tw: talks of death, depression, mental health, etc. transphobia, homophobia.
Apologies for errors I wrote this at 1:30 am in a big spew and I'm tired and don't want to edit it.
I tried to come out to my mom when I was seven years old. I didn't know what that was at the time, and I wouldn't know until twenty-three years later, but I did try. I remember that that day specifically the feelings about being a boy were overwhelming. I didn't understand them but they came up often and would resurface all throughout my life. I wanted to be a boy. Why wasn't I? Why couldn't I? I sat across from my mom at our scuffed kitchen table and I didn't look at her. Somehow I knew that she wouldn't give me the answer I wanted to hear so badly; and yet I hoped for it, longed for it. I was scared and I chose my words carefully.
"Can a girl be in a boys body, or can a boy be in a girls body?" I asked, looking down at my hands on the table, trying to pretend as though I was just curious and the question was innocent.
"Where did you hear that?"
I could hear the disgust in her voice, and was immediately ashamed. I tried to hide it but my cheeks were already too warm.
"Just at school," I blurted.
"You don't think that, do you?"
"No. I was just curious."
I felt like crying but I managed not to. I knew now that this was a bad thing to talk about, that she wouldn't understand, that she wouldn't tell me that wanting to be a boy was okay, and that I could.
I remember when she threw away my two favorite t-shirts. I liked them best because they were the least 'girly' things that I owned. One was a Harley Davidson t=shirt, the other was a Ninja Turtles t-shirt. They were my boy shirts. But one day they were gone. I remember her taking me shopping for shoes for first grade. I wanted a pair of black tennis shoes from the boys section. She wouldn't let me and I didn't understand why. She tried to persuade me with shoes that were plastered with pink, glitter, and lights in the heels. She got angry at me for hating them. I remember her trying to dress me in things that I hated, pulling my hair into braids that I didn't want, yanking it until I was crying because she was mad that I didn't like sitting still and doing these 'girly' things. The huge bows she put in my hair were taken out at school. I did my best to smash down the way she curled my bangs.
The first time she let me get my hair cut 'short' it was up to my shoulders. The hairdresser asked if I wanted it shorter, and I said yes, so she cut it up to my chin. The shorter it became, the more I loved it, and I wanted to tell her to cut it all off. Cut it like a boys hair. I wanted it all gone so I could be a boy. I remember touching my hair and asking her excitedly if she could cut it *even shorter* but my mom was already crying at all of the hair littering the floor around the chair and she said no.
When Christmas or birthdays came I did ask for some girl things because that's what I was used to playing with. But I also remember asking for action figures or wrestling figures that were never under the tree. There were Barbies instead and I liked anything that allowed me to pretend and be creative, so it was okay, but when I played with other boys I always coveted their 'boy' toys. I didn't mind baby dolls but I didn't understand why they all had to be dressed in frilly things, with bows, and ribbons. I wanted a boy doll, or one that looked realistic. One year I asked for cowboy boots, and got pink cowgirl boots with butterflies up the sides. Another year I begged and begged for a kids Jeep, the kind you can actually drive around. I never expected to get it but like any kid I wanted a lot of things I probably 'wouldn't get'. To my surprise there was something similar beside the Christmas tree. But it was bright pink Barbie Corvette. I hated it but I didn't want them to know that--I felt bad. I did end up enjoying it anyway, but why didn't they ever listen? Anything I wanted as a 'boys' item they interpreted into a 'girls' item even though that wasn't what I said that I wanted. They just couldn't see it for what it was... and why did everything have to come in pink? My uncle used to rebuild bicycles and he gave me one for Christmas another year. It was red with a white banana seat. I loved it but apparently it wasn't good enough--next Christmas my parents had a new one, without training wheels, and it was covered in glitter, pink, and streamers from the handles.
I still enjoyed the things they were kind enough to buy for me. I still used them. It's just that they never could get the message that I didn't want all these things that screamed 'girl'. I didn't want pink, and glitter, and frills, and 'pretty'. I wanted to wear cut off shorts like dad. I wanted top lay in the mud and go fishing. When I said that I wanted to play baseball I wanted to play baseball with the boys, not join the all girls softball team. Around this time I also remember telling my dad that I wanted to be a wrestler (you know, like those huge dudes on WWE) and how he started talking about the Divas (the women wrestlers) and how they're just there for eye candy. I remember trying to argue with him *NO* I want to be a *wrestler* like the guys. He was confused. I was confused. I just wanted to be a boy and no one got it.
In fourth grade I started to grow body hair. I'd always had thick hair on my arms. But it got even thicker on my legs, and under my armpits. I remember wearing a sleeveless shirt to school one day and when I came home my mom said she'd gotten a call from the school. They'd called her because I had tufts of curly black hair under my arms. She was angry and embarrassed with me--never mind that she'd never taught me about shaving anyway, or paid enough attention to me to see that I had hair. She dragged me into the bathroom and handed me a plastic razor and told me to shave it off. First of all I'd never used a razor before, second of all I didn't want to--I didn't know what was so bad about the hair, or why I shouldn't have it, and I didn't want to get rid of it. After I kept refusing she yanked the razor away from me and did it herself, forcing me into a corner while she raked the razor over my underarms. I cried and told her it hurt. She didn't care she was just angry at me and I didn't even know why. I hate shaving. I hated the razors. I hated her. She told me I was gross.
As I got older it was a constant struggle with her. She wanted me to be a cheerleader, or go out for dance team. Fuck that. She was constantly on me to do my hair, or wear makeup. Brushing my hair and leaving it down or in a ponytail was good enough for me. I didn't want anything to do with makeup either. She told me I didn't have any pride in myself, that I'd never get a boyfriend, that I'd never be noticed. When I had to get glasses in 6th grade she made me choose pink ones. When they 'broke' soon after and we had to go in, I managed to convince her to let me exchange them. I also managed to choose a pair from the boys section without her realizing it. So at least that was a small victory.
But middle school is hard, being a preteen is rough, and I did tr to start fitting in with the girls. I watched what other girls were wearing and chose things accordingly. I tried harder to be 'pretty' but that seemed to be something I couldn't do with my plain hair and my zero desire to wear makeup. For my 14th birthday party my mom decided we needed to have a 'make-up' party. I hated every moment of it and I didn't feel 'pretty' in the makeup she made me try and wear. It felt like a lie somehow. I just didn't know why.
The way she treated me, paying attention to me only to try and get me to be a girl, harassing me over my clothes, and hair, constantly telling me I had no pride in myself and would never get a boyfriend, it all began to drag me down. I thought I was ugly, and awful, and someone who no one would ever want. I was confused about my gender, and my sexuality. I was realizing that any time I had ever played 'pretend' I had always pretended to be a boy. Despite being 14 my best friend and I still played this way when no one was home--we made things up and played things out under personas. Once again I was always a boy and for awhile I became obsessed with our 'roleplays' and even started using the name of my 'persona' at school when would pass notes, or I'd just spend all day pretending that I was him in my head.
"Paulie" was my first boy persona. My best friend and I at the time were in love with the Beatles. My persona had originally started out to be based on Paul McCartney, but it evolved into it's own thing that was pretty much just me as a boy who played music and had a bad English accent.
Any time I was online I pretended to be a boy. Whenever I wrote stories I pretended to be a boy. Any chance I could take to pretend to be a boy, I did. I was also realizing around this time that I was attracted to my best friend. We were very close and I loved her very dearly. I remember when I first met her when I was eight years old. She was riding her bike up and down the street and I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. When I was nine I remember putting my toys away and thinking to myself that I wanted to marry her when I grew up. The thought made me really happy, and it seemed perfect--I couldn't think of anyone else I'd want to marry but her. It never occurred to me that this was something I couldn't do, or something that would be 'wrong'. I just loved her.
The other attraction came when we were older. I wanted to ask her to be my girlfriend but was too scared. I knew my family wouldn't go for it. It was clear that everyone was very much against homosexuality. I'd conversations with both parents in a general sense regarding homosexuality to scope out where they stood. So it was obvious that I couldn't just have a girlfriend.
But when we played or pretended we could be, because I wasn't me. I was Paulie.
But my parents had started to catch on.
My mom sat us down and talked to us about how homosexuality was wrong. That it was a sin. All of those things. My dreams of having a romantic future with my best friend, my desires, my feelings, were all crushed with so few words. I had known it but yet hearing it coming from my mom's mouth in word form made it cut all the deeper and hurt so much more. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for at least an hour. I curled up in the corner by the bathtub and prayed to God to make me a boy. I never wanted to be a girl anyway. Why couldn't I be a boy? There was obviously something wrong with me. Please make me a boy so it's okay. Just make me a boy so everything will be okay.
Also around this time I'd started developing sexual feelings, and was further confused about that. I remember the idea that I'd been born with a penis and something had happened to it wouldn't leave me alone because I felt like I should have one. I remember getting online obsessively and trying to research if there was such a thing as a 'phatom penis' the way some amputees have 'phatom limbs'. I thought something must be physically wrong with me but I couldn't figure it out, and I had no one whom I could ask, no one whom I could talk to about all of these things.
The next year I was in art class with Martina. She was the most butch lesbian in the school. She was out, she was proud, she didn't give a fuck. Martina was a senior. She was my hero and never knew it. I admired her from across the art room as she sat talking about another girl eating her pussy, with her shaved head, tongue ring, and guys pants with big bulging pockets. I stared at her and daydreamed of being that brave one day, of cutting my hair off, wearing what I wanted to wear, saying what I wanted to say, being with who I wanted to be with without giving a fuck what anyone thought of it.
But I just kept being 'Paulie' in secret and entertaining dreams that my best friend and I would run off after we graduated and find somewhere where we could be together.
Senior year her boyfriend asked her to marry her. She said yes.
After high school I went back into 'trying hard to be a girl' again mode.
I put all my focus into college and living up to expectations.
I dated guys, I 'took an interest' in make up and jewelry, I tried harder to dress more 'girly'. But I hated the way a lot of these guys treated me. I hated having to be 'pretty' for them. I didn't feel comfortable, or like myself. The times I felt most confident were when I was wearing my uniform. I worked for the Public Safety office on campus for awhile. We all wore the same uniforms regardless of gender. Polo shirts, navy colored utility pants, boots, a utility belt, a hat. I loved that job and I loved getting to wear that uniform because it made me feel masculine, and confident. I felt so good about myself when I put it on.
But due to pressures from my grandparents, whom I was living with at the time, the job didn't last long. I couldn't do anything because I was a woman. My grandmother was too scared for me working security in a parking garage at night. She was constantly on me about how I was going to get raped, or killed, and how I had no business working such a job. She refused to let me drive myself to work for nightshifts. She and my grandpa wold take me and pick me up. After months of her constant nagging, guilting me about how upset it made her, and feeling bad that my grandparents couldn't sleep when I worked, I quit the job.
It wasn't the first time I had bent to their pressures, given up things I'd desperately wanted, in order to stop causing them problems, in order to try to get rid of some kind of misplaced guilt, in order to get out from under the constant pressure. I had a full scholarship to an art school directly after high school. I quit after the first semester because my grandmother kept putting me down. My intended major at the time had been art therapy. After months of 'you'll never make any money doing that, there aren't jobs like that around here, you're wasting your time, what are you going to do with that degree, you need to do something worthwhile, and guilt from them having to drive me to one of my night classes (again me the helpless girl couldn't do basic shit) I dropped out. I was giving up my dreams to please them, giving up pieces of myself again, and again. I kept pushing my sexuality and gender away because I wasn't supposed to be those things. I kept trying, and trying, and trying.
I got engaged while I was in college (went after art school for Criminology, that still wasn't practical, or right, or okay--what was I going to do with that? The same kind of pressures as before.). My fiance cheated on me so we broke up. I kept dating guys. Most of them made me feel uncomfortable. In my free time I spent a lot of time online.
This time my persona was 'Jeri'. Jeri wasn't a male. I decided to try to make my persona a female. She was just a 'better' version of me--braver, more curious, more fun. Jeri could do things that I couldn't. Jeri started reading and writing fanfiction--mostly m/m fanfiction that was heavily sexualized. This was something that I couldn't have done as myself. Jeri could think about being attracted to girls, though I was still dating men. Jeri could be stronger, braver, and push the envelope a little more than I could. It was okay for Jeri to question things she'd been taught, to think about other ways, to consider that she didn't have to be 'good' all the time.
By the time I was ready to graduated college I was depressed again though. I wanted to be Jeri all the time. My grandma had destroyed my self-esteem and though I was getting ready to graduate with a bachelors degree, I felt like I had nothing. My mom had stolen money from me, blamed me for not wanting to live with her in her apartment full of trash and bugs, and had moved to another town. She was living with a man she had met online, blaming me for not wanting a relationship with her, and buying his lesbian daughter men's clothing without batting an eye.
I moved out of my grandma's house because I couldn't take it anymore. I went to live with my dad. Living with my dad was pretty great. I had no conflicts with him, but I still couldn't explore my sexuality or gender, I was still confused, I still really had no idea what to make of these things. As much as I love my dad, and though he was the best one to me out of my family, he never would have accepted those things about me either. I just kept being confused, and upset, and feeling trapped for reasons I didn't understand. I spent a few years trying to get work, doing various jobs.
My grandparents decided to move to assisted living, and wanted me to take care of their house, so I moved in.
Living on my own gave me more freedom but I still couldn't be out. But Jeri wasn't good enough anymore. She may have allowed me to be someone else, but it wasn't the right someone else. I missed being a guy. I needed to somehow be a guy.
So Eric happened.
Eric was my third persona. I would have been about 23 at the time Eric came along. Eric was a thirty-something-year old gay man. I'd always felt more in tune with middle aged gay/queer men, and I'd never understood why. My writing tended to revolved around this. I'd always been told a lot that I was 'an old soul' so maybe that's what accounted for the age thing. I really don't know. But I finally allowed myself even more exploration.
Paulie had been a twenty-something year old bisexual man. Jeri was an edgier version of *insert my deadname here* with a hint of bisexuality. Eric.was (almost) exclusively gay, and he was into things I didn't know much about, aside from having read about them in fanfic.
I was Eric online. I went into chat rooms as Eric. I talked to people online as Eric. I got into headspace as Eric and I was him. I made friendships online as Eric. The only problem with Eric was that I wanted to be him so badly that I took it too far. I was spending more and more time 'being Eric'. I started to make clothing choices as Eric, my food preferences changed because I chose foods as Eric, I manipulated photos of myself to look like a guy and passed them off to "Eric's' online friends as real. I threw away my jewelry. But two very bad things happened with Eric--first of all, I had developed a very close, very real, friendship with a girl online. She thought that Eric was real. Despite him being gay we had something that was more than friendship because I loved her behind the mask of Eric. But things had gotten so messy because she didn't know that I was a lie, and she loved Eric, and Eric... as real as he may have been to me, he wasn't real.
I was also worrying about my mental health because being Eric was the only thing I ever wanted to do. Going to work was really the only thing that disrupted me from being Eric, and when I was at work, being 'me' I felt so disconnected from myself that I questioned who I was at times. I hated hearing my own name (what is now my dead name). I hated being at work because I couldn't be Eric. Everything was getting more confusing, and becoming a huge mess.
I had to stop being Eric because I was hurting someone else, and because my confusion was reaching an all time high.
I quit my job and made an appointment to see a psychiatrist who specialized in multiple personality disorder/associative identity disorder because I thought that's what I must have. He told me I was depressed, and anxious, and when I tried to tell him that I thought I was dissociating, and brought up my first persona, he laughed at me. He said I needed to get a job and he spent the rest of the session scrolling through job sites for me.
I tried another psychiatrist specializing in the same thing who was out of town. I went to her once and I told her about my 'personas'. The first question she asked as a follow-up was if I was transgender.
I didn't really know what the word meant, but I had a feeling, and given all the negativity and fear that had been put in me regarding all the gender stuff, I quickly said no. I didn't ask her any questions about it despite having the opportunity. I just shut it down because I couldn't be that. Clearly I was just psychologically fucked up and she didn't get it.
I didn't go back to her either.
I stuffed Eric away and tried yet again to just be *insert dead name*
I went back to work. I kept myself away from creating any male personas. I dated men.
I got married.
I thought I was finally doing everything right. I was on the right track and had successfully put all this weird stuff behind me. I could do this--I could be 'normal' and live up to the expectations put before me.
Two months into the marriage my husband got fired from work for threatening to rape a coworker. I threw him out and filed for divorced. Just before this I'd found out my dad had cancer. Right after I'd filed for divorce we found out that the cancer was terminal. Just as I felt I had gotten a grip on my life, it was pulled out from under me again. I was closer to my dad than anyone else, and the thought of losing him is something I can't really put into words.
I just kept working and trying to do whatever I could do. I went with my dad to his appointments. Eventually I quit my job to take care of him. He held out for a long time and was stubborn about me helping but finally he just couldn't.
I don't feel like going into that in detail. It was the worst thing that's ever happened to me and a horror unlike anything else, really. But it was a turning point of sorts.
I was severely depressed after my dad died. The guy I was dating and engaged to (still trying to do the thing I was 'supposed' to do) wouldn't leave me alone. My mom and stepdad wouldn't leave me alone. My grandparents wouldn't leave me alone. Never ind none of them had helped me. My mom and grandma had come into my dads house when he was dying and trash talked him so I threw them out. My uncle had done jack shit and just wanted anything he could get of my dads stuff/money after he'd died. No one gave a fuck enough to help me with anything. But they wouldn't give me any space either when I needed it. I went to my dads house one night and wanted to just be alone and kind of say goodbye and people kept coming over and they just wouldn't leave me the fuck alone. I get why people would be worried but sometimes when people are grieving or depressed the just. Need. Space. My family has no concept of privacy at all.
Anyway, I broke up with my fiance. I pushed what was left of my family away as much as possible. Everything was just awful and I really didn't know what to do except that my family was driving me towards a breaking point. They wouldn't leave me alone. They demanded I go out and do things and I wasn't ready. They'd force me to go out and I'd just start crying. They'd try to get me to talk about my dad dying and I wasn't ready. They had keys to my house and would come over uninvited whenever they pleased. They'd just sit there and berate me and force themselves upon me. They were suffocating me then more than ever before.
I realized that none of them really cared about me. They wouldn't listen to me about needing space. They wouldn't let me grieve. They wouldn't respect any of my boundaries--something as simple as asking them to call before coming over--and when I'd get mad over it I was the bad person who was hateful, disrespectful, and appreciated nothing they'd ever done for me. Never mind I had given up so much for them that they'd never known about--art school, the first person I'd ever been in love with, pieces of myself true self since I was a child, my sexuality, I'd been engaged twice and married once all to try to do what I was supposed to do--what they wanted. I had been willing to marry someone I cared for but wasn't in love with, willing to think I could make that work for the rest of my life so I could be what I was supposed to be. Id' been trying to fit into clothes I didn't like, slathering shit on my face that I didn't want, hiding myself over, and over, and over.
I still tried one last time.
I tried to have a talk with my mom. I edged around the fact that I'd loved my best friend when we were teenagers. I even told her that we'd kissed once--and followed it up quickly with 'but nothing else' because of her look of disgust, though it was true. I tried to tell her how I'd always pretended to be a boy, I wanted to just tell her that I felt like I was a guy, but I couldn't bring those words to come. She misinterpreted what I'd been trying to say and told me that she'd often been confused about what was sin, and what wasn't, and that pretending things as a child wasn't a sin. So I didn't go any further with that topic. I just shut it off again and knew now, finally, that there was never really going to be any hope that I could explain to her what I felt.
I decided that what I needed to do for my own mental health was to leave. I just had to get away from them and live my life on my own. If I didn't have space to grieve for my dad, and if I didn't figure myself out on my own, I just thought I'd go crazy and never come back. I couldn't handle them any longer--their shaming, their guilt, their overbearing presence, the complete disrespect for any boundaries I tried to put off, the incapability to see me as my own person, the unwillingness to understand that I had feelings too and that I wasn't a monster for being angry, that I wasn't ungrateful for wanting space, that I wasn't the most horrible person that had ever lived because I wanted separation from my family and their ideals. It's like these concepts were just completely not understandable to them.
I packed my shit and I moved to Iowa.
I had some money from my dad's life insurance so I was able to go. The first year in Iowa I still extremely depressed over my dad's death. I could hardly get out of the house. Doing basic self care was about as much as I could do and even that didn't happen a lot of times. My house got cluttered and disgusting because I was too depressed to do much of anything. It was really bad. I even considered giving up my dogs, the only family I really had anymore, because I felt I was so worthless, disgusting, and useless, that they couldn't possibly be happy with me and they deserved better.
At some point during this time I had discovered tumblr. I spent a lot of time online. I had made a couple of close friends.
I was back to being "Jeri" because I wanted nothing to do with *deadname*
After about a year of deep depression and just wanting to die, I knew I couldn't keep living like that, and made steps to get counseling. I tried to clean up my house, and I tried to force myself out to do more things. Tumblr got me learning a few more terms to do with various genders. One of my close friends was agender. I was coming closer, but I was still afraid.
Around this time my fourth persona was born.
Silver was my favorite and I'm still really fond of him. To be quite honest, I miss him. Silver was a sixty-year old flamboyant gay man. Like Eric, he was a submissive too. Silver's mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his father, who hated that his son was 'girly' and 'soft' and other words. Silver's father was cruel to him, and tried repeatedly to mold his son into what he wanted him to be, to no avail. Silver fled the scene as soon as he was out of high school and never looked back. But even though he was sixty and a long way away from that child he had been, he still suffered with a lot of mental health issues and was frequently very depressed and anxious. I realized later that Silver was sort of me but opposite everything. I'm not sure why that it is, but that's how he was. Silver was really cool, though. He liked who he was, he was open about himself, he was flamboyant, and fun, and confident when he wasn't feeling depressed. I guess in a way he was a lot of things that I wanted to be. I also went into a lot of mental health chat room as Silver. He allowed me to feel okay talking about his mental health (so in a linked up way, I was talking about my own depression or anxiety too, I suppose).
I kept a good distance with Silver though. I didn't allow any close friendships, I didn't 'pretend to be' Silver in real life, I kept him in certain boxes in certain places. At least I had learned from the ordeal with Eric.
In Feb. after turning 29 something else happened though. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was transgender. I knew that I had to try to stop being afraid--a lot of fear was still linked to religious things even though I was away from my family. I knew I had to be who I was and I had to accept that I was a guy. I had been fucking myself over for so long by trying to be someone else and I was exhausted by it. My mental health had suffered. I had made poor life choices based on trying hard to be things that I wasn't.
I told my best friend at the time that I was trans. I came out to them online. It felt pretty good by I was still afraid. I emailed another friend after. I started to pick clothing that I liked. I bought mens clothing from the thrift store. I cut my hair. I talked to my only friend who I had in real life at the time. I tried to talk to her about being trans. She threw a fit and stormed out of the coffee shop we'd been in. I came out to a group of people I'd recently met in the DS9 fandom. I asked them to use he/him/his pronouns.
And I became Jerry.
Finally "Jeri" was gone an a more accurate "Jerry" was in her place. I'd been using the name 'Jeri' online for probably ten years and aside from the feminine spelling of it, it felt right, and I wanted to keep it. It just needed to fit me better.
So here I am.
I've been Jerry for a little over a year now. The weird things is that it seems like I've been Jerry for so much longer.
I'm still not always comfortable with myself. Sometimes I don't get the courage up to use the mens room. I use my preferred name in public, but am still too worried to use my preferred pronouns in public. Hopefully that will change soon. I'm still working on getting past some of my hang ups. But things are a lot better than they have been. The weight of confusion that had been with me for so long was gone after I accepted myself as Jerry. Jerry is not a persona, or someone elses expectations; Jerry is me.
I don't know why I ever wasted my time trying so hard to be someone else.