Sunday, June 29, 2008

My coming-out letter

I've been debating whether to post the coming-out letter I read to my mom, and I finally decided that yes, it could be helpful to somebody else who's in the same situation, or could just be of interest to, well, somebody. So here it is:

Dear Mom,

This is probably the most difficult letter I'll ever have to write, and likely the most difficult letter you'll ever have to read.

You've probably noticed my increasing unhappiness over the past few years. I've been dealing with it for a very long time, even before I really knew what was going on. I couldn't relate to other people, and I just couldn't get excited or feel anything really intense. I often wondered just what was wrong with me, that I couldn't feel much of those kinds of feelings - was I just not wired for that? It was just this feeling of deadness inside, and it came and went. When it came, I just weathered the feelings, or complete lack of feelings, and tried my best to go on with my life. I didn't really attribute it to anything.

Over the past few years, those feelings have started coming on with more regularity, and started getting more intense. Now, that's basically the way I feel all the time; I'm emotionally paralyzed, and nothing has any lasting appeal. I can't get motivated to do anything - look for jobs, clean my house, wash my clothes, sometimes even feed and clean myself.

Not to worry, though, because I know what the problem is, and I also know what needs to be done to fix it.

Deep breath.

I am transgendered. That means that when the doctor called out "it's a boy" and everybody cheered, he didn't get it quite right. I have the normal boy parts, and have physically matured as a man, but that's not what is in my heart and my soul. Inside, I'm a girl. I have no choice in the matter but to feel this way; I just know that's what I am, and moreover, what I need to become. The clinical term for what I feel is Gender Dysphoria, and the name for the condition which I face is Gender Identity Disorder.

This is something which is in no way anyone's fault. It's not yours and dad's fault, for something you think you should have done, or should have not done, as I was growing up. Nor is it the fault of anybody I've known, or anything I've done. There has been research into the reason why this occurs, and there is some possible physical basis for it, which I can discuss with you at another time, if you like. The plain truth of the matter is that nobody really knows exactly why this happens. Knowing the exact reason would not make this any easier for me to tell, and would probably not make it any easier for you to hear.

So that feeling of disconnection and unhappiness, is my soul's attempt to say "hey, listen up! You're not as you should be!" This is not a new feeling; I've been trying to deal with this for many, many years. It started back when I was in high school, after I started going through puberty. I wasn't quite sure why I felt that disconnection, but it was present even back then. A few years after I came back home from being away at college, it started coming back a little bit, and it was starting to become more definite, and it started to become a bit more of a struggle to maintain my male identity. Right around 1999 or 2000, I finally was able to put a name to what I was feeling, though at the time I thought I was a cross-dresser. <ex-gf> knew about my feelings, as I understood them at the time, and accepted me and encouraged me to do what I needed to do to be comfortable with myself. As the years went on, however, I realized that my feelings were much stronger, and eventually figured out that it wasn't just something I needed to do occasionally, it was something that I am, all the time. I finally realized, probably about 2004, what I was really feeling, and what I needed to do. Since then, it has just been a struggle to keep going day after day. When I spent all those months unemployed, thoughts of suicide kept popping into my head. It would be much easier, I reasoned, if I didn't have to deal with this, and it was just over. I never got even close to doing anything about it, but those thoughts came often.

I gave being a man an honest try, but it's become very clear to me that I can't live like that and be happy. Moreover, I can't live an honest life like that - I'm not being honest to myself, and I'm not being honest to anybody else.

When I said that I'm a girl, I also said that it's what I need to become. The only kind of therapy which has lasting benefits for gender identity problems like mine, is a transition to living as the opposite gender. This will involve some medical intervention, including hormone treatment and possibly some surgical procedures, and counseling.

I want to assure you that I will not suddenly change into this completely different person. The changes I will undergo will be gradual, and will also not change the person I am on the inside. Under hormone replacement, I will basically go through a second puberty - that of a teenage girl. I'll probably become a lot more emotional, and my body will move fat around and I will develop breasts. I will lose muscle mass, and my body hair will become lighter, and (hopefully!) more sparse. I will need to undergo hair removal on my face, because last I checked, most girls don't have a 5 o'clock shadow.

There are also some surgical procedures available, which include plastic surgery on the face to give a more feminine appearance, and breast augmentation if the hormone treatments do not give a satisfactory result, and also a couple different kinds of genital surgery. At this point, I'm not sure what kinds of surgery I will want or need; there is no prescribed or required set of procedures, and any that I think I might want can be decided later on.

The point of all these changes is so that my heart and soul can at last feel comfortable about the skin they're moving around in. Unfortunately it's not possible to change the mind to match the body, so this is the only path I can follow.

I know this is a lot to take in at one time, but I hope that you can get some inkling of what I'm going through, from my words here. I want to help you understand this however I can; you can ask me any questions you want, whenever you need to.

I will forever be your child, boy or girl, and nothing can possibly change the fact that I love you very much, and take great strength from your love and support. I will need that love and support during the changes I will soon face.



My sister is the next one in the family who I want to come out to, but getting to a private face-to-face conversation with her is pretty difficult these days. I think I've got a plan, but it'll take a few weeks to get things set up. I'm also not sure whether I should prepare something along these same lines for that encounter; I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it together with my mom, but my sister is quite a different person, and I think she's much more open to differences. I think I'll probably be a lot less anxious, and should be able to actually speak in coherent sentences, and hopefully not blubber too badly.

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