In talking about trans* stuff recently, I've been throwing around the fact that it was about 15 years ago I first sought to transition. But last night I did the math, and realized that means I was 17. Seventeen! and already I had been dealing with dysphoria long enough to recognize it for what it was. Still a minor, still not allowed to make my own decisions. And even still, I would've gone sooner if I could have; I was only out of the clutches of my abusive family for a week or two when I did go.
Lest you get the wrong impression, that was far more than half a lifetime ago. I was "born" in the summer of 1994. Oh sure, the date on my birth certificate is much earlier. But that summer is the beginning of the continued consciousness I've borne ever since. Before then, there are no memories. No, that's a lie. There are a few. A few scraps floating in the aether, untethered from any sense of time, devoid of any connection to one another. More like recollections of a previous life. Dangerous shards best left untouched. As far as any sense of self and consciousness goes: I was born in '94 on the steps of the ATS, standing next to a couple boys from my hall and another boy I had the deepest crush on, the four of us staring at a map trying to figure out where the ATS was. Four years later and I'd be walking into the health center at my uni, asking how to transition.
So when I say it was 15 years ago, that's three quarters of my life ago. I've known it was a long time, but I never really sat down to do the math until last night. I'm bad with time. Maybe it's because of those missing 13 years, but I've never been able to get a handle on the concept of age. When others say they did such-and-so when they were X years old, I never know how to map that back onto my lived experience. Because if X is less than 13, there isn't any lived experience to map onto.
Having decided to transition now, I only wish I could've started sooner. The longer your body is ravaged by T, the harder it is to undo the damage. Of course, those fifteen years ago I never could've succeeded. At 17 there's no way I could have afforded the transition, even if my parents wouldn't have disowned me two years later like they did. I was terrified of the idea of starting and then getting stuck in between, unable to finish, unable to adopt a natural life as a woman. The world was a different place then from how it is now. When wrestling with the decision, the biggest thing tipping the scales was my fear of transmisogyny. The fear of getting caught in between, the fear of losing financial solvency, the fear of never finding someone to love me, all of these were but symptoms of the true fear: the fear of being unable to endure the misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia I saw all around me. I saw how women were treated. I saw how queers were treated. There's no way I could have survived it then, and I knew it. The world is far kinder to us now than it was then.
The therapist I got when I first sought transition was another reason for my decision. I had been in therapy for some years already, and both of my previous therapists were excellent. I was in a far healthier state of mind entering undergrad than I had ever been in before. On top of that, moving three thousand miles away from my family did wonders for my mental health. All the same, I was still dealing with the vestiges of all that abuse, and needed someone willing to help with that. But no, the person I got wanted only to talk about the trans* issues, ignoring everything else I was dealing with. After the second visit, I just never went back. A couple months later I attempted suicide. Wasn't the first time. (It was, however, the last time.)
It's only been since starting to transition that I've drawn the connection between my depression and being transgender. So I never would have drawn a connection before between the failure of my therapist and the suicide attempt; but looking back now, it's a bit too conspicuous. A couple years later I entered therapy again, briefly, in the latter half of my time as an undergrad. I liked her. But, burned by my previous experience, I made sure to never bring up the trans* thing. Though even if I had, I couldn't really transition then either. My parents had disowned me halfway through undergrad, and so I'd been paying my own way for two years and was already in major debt. And this would be around the time Bush utterly destroyed the economy. Even as it was, I spent the next couple years doing my best to avoid becoming homeless.
Psychically exhausted and lacking a support net of any kind, there's no way I could have transitioned 15 years ago. Destitute and in debt, there's no way I could have transitioned 10 years ago. At best, maybe I could have started 5 years ago. But then maybe my wife wouldn't have been as ready and able to handle it then. When we got together, I made sure to bring the trans thing up— as I always do with my partners. So she knew, she's always known. And yet, like me in my early 20s, she secretly hoped it would go away in time. But like every other trans person's story I've heard, the dysphoria never does go away, it only gets worse in time.