Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Transgender Life, at 50



They say life begins at 50.  Yesterday was the day that I turned 50 years old, so I am going to take that saying to heart.  Women do not have to share their age but I have decided to just own it, not hide from it.  Since I missed the boat at 39, I suppose I could just keep saying I am 49 but I learned from my friend Donna to not hide your age, be proud of it.  She turned 76 this summer and doesn't mind telling people, as she knows that inspires them.  Some people say I inspire them, so if anything knowing that you can transition at any age and it's never too late can be an inspiration.

In my transgender social life I have met and made friends with people with ages ranging from their 20's to 70's but the majority of them are close to my age.  Something about turning 40, or 50, seems to trigger a response in many of us who have struggled with their gender all of their lives but never transitioned.  Back in the days when we were young, information about transgender people was not widely known.   Most of us did not know how to get treatment, transition etc., although I have a friend that transitioned in the 1970's, so it was possible.  Those who did were rare and they were pioneers.  Before things like the internet came out many of us thought that we were the only ones or did not really know what to do about how we felt inside.  Today we are everywhere, including the cover of Time magazine. 
http://time.com/135480/transgender-tipping-point/
When I first got on the internet, around 20 years ago, I started reading about transition.  My two conclusions were that I was too old (I was ~30) and that this is something that would not be possible due to my family and where I lived.  Oh, to have been born in California or New York to some open minded family and to have started as a teenager.  I am going to say that soon I did find out that it was possible for people my age, and older, to transition but at that time I knew it was something I could never do while my parents were alive.  Later I would find out how wrong that conclusion was.

In the past I had thought that transsexuals were diagnosed at a young age by their doctors and their sex was changed.  When I was a teenager I heard about "sex change operations" and told a few people I was going to get one.  Though the idea really appealed to me, I wasn't really serious because I had no clue how to go about it or that it was even possible for me. 

Times have changed and we seem to be coming out of the woodwork now.  I even met a new friend recently who I knew many years ago.  She is my age and is now starting gender therapy to begin transition after keeping herself a secret her whole life.  This is so typical!  We knew each other way back when but neither of us knew the other was trans.  Hiding it and suppressing expression of your true self was the way of things back then.  She has been doing hormones on her own for awhile but is just starting out as far as learning to present herself to the world.

In some ways that is where I was 10 years ago.  I turned 40 and found myself in poor health, depressed, with drug problems and an unhappy marriage.  I went to a doctor and he put me on blood pressure and anxiety meds.  They gave me an MRI because I was having massive headaches and believed I had a brain tumor.  I didn't tell him about my drug use (cocaine and marijuana) or that I drank too much almost every day. 

Ultimately they couldn't find anything seriously wrong with me but I was convinced that I was dying.  I'd been feeling that way since my teenage years and honestly I didn't want to live much longer.  I didn't have the nerve to kill myself but I kept plugging away at it by using a drug that made me feel like I was having a stroke or heart attack each time I did it.  Feeling like I had nothing to lose and trying to find some light at the end of the tunnel, I decided to finally quit hiding who I was inside. 

I went out and bought my own wig for the first time, some makeup and female clothes.  Making slow progress while hiding everything from my wife, I began my journey to get from point A to point B.  My first point B was getting out of the house and into the world as my true self and it took a few years to get there.  I wanted to take hormones but I was scared that people would notice changes in me and that would give me away.  I still did not see a way to come of the closet but I was working towards finding one.

As I have discussed in previous posts, in 2010 I came out to my wife.  I was 46 years old and a year later I began gender therapy.  As my journey has progressed I have felt better and better.  Transition has been a real life saver for me.  I quit hard drugs not long after buying that first wig and now the only thing I do is drink socially.  The headaches went away, I stopped taking anxiety and blood pressure medication and I don't think I'm dying.  The big development of my transition is that I actually want to live now and have something to live for.

The post directly preceding this one (MTF Transition Begins, The Magical year in Pictures) documents the beginning phase of my transition.  I started at 47 and turned 48 three months after beginning hormone replacement therapy.  Now I am 50 years old (shudders) and in about a month I will have GRS.  That "sex change operation" is finally going to happen for me and just thinking about that has always put a smile on my face. 

All those years of feeling like an alien, never completely fitting in and being very uncomfortable within myself, are behind me now.  I am so glad to have come to a time in my life when I can be at ease with who I am.  That feeling has made this journey the most worthwhile thing I have ever done.  Being an optimist I am going to believe that I will live to be (at least) 100, so I will say that the second half of my life is going to be even better than the first.  In a way I will be living proof that life does begin at 50.



*****

Since I mention "Transgender Life" I may as well define it, in case you were wondering.  As for the significance of the number 50, now you know.


What is transgender? 


Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.”

Transsexual:  An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed - or seek to change - their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries). Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: transsexual woman or transsexual man.

Transgender woman:  People who were assigned male at birth but identify and live as a woman may use this term to describe themselves. They may shorten to trans woman. (Note: trans woman, not "transwoman.") Some may also use MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female. Some may prefer to simply be called women, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.


The above definitions come from these two sites, good sources for all gender related definitions.

http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
http://transequality.org/Resources/TransTerminology_2014.pdf

I think for myself I prefer the term trans woman.  This seems to give a distinction from those who are transgender but do not live full time as either gender, or live between genders.  Transsexual is worrisome to many because of its inclusion of the word "sexual" and is therefore often misunderstood and being used less as time goes on.  It is relevant, at least, as a medical term or distinction (within the trans community) between people who are physically (medially) transitioning and those who are not. 

Ultimately I just want to be referred to as a woman, because that is how I identify, where my journey is leading me and who I am.  I hope the saying that 50 is the new 30 is true.  No longer 40 something, I am a 50 year old woman.   Most people tell me I look younger than I am and many are surprised when I reveal my age, so I will take comfort in that.