It was a dark and stormy night…. HA! I’ve always wanted to start something with that. Seriously though, this will be the bit where I share my backstory. A, hopefully, entertaining skeleton of where I’ve been and who I’ve been until starting this blog.
I was born, late December 1966, in a metropolis, and have fond memories of early childhood in a francophone region of my country. However, over half my life (now only barely half) was lived in a ‘rural’ resource extraction region predominantly populated with rocks and trees. And over half of that was spent HERE:
A town of around one thousand people nestled on a bay of a Damn Big Lake next to a 20 story ‘mountain’, surrounded by forest (we called it ‘the bush’) and located five miles away from the two lane ‘highway’ that connects this part of the world to the rest of my country. Growing up here was little like living on the set of Happy Days or that movie about some guy who falls into the black and white television and has to give everyone colour in order to get out. (oh right.. Pleasantville. Wikipedia makes the reference apropos.)
I always knew I was different. Some of my earliest memories were of trying to be ‘like mommy’. I was still very much a child when I began stealing her underwear so I could be a girl alone in my bed at night. One of my earliest vivid dreams that sticks with me 40 years later is dreaming I grew tits and being very happy at first then very shamed.
I won’t go into details on this page but I very quickly and persistently got the message that to be anything other than a boy, or manly, was to invite rejection, derision and pain of all sorts. I don’t remember how old I was when I locked myself away deep in a closet and began building a series of fake mannerisms and interests that would be my shield from this pain, a cover that at one point I was mostly, mostly, able to convince myself was my reality. Mostly.
I did a good job of conveniently forgetting that alone in bed at night I could only enjoy myself as a woman, and instead bought my pretense during the day that I was a man and obeying all those ‘men’s rules’. A joke book called ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’ kept me from eating that rather wholesome dish for years. I was driven by fear and homophobia. Deep in my core where all the rules you learned when you were too young to know better rest, I hated and feared anything in myself that was ‘gay’ or ‘sissy’. It never bothered me in my relations with members of the LGBT+, I was of a socially liberal mindset, and considered myself open to others. I just was, in my heart, terrified of any of it getting stuck on me. This was me for forty plus years. Trying to become an engineer because our high school guidance counselor told all the boys to become engineers and all the girls to become nurses. Becoming a male nurse and secretly (as much as I would deny it even to my mirror alone in my room) glorying that it was still considered a ‘female’ profession even as I ranted about the sexist attitudes that had me relegated as someone best used to frighten unruly patients and handy to have when the hydraulic lift assist devices were broken.
Joining the army reserves had more complex motivations, I can dissect my love of soldiers, woman warriors and things military in one of my ongoing posts. Here, it is sufficient to say that one of the reasons I signed up was to ‘correct’ or ‘prove’ myself. Indeed, engaging successfully in military culture and the alpha male behaviour associated with it became the most potent of the few brief times I felt comfortable in my skin as a man. Even then, Never as comfortable as I do now.
Still, my femininity always found ways to break out.
Buying a suit for my high school prom I was openly scandalized and inwardly fearful/excited to learn that pink dress shirts were fashionable. Thanks to Miami Vice, pastels were cool.
Playing military miniatures. The efforts I put into creating distaff soldiers for my pewter and resin armies earned the comment from one of my friends:
“[Boy name redacted] and his chick fetish.”
I was an early convert to playing table top RPGs like D&D there I could be a woman warrior. after I got over the mockery of my fellow players. When I was gamemaster, responsible for making and populating an entire world for the player characters to ally with, kill, rescue etc. I tended to be more than an equal opportunity employer especially when creating non player characters with whom I empathized.
When I discovered the early text only precursors to MMORPGs, Multi User Chat Kingdoms, Multi User Shared Hallucinations, Multi User Dungeons etc… (MUCK, MUSH, MUD, collectively MU*) I became an early victim of online addiction. There I could be girl as long as I could keep typing. no one could hear my baritone voice, no one could see my broad shoulders, large feet and teatless chest. I spent too much time there and wasted a lot of money back when the only ISPs were college computer centres. The first MMO, Ultima Online, hadn’t even been invented and I was a hardcore addict. In part because of the ability to be female online. In part, because it was an easy escape from my increasingly desperate and depressing reality.
Co-morbidity, multiple but not necessarily directly connected illness is a very common mental health issue with transgendered persons. I’ve been mistakenly diagnosed with depression once in the past (when I finally sought mental health help) and now I’m considered bipolar II (manic depressive. but you only have delusions of excellence rather than godhood) of course this help came long after some of my worst times in life. I had to go to some pretty dark places to get into a state where I could seek out and accept appropriate aid.
Finally during one of my ‘manic’ times while I was on a serious health and orderliness kick, I was playing a girl on Second Life and suddenly accepted that I was transgendered. Yaah.. I didn’t KNOW? I’m kidding right? No. this was an epiphany like St. Paul on the road to Damascus just as he ceased to be Saul. And with it came some freedom. … but I was still in a closet. Literally actually.
I was in the process of coming out in bits and pieces to my support network. My friends and family were great. I was exploring avenues for change and taking subtle steps like swapping out all my underwear and getting my ears pierced, but I was still bound by that primal fear still, … depressed by the inability to be me, I used to say at this time that I ‘Kept my girl self in a locker at a private club down in the village’. I discovered just how true that was less than a year before beginning this blog. At the end of the PRIDE celebrations that year I discovered that Cinderella did not want to come home from the ball and I REFUSED to go back into my box. I was the one in the that locker…. no more.
I wonder if it sprang out of a conversation about my ‘real name’. A chance met stranger corrected me in the bar while I was explaining some of my old given names and showing my ID to prove the truth about an odd middle name that usually dictated my nickname.
“Girl, your REAL name is the one you’ve chosen for yourself, this is just the name the your government ID says.”
In a way, it was like I was born in that moment. All of a sudden I was real, My masks and disguises were gone. I won’t say it wasn’t frightening. People who’ve known me since then call me courageous and I don’t see it. I’m just as frightened as I ever was and have some new things to fear. but…
… I’m facing them as myself, not trying to stay under a mask that I was even more afraid of losing, Not trying to be all kinds of things I thought that others wanted me to be. Not hobbled by rules or expectations that constrained and hampered me as badly as any corset and petticoats. (less, those things actually have a place in my life)
So here I am. The above is hardly complete. It would be a rather empty life if I could sum up 40+ years of it in less than fifteen hundred words. But the rest is either irrelevant to this blog or shareable in a post. SO… This is me. And that’s the story so far…
~~Big Hugs ‘Jaypeg’