For so many years I had no idea how lost I really was. I think this may not only be true for many trans folk, but it just might be true for almost everyone too!
By all outward appearances I was pretty successful. I was married for 25 years, raised 3 fabulous kids in an upper middle class suburb and thought I was living the American dream of the boomer generation that I was part of.
Yet, I knew there was something missing, as I knew that all of this was not enough. No, not really that it was not enough; because, after all it was plenty and more than most ever get to have. It was something very different. There was always the inner battle with gender variance. I was aware of that seemingly forever, although - with various degrees of difficulty - was able to keep it in check.
This all seemed to be working. Until......
My marriage ended after 25 years. The details of this are not important here. My internal battle with gender was a total secret and never, never, an open issue, although what it was doing to me internally at the time, I had no words to describe.
I was already lost in elementary school. By the second grade I did not know where I fit in. I did not have any friends in my classes that I would see after school. The boys seemed to talk about playing ball, and I had no idea how to do that. Growing up in a 2-room apartment in a big apartment building in Brooklyn, ball playing to me was playing "hit the penny" with a pink rubber ball. This is where a penny is put on a crack between 2 "boxes" on the sidewalk and you try to hit. My father kept making fun of me saying I threw like a girl - while he never taught me how to throw. This made me mad on so many levels.
In third grade, the boys played softball after school and one day I was asked to join them. I had no idea what I was doing. I learned what it was like to be the last person picked as sides were chosen. This made me mad on so many levels.
Inside me, there was so much anger, and I felt so lost. I had no idea where I belonged. I did not know how to "play" with the boys. I just wanted to watch TV, but I had to belong with them, I really did. But there were the days with mom's dresses too. I was so confused, so lost. All this made me mad on so many levels.
Over time, I learned to play ball with the boys. I learned to grab the ball first and lead, and worked myself up from being the last pick to the one who was team "captain" who did the picking. I belonged there with the boys, but inside I had lost so much of myself. I led most of my life not really knowing my true self, fighting what I thought was the good fight, having a successful career, getting married, raising a family. Deep down, I knew I had lost not only the sense of who I was, but also the ability to feel. I could fake it, and certainly did for so long, but it was only after my marriage ended did I stop blaming others for what I lacked, and dared to look for what I lost so long ago.
Some may call it courage. To the best of my knowledge that word never entered my mind. Looking back on that time it felt more like being trapped in a locked room and there was only one door to get out. I had to go deeply inside to escape the trap I found myself in. There was no other choice!
There were so many broken parts of me inside. I had no idea! Some were hiding, some were crying, one kept her back to me and refused to answer when I called to her. I stepped closer but what looked like a very large dog started to growl and I backed away. There was a box in the corner that had a faded sign on it, that as I got closer I made out the word "feelings." I took a quick look behind me and knew there was no turning back. This box was overflowing as I started to gently pick through piece after piece. As I rummaged through this box, there was a flood of tears falling from my eyes. I knew these were falling both inside and of me and outside too. Some of the pieces were damp, some were ice cold and some made a gentle purring sound as I picked them up as if they were happy to be found and held. I took a few of these with me, as it was time for me to go back to my "real" world.
So much has changed for me since I discovered that place. I am no longer lost as I have found so many of my lost parts and have chosen to live as my authentic self. There is no trapped room with only a single way out. I am free in the world!
I've gone back to my Lost and Found many times since that day. I know there are still many lost pieces of me to discover and become friends with. I don't really have a plan as to when I go, or what I am looking for, but find so much joy -- yes, a feeling, in each new discovery of a lost part of me. I hope that I do not lose any other parts of me as I continue my journey, but if I do, now I know where to find them.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. 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. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .