In 1991 I was a pretty young transvestite and wanna-be drag queen in San Francisco, exploring my gender and sexuality. I called myself Robyn. I was very happily “out”, I had lots of fabulous friends and support in the queer community, but also had a punishing, self-destructive, and addictive side that eventually won out.
By 1996 I was an angry and lonely fat man, imprisoned by self-esteem issues combined with alcohol and food addiction. The shame and sadness I felt about losing my beautiful and feminine self was life threatening. I fell into addiction and isolation and self-loathing for many reasons, but shame and confusion over sex and gender was a big part of it.
In 2001 I entered 12 step recovery and lost 175 pounds and got totally sober. One cannot overstate the life-changing effects of such a profound transformation. It was like coming back from the dead. A massive rush of joy and delight at being in the world. It was also a total reset moment–Who am I? Who am I going to be?
I emerged determined to be as “wholesome” as possible. I was happy to be alive again and just wanted to be “normal”. I tried to give my identity a good hard look through therapy and 12 step work and I felt like I was on the right path at the time. I wish I had looked closer at re-visiting my feminine side with clear and sober eyes, but I was dismissive of it. I think I blamed and resented Robyn for “making me fat.” The damage my body suffered during obesity resigned me to thinking about my body as male.
In 2004 I fell in love and soon entered into a straight, monogamous marriage. I was open with her about my previous life, but I insisted that my gender and sexuality issues were a thing of the past. In retrospect I was dismissive and in denial and was unwilling to admit how much being Robyn had meant to me.
We had one wonderful child, and for that it was all worth it.
But there was always something a bit off, and no matter how great my life was I just didn’t LIKE myself very much. I had put myself back into the closet, assumed an identity that didn’t feel right. I was a grumpy and unhappy husband a lot of the time. We had a lot of good times, too, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what this story is about.
Over time, I found that my bisexuality was harder and harder to ignore. In opening that question to exploration I becoming increasingly honest about myself…with myself…and with other people…
I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that I was (and always had been) transgender. (I can and will say much more about that later. For now…yadda, yadda, yadda…TRANS!)
Releasing myself from decades of deep denial I have found a truth that brings me both incredible happiness and heartbreaking loss.
It’s not convenient for anyone that I am transgender, myself included.
But it’s the truth.
So. I’m not going to spend another DAY on this planet without being who I want to be.
Update, August 2017: The last year of living as Robyn has been pretty wonderful. I love who I am and each day I am joyfully grateful I get to be who I am. I have many advantages to be sure. White privilege, passing privilege, even a fair degree of pretty privilege, plus enough resources and social capital to live in the educated liberal oasis of the San Francisco Bay Area. While my marriage is dissolving in a loving and conscious manner I have the love and support of my child, his mother, her family and our community, which is my most valuable asset of all. My own family is estranged and while that is a source of some pain it is not something I dwell on or fight against. When we accept who we are and choose to follow the path of transition we know that there will be loss along the way. There are consequences to living openly as yourself, including causing distress to people you love, which is never easy. There has been heartache and loss along the way, and at times my life has felt like it is completely on fire, but at the center of it all I feel grounded and true. I am always happy that made this choice.
Update, February 2019.
Good lord, where to begin? Facial Feminization Surgery in August 2017. Divorced, amicably but with pain. Co-parenting my son. Self-employed. Living alone again. Boyfriends! Someone fell in love with me. It didn’t work out, bless his heart. I learned a lot. Sex Reassignment Surgery in March 2018. Went perfectly. Great decision. Works well. Zing-zing. Facelift and breast augmentation. Feels like medical transition is complete. I’m making art again, realizing how much I denied everything about myself including my talent. Stay tuned.
Update: September 2021