I would not dare utter the word!
It was just like the characters in the Harry Potter books who would be afraid to utter the name Voldemort out loud. Just thinking about it was scary enough, but saying the name out loud would be certain to bring impending doom.
Yes, it was just like that!
This was five years ago, and I had already, a year earlier in 2009, "come out" to my family and neighbors that I was transgender and cross-dressed to go out as a woman.
Telling them was really hard, but not the hardest choice I had to make.
Sometime in the middle of 2010 I began to understand that I was not a cross-dresser. I was a ....a.....a.....
I was 63-years-old and never could say the word out loud. I was afraid that if I dared to utter it -- if the word actually formed and left my lips, it would make it true -- and then -- my life would be over. Deep down I knew it was true, I really did, and I knew it for a long, long time.
I finally summoned all the courage within me, accepted my truth and said the word. I am a ...a...a...transsexual.
Telling myself this was really hard, but not the hardest choice I had to make.
Now that I reached the point of self-acceptance, the question at hand was whether or not I would transition and live the rest of my life as my true self. What if my kids could not handle their father becoming a woman? What if? If I chose my own path and journey, would that be selfish? If they abandoned me, could I deal with it? I had no idea how they would take it, and I heard so many stories of bad outcomes from people who had traveled this path before.
This was my hardest choice. My kids were all adults at this time and I was living on my own for the past 9 years after a 25-year marriage. I told myself I had to move forward. If my kids could not deal with it, that was not under my control or even my responsibly. Perhaps this was selfish, or wrong, but it was the hardest choice I ever made. This was the decision to move forward even in the face of potential losses.
I have been one of the lucky ones. I have been blessed in that I went forward and have lost no one in my family. I know that many people have not had this experience. When we choose to go on out own journeys of truth, we will force those closest to us in life to go a journey that they were most likely not expecting, and not wanting to take. I realized how hard it was for me to wrestle with my choices, but it was even harder for me to put myself in my kid's shoes to understand what must be going through their minds and hearts. I simply just wanted their acceptance first. If I was lucky, perhaps they would also understand. I did not realize how hard this latter part might be. I transitioned in 2011, and last year as I was writing my book, one of my sons and his wife shared what their experience of my journey was like for them.
In my book, No! Maybe? Yes! Living my Truth, I shared that conversation I had with my son Elie and his wife Becca. They told me how it was for them when I shared that I was transgender (I was 62 at the time). I was in Boston and they were in Tucson, so we had a long conversation over the phone. They were totally supportive. Here's a bit of what we said:
Becca: Elie talked to you a long time and I was hoping everything was OK. He came in and told me that everything was OK, but my dad just told me he was transgender. I said, "Oh! That's a surprise." Usually when there is a long conversation it is terrible news.
Grace: For some, many people this would be terrible news.
Elie: Right, for many people that would be terrible news...but what I feel like it is just news...
Becca: Surprising news.
Elie: Just a turn of events. Sexual identity, gender identity, those are just who you are. Like if you called and said you were gay, or are gay, then it would have been like, OK.. to me it didn't have a big... well, it did have a big effect on me, but it doesn't directly change who I am... or change what my relationship with you is.
During the conversation I asked them if my transition caused them any losses. Elie told me that he lost the illusion that his dad always had a happy life.
Elie: I need my life not to be living like that. My dad has been unhappy for sixty years; we need to make sure we don't do that. We always make sure we are living the life we want to live.
It appears that by choosing the path to live my truth, my son was inspired to make sure he lives his!
Later in the conversation Elie made the most important statement:
Elie: I don't understand why I would cut you off. I don't understand any situation where a parent would abandon a kid or a kid would abandon a parent. I don't understand how to do anything different but care for you, because you cared for me forever. We all care for each other, and you didn't do anything wrong...
These are the family values that are important. Love and acceptance and the realization that when you live your truth and just be who you really are -- you have not done anything wrong.
Yes, I have been very blessed. After decades of wrestling with myself thinking I was doing something wrong, or even worse, that I was wrong, now I know -- I have done nothing wrong! I could not utter those words until my son said them out loud. These are powerful words. Far more powerful than words that bring the feelings of impending doom, these words bring everlasting joy.
The hard choices of my journey were not only mine. They were hard choices for my family too and I am thankful for the choices they made. We will always be a family.
Reality is that our journey to living our truth is not always easy. Our hard choices often force others to make hard choices. We can only hope that the map for making these choices has a legend guided by love, compassion and understanding.
(The full conversation between Grace and her son can be found in her book, No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth)
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. For more information about Grace, her work and her Gender Variance Education training visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/.