.  I had reached that point.  It is very serious and it's life or death.


There was only one obstacle between where I was and where I needed to be.  That's how I looked at it. I had, for the most part, eliminated every other obstacle and cleared the way for my transition except for this feat of Ascending Mt. Everest.  My life was a skeleton and I was (and had been for as long as I could remember) a shell of a human being

Over the course of several appointments with my new therapist she suggest that I write a letter to my parents explaining my feelings and situation, and hand it to them to read.  I would be in the room and wait for them to read it, then it would start a conversation.  At first I was very put off by the idea but I couldn't think of a better way.  I had nothing.  My fear was that if I planned to tell them I wouldn't be able to get the first word out of my mouth.  As I had learned over a year earlier when coming out to my spouse, after at least a couple years of trying, opening your mouth is the hardest part of coming out.

I had a goal, a date that I wanted to transition.  2012 was to be my year.  I had been looking ahead to that date for the last several years.  I believed it could be a magical time of change and I needed to find a way to make it a time for Me to change.  So I needed to come out and I decided I needed a letter.

The idea and execution of writing this letter was agony for me.  My goal was to transition to full time on December 31, 2011, but that date was actually the beginning of a range that I set as my goal.  My target date for full time was the beginning of 2012 but the deadline was months later, on my birthday in August. 

I was very good at putting things off, after all I had put this off for a lifetime, but my therapist was very good at both encouraging me to meet my goals and providing me with a mechanism to achieve them.  She suggested certain things be put in the letter, and a few of the lines are borrowed from our discussions.  One of my favorites that came from her was that I was being treated by a team of medical professionals.  That sounded really good, ominous, but it was quite literally true.  By the time I wrote the letter I had not one but two therapists and a medical doctor treating me.

I didn't actually write the letter until Autumn of 2011.  In 40 minutes late one evening the words flowed and I typed my coming out letter.  I used a few key points from another letter I got from my therapist but the bulk of the letter were my own words and from the heart.  After writing it, I could not bear to re-read it, although I wanted to change or rewrite it altogether.  I made some attempts to amend it but it was really too painful or scary, so I put off doing that too. 

I went over it with both therapists but both said what I had was fine.  The only things my original therapist suggested were to try to keep the letter to a single page and not to sign it, as it would take time for them to adjust to my new name.  All I needed to do was convey my feelings and tell them what was going on.  It was so simple but it was vital to me.

In the end I went back and used the original letter I wrote in that emotional 40 minutes.  I revised the last couple of lines after coming up with the idea that I wanted my mother to give me my new middle name.  I had no idea how my transition would go over with them, actually I feared it would not go over well at all, but I was hopeful that she would take a part in naming me the way she did when I was an infant.  In a way I was an infant again, or at least going through puberty, starting over.

The end results of my coming out are well known by my readers and documented in this post from a year ago, 12/21/2012: Full Time.  It was an amazing week and it has led to an amazing year for me.  As my transition moves forward I expect things to get even better, but it never would have come about if I had not finally taken the steps I needed to take in order to simply be myself.

I have thought about posting this letter for some time, as a way to help others facing similar situations who might want some idea of how to go about coming out.  What worked for me might not work for someone else, and everyone's situation and style is going to be different. 

Over the last year I have shared this letter with a few people facing similar roadblocks who needed ideas on how to come out.  One friend in particular, Sophie Lynne, is now on the verge of sharing her own letter with her parents over the Christmas holiday.  She has and will be writing extensively about her own dilemma in her blog, A Woman Named Sophie.  I am glad that my letter could be of assistance to her, just as the letters from others that I read were helpful to me.  I wish her all the luck in the world with her coming out, but either way she will transition and she will start a new life as herself next year.

I really had no idea how my coming out letter would be perceived by my parents.  I knew them well enough to know that they wouldn't turn their backs on me no matter what, but I feared they would not accept my transition and possibly fight it at every turn.  I was truly blessed to have their acceptance as well as their love and all of that has made my transition so far much easier than it could have been.  I do feel that I deserve it and that I was due after having such a painful, often messed up life.  But I am also blessed to have made it here and be in a position to get to do what not everyone has a chance to do.  That is to live my dreams and be an authentic person. 

So here is the letter I wrote in order to be myself............

 


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There is something I have to tell you about myself. I have been hiding from and or dealing with this problem for most of my life and I really did not understand it. I decided to seek medical care a year ago to get a handle on it and of get a better understanding of myself. You may have noticed some changes in me this year. I feel better, both in general and about myself, than I have at any time since childhood. As you recall, I had a very happy childhood until my teen years and things never seemed to fit into place for me after that. I am sure you have realized that I have had problems and even though I have tried to maintain a steady face on the surface, something has never been quite right with me.

I have been suffering from an internal conflict that has influenced my life in a very negative way. The medical term for this condition is called Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder and it is basically the condition of being transsexual. What this really means is that, though biologically I was born a male my brain and my own sense of being is that of a female. This is not the same as being a cross-dresser, drag queen, female impersonator or being a gay male. Inside I have always felt as though I was female and I never knew what to do about it. This year I sought therapy and psychological counseling in order to get a better understanding of myself and find a way to break the grip of my problems. I wanted to feel normal and achieve some happiness and success in my life. Being transsexual has always held me back and kept me from being the person that I needed to be to achieve my potential in life Through my therapy I began working with a team of medical professionals to help me through my situation. The only treatment for being transsexual is to make a gender transition. This is not a choice; it is something that I have to do in order to survive. I have been treated by a therapist for one year and also, saw a second therapist for a second opinion. I am also under the treatment of an experienced physician. The medication I have been on since mid-May, basically female hormones has brought about a great and positive change in my mental outlook on life. It has allowed me to feel normal inside for the first time since childhood and given me hope that one day I can live a normal and happy life. The medication has brought about some physical changes and that will continue. I will still be and am the same person inside. I think y’all will agree with me that at heart I am a good person. All I want is to feel normal and to have a chance to reach my full potential in life.

I will always be your child and I love both of you Very much and I feel extremely fortunate to have been chosen as your son. The reality is, mentally I have always been your daughter and I hope you will be able to accept me. All I am trying to do is trying to make physical changes to help me become on the outside the person I am on the inside and be accepted. I will always be here for both of y’all to help take care of you. I love both of you very, very much from the bottom of my heart. I realize finding this out is very painful for you right now and believe me I have always tried to avoid facing this about myself mainly for this very reason. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you but in order to have any chance at a normal life, I have to make this change. I have chosen the name Tammy for my first name and I would be very honored if you would help me choose my middle name. I know that this is going to take some time and I ask that you be patient with me and I will be patient with you. I love you both more than you know.