By Lisa P.
Kandi’s reposting of “Life” brought a swirl of emotions and questions. Emotions because I went to bed the next night and woke up in the middle of the night after a dream with a horrible feeling that I was letting down my wife. Probably it was my subconscious working through her essay. Other questions also quickly entered my conscious thought. Have I ever really seriously considered transition? If not (as I have claimed here), what in the heck am I doing living now about half the time as a woman (and the other half as husband, father, grandfather, work colleague, etc.)? What keeps drawing me inexorably toward the feminine?
Then there are the questions raised by Kandi about how to define her personal identity (bi-gendered). Will we forever be defining the terms for ourselves? I have concluded that we probably must, because each of us have unique journeys and struggle to define what it means to be the person we are.
For this short essay, I will begin by referencing Kandi’s comment that she has no gender dysphoria. To clarify where I am, I will share publicly just a bit of my discussions with a gender psychiatrist in London four years ago, as they help to frame where I am coming from. As my doctor said in her report, I self-referred myself “seeking an independent (read here: not my own!) assessment for diagnostic evaluation of gender incongruence and gender dysphoria.” The psychiatrist commented about me that “she feels entirely male at times in her life and entirely female at other times in her life, and for the most part as long as she can live as female regularly this produces no significant conflict in her life as she values both aspects of herself in different ways.” Sound familiar? Rather like Kandi’s “bi-gendered” reference I suppose.
The gender psychiatrist went on to report that my “presentation was female gender congruent.” Phew! At least I was in the right place talking to the right person wearing the right clothes! Her diagnosis was that I “met the diagnostic criteria for ‘gender incongruence’ (previously ‘transsexualism’).” She made clear that gender variant behavior and preferences (what I would describe as crossdressing) alone are not a basis for forming a diagnosis of gender incongruence, and she went on to discuss the grounds for her specific diagnosis of me (which shall remain private). The point I am trying to make about her report is that she did not diagnose me with “gender dysphoria.” We don’t have to feel “dysphoria” (generally defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a state of feeling very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied”) to feel the need to take action and seek treatment. In the end, my psychiatrist said I was emotionally stable and well-adjusted, and that I met all the psychiatric criteria to medically transition. I received that report as an “aha moment” in my life. The report confirmed personal concerns as to whether I was truly a “male,” as society and my family had concluded. It also explained why I continually sought herbal treatments that might help me be more female.
That being said, it took me a full year to decide to start microdosing estrogen instead of using supplements. I have talked about that particular decision before. I first told my wife that I wanted to consult with an endocrinologist. I wanted to see if taking a small dose of estrogen would help me with the incongruence I felt, which continued to nag me during the entire year. I was so much happier feeling female; I was certain that my true desire was to become more female. The decision to seek further treatment was momentous, as Teresa has made very clear in numerous comments she has made. These types of decisions completely change one’s life. I undertook the medical treatment with a view that I could always go back (even to the extent of having a mastectomy if that is what it took). But I have to admit that I never want to go back. I absolutely adore my little breasts, even as I have not looked to fully transition. I have felt more myself, and I am overjoyed at my feeling of wholeness. I haven’t had any surgeries, and that means I definitely present largely as a masculine-looking woman or transgender woman (depending on how badly someone wants to examine me). Feeling more like me, however, has been the key to reducing my daily (nay hourly) sense that I was living a lie trying to be “all boy.”
Having shared that incredibly personal story, I will admit (as I have done many times already here) that my decision to microdose has come at a cost. Please make sure you know yourself before you undertake such an important and life-altering course. It is apropos to recite the aphorism here: what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. So, if you really are a gander, don’t start plucking your tail feathers!
Logistically, my life admittedly is more difficult since I started estrogen therapy. Having well-defined breasts makes things extraordinarily difficult in the warmer months during those times when I must present as male. I can’t swim as a male easily. Try telling that to the grandkids who want dear old granddad to go with them to the swimming pool. My lovely wife is long-suffering, and I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility for her mental health about my gender identity (hence the reaction noted at the outset of this essay). She will openly say that she doesn’t like my breasts, and I feel badly that I have caused her distress by growing them. Ironically, through it all she is slightly more accepting of me today than she was when I started estrogen therapy, even while staying technically “don’t ask/don’t tell”. I still cause her distress if I seek her help with a logistical challenge (for example, when I recently mentioned my sports bra, it caused her to be visibly upset with me). Still, she managed to give me a pretty women’s scarf as a Christmas gift this year – not your typical “wife to hubby” Christmas present!
All in all, for me the last year was simply the most amazing time of my life. I developed many new women friends who now form a very important part of my social network. I have given back to this community in meaningful ways, even while living largely stealth (something I must do as part of the “deal” with my loving DADT wife — but also something I must confess that I prefer, as it means I am simply “Lisa” to my friends and not “that Lisa”). I have lived for weeks at a time as myself, comfortably moving about this world with nary a thought about my gender. I have learned to swim and dance in a leotard with other women and feel completely accepted in those spaces. I have thrown three parties for other women, and they have not only shown up, but have given me typical female hugs in payment for my thoughtfulness afterwards. And I have done all of this without forsaking my wife. I have come right out and asked her if she has felt jealousy toward any of Lisa’s female friends. I believe the reason she has not felt jealous is that she knows (and I constantly show her and remind her verbally) that she is Number One in my life.
Toward the end of her essay, Kandi answers the question how she manages by saying, “[M]y love for my wife makes it pretty simple. Transitioning, going full time, giving everything I have up, isn’t even a consideration.” Her conclusion is my conclusion. Transition is not a consideration.
Being me is good. Being aware of the needs of others is even better. Always bearing in mind where my female personhood stands in relationship to my wife and the rest of my world is best.