A year ago, I wrote this facebook post (slightly modified for re-posting here)...
16 September, 2016
A year ago today, I broke down crying.
It was in the morning. I had gotten up at the usual time. My partner left for work. I methodically showered while being careful not to stare at myself in the mirror, made my breakfast and then walked across our apartment - the best of a series of nicer and nicer places I'd lived in an attempt to feel "complete" - to work at my desk.
I put off working for a few minutes to drink my coffee, and found myself staring intently at a picture a friend had posted of her trying on dresses after going clothes shopping with her mother.
Five minutes passed, and I was still staring. I wasn't fantasising about her sexually, even though she's an absolutely beautiful person. I realised, after a while, that I had spent the whole time wishing I could ~be~ her. To have just gone dress shopping. This wasn't some glorified idea of it being perfect, either. I wanted the experience of going shopping, finding things that didn't quite fit right or being annoyed that they didn't have a size that fit because some part of my body not fitting a dressmaker's idea of what a woman should be shaped like. I just wanted an experience that felt more right than the one I'd had every day of my life so far.
For years I had alternated between knowing as a young person I "should have been a girl", to denying it completely, to suspecting it again as I thought back on my life, to what had become my "current" state at this point - actively reading about trans people, and finding any reason I could for it not to be me out of fear of what accepting it and transitioning would entail.
But I caught myself staring at my friend's dresses, and I realised I did this sort of thing all the time - still somehow telling myself I wasn't doing it. I caught myself wishing, and all my carefully-constructed denial and specifically-tailored behaviours to work around crippling dysphoria & self-loathing just came crashing down around me.
I'd tried everything to make myself happy, always sure that finishing this novel or making this movie or finally making a game or having a bigger tv or a nicer phone or a better apartment or whatever else would be The Thing Which Finally Made Me Content, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that none of these things did. I didn't even want to be ~happy~ - I was sure that wasn't possible. I just wanted to be able to enjoy small moments, and not live in constant stress and discomfort, unable to function.
A year ago today, I broke down crying because I knew that either I was going to have to do something about this, or I couldn't keep going.
I curled up in a ball on the floor for half an hour, until my face hurt, I was sneezing between tears from the dust on the carpet, and standing up made me feel dizzy.
I messaged one of my best friends.
"I’m actually really nervous discussing this, even with you," I began.
I came out to her. Then to my partner. Then to my brother. And my sister. The order was as much pragmatic as anything else. Whoever I saw in the small group I knew I wanted to tell right away, I told.
I wanted to make sure that I would be held accountable. I didn't want everyone to know; I just wanted close friends knowing - ones who wouldn't let that conversation pass. I knew I couldn't slip back into hiding, but that fear might make me try to do that.
A few people told me that they thought I was "very brave", and that threw me completely. Because to me, nothing about this was brave. It was the end of what I saw as decades of cowardice, refusing to accept myself and instead becoming a bitter construction. I only made the choice I did because I knew it was that or... I don't want to think about that.
I knew a lot of things were likely. I knew I'd lose friends, possibly even some of my best friends if they had more difficulty with it than I imagined it. I knew it'd be expensive and tougher than anything I'd ever done. I knew I'd lose my royal flush of social privilege and go rocketing somewhere down the rungs of "people old white guys treat as sub-human".
Some parts were easier than I feared, and others were even harder than I'd imagined.
Within months I was single for the first time in a decade, and while my friends stood up around me and supported me to an extent that still blows my mind, regardless I found myself in a terrible, lonely place. I was so emotional I didn't go a day without crying. My body ached and yet I wasn't even close to being in a position to really feel I looked "like a woman". I just felt uncomfortable.
I came out when I did because it was getting harder and harder to hide physical changes, and when I did I had a friend by my side with tequila at the ready for when I pushed the 'post' buttons and activated [my] new Facebook account.
However, despite everyone's support, some part of me was sure I'd be this lonely, single, strange-looking girl forever. And I was prepared to be that. I would take any form of loneliness and pain, if I didn't have to keep pretending to be a man.
It still hurts sometimes to think of some of the things I lost, and even more to think back on the people I hurt while lashing out in confusion over why the world - and my place in it - never made sense.
Despite this, though... I was wrong. Completely wrong.
I just wanted to end the pain, and I would have been happy with just that.
Instead I've found incredible relationships springing up, some who never knew me before and others who've known me for most of my life.
I spend more days than not enjoying small moments, no longer feeling the need to desperately obsess over whatever the next superficial goal is.
It hasn't all been roses. I was right that it was the toughest thing I'd ever do. Some of it I've blogged about, and some is still too personal. But on balance...
I really am happy.
Little moments with friends matter. Whether it's cooking absurd "desert" pizzas with housemates on pizza night, watching your family almost lose a soccer ball over a fence, makeup-and-wine parties, or a gentle kiss & feeling your limbs intertwined with a partner as you watch a movie or a TV show.
I don't hate myself any more. I've got a long way to go, and I still find so many social interactions scary as I re-learn so many things that I felt comfortable doing before... but I'll manage it.
Even on days where I poke myself in the eye with mascara and my bank balance laughs at me and some shithead misgenders me and my breasts ache so much I can't focus on work... it doesn't matter. It's all transient background noise that'll pass, and I know - really know - that things are only getting better.
Relationships - of all sorts - feel honest now, and sex no longer feels like something confusing that I keep being told I need to do a certain way.
I'm not scared of growing old now, and when someone says my name I smile.
I own my emotions and my sexuality, and I'm slowly becoming the kind of person fifteen-year-old-me daydreamed about being. (And not just because I'm a blonde game developer who doesn't look terrible in lipstick and a black dress.)
I'm not ashamed or upset about being trans any more, either.
Not even close.
There are some experiences I'll never have that many of my cis friends have had or will have, but I increasingly see the value in my own experiences - in learning from them, expressing them, and enjoying what unique moments I get in my life.
The next year is going to be better than ever before, and it's all because of my friends and family being amazing people.
I was right. I went through more things - both trials and pleasures - and lots has changed. (I'm a redhead now! And to my delight it suits me.)
I've become more conscious of my sexuality, grown comfortable being poly, and have enjoyed months of often just enjoying the relaxed feeling of lying in bed, looking forward to the next day.
I don't recognise the girl in the mirror even a little bit as the person I used to pretend to be, and that fills me with so much delight, because while I don't think I was an awful person before, I was never happy, and I hurt more people than I'll ever be comfortable with.
A new friend who hadn't met me before told me after we went out for drinks last week said that she thought I looked young, but couldn't be much younger than her if at all, as I seemed to confident in my body. That blew my mind.
She was right.
I tried to imagine past-me being 'confident' or comfortable in my body, and it just wasn't possible. I could feign it, not always effectively, but just walking into a bar to order drinks before my friends showed up used to fill me with dread.
But last week it barely factored into my thinking. I found the bar we'd agreed to meet at - a bar I'd never been to before - ordered a drink and sat at the bar waiting for my date. My only real concern was that a cool & stunning woman asked me to meet her for drinks - the small social interactions and even the 'being out in public' part didn't bother me one bit.
That may not seem like much, but it's an enormous step forward for me in terms of my ability to not feel like just being in public was too difficult a task to be worth it.
Two years and my whole life has changed. It took more or less entirely changing my body to do it, but it was worth it, even during absolutely horrid times like those our government is currently putting us queer people.
Anyway, short version: gonna raise a glass tonight to past-me, for finally making the toughest decision ever, and turning out to be absolutely 100% right to do so.