Last year around this time, I read the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I’d read a few of her other books prior to reading this one, but there was something about this book that pulled me in right away. The feeling of being tamed was something that I had been struggling with for awhile. Like I just did what was expected of me. I worked full-time, I signed the kids up for sports and drum lessons, kept track of homework, chest-fed the younger three after overcoming an aversion to the idea that kept from doing so with my oldest, tried to keep my unruly spouse in line, cleaned up after all the people, and took care of a zoo’s worth of pets in our home.
And it was slowly killing me.
I deployed a lot of times, mostly for 2-3 months at a time, but another was 6 months and my last was a year. And then I would return home and back to this world of crushing responsibility. I’d write elaborate FB statuses about how busy I was and how I LOVED MY LIFE, all while wondering what the fuck it all really meant. There was a part of me deep down that was screaming every minute that this was not the life I was supposed to be living.
I tried HARD to fit in with women. Like, really hard. I bought all the MLM products like 31, LLR, Rodan and Fields, etc, etc, ETC. I even signed up to sell them and pretended I was all about purses, leggings, and skin care. The harder I tried, the heavier I felt inside. This life could not possible be mine.
On my last deployment – the one year – I finally lived a long period of time as just me. Sure I had family back home, but I could call when I was able to coordinate our schedules and I could avoid them if I really needed to. Wait, did I just say that? I did not call home because I did not want to. Or I needed to NOT call home?? What kind of parent, especially a MOTHER, does not want to call back home. Surely I was broken and messed up if I didn’t want to call my children.
My best friends on the deployment were a bunch of guys. Who I later found out considered me “one of the guys.” I knew it. I could feel that’s how our friendship was. It was great because they weren’t hitting on me. Actually, they barely seemed to notice I wasn’t physically a guy. I found that very freeing, but also concerning. I see a lot of transwomen concerned that they just aren’t passing as women. But here I was, AFAB, and I wasn’t passing as a woman. I wasn’t sure what to do with that, so I decided to let it come out as anger, the standard acceptable emotion for me. I got mad at them and pouted about some completely unrelated thing. They apologized, but the stress of not passing weighed heavy on me. Coupled with a lack of desire for any kind of physical relationship with my spouse, I could feel that there was something really messed up about to explode out of me.
So back to my TAMING…
As a kid, I refused to receive the message of what a “little girl” does because, as I saw myself, I was not a girl. There was this German guy who lived across the street and he had two granddaughters who visited often. I would hear them complaining about “those boys across the street that are throwing rocks” which was my brother and I. I felt happy inside because that’s what they saw, even though I had a pink bike I hated and sometimes I was forced to wear dresses. I was forced into a lot of things aimed to tame me. But it wasn’t until middle school that I suddenly started receiving the messaging. I wanted badly to fit in. I tried to grow out my hair, I tried to like the boys but I could only manage to chase around the gay ones. I would try to like the boys that everyone else liked as well, because my taste was questionable. I couldn’t force myself to be physical with boys and lost my first boyfriend after two weeks. I just didn’t want him to touch me. When he did hug me, I felt repulsed. It’s hard to explain, but it was very confusing.
In high school, I did slightly better, but I was focused on self-destruction and being unhappy. I would reel in my boyfriend, just to push him away. It was a cycle that nearly broke him and although we are friends now as adults, I do feel terrible for not being able to know who I was enough to keep myself from hurting him repeatedly. He did not deserve that.
In college, I started dating women but was VERY uncomfortable being labeled as a lesbian. I hated the word. I preferred bisexual or to just say that I liked girls. After my divorce, I would only say that I liked girls and bristled at the word lesbian. It just didn’t feel like it fit.
And then I read Untamed. It was like Glennon was writing this book for me. Like she could see the boy I was on the inside and she was telling me to bust out of the hole I locked myself in and start living as the man I was meant to be. I retreated into my own soul and started exploring all the memories of being untamed before the world got to me and how I was before I accepted society’s messaging that I was supposed to be a good girl.
It took a long time, almost a year, before Zander really showed himself to me. He liked biking and swimming when we a kid. He liked being loud and telling jokes. And most of all, he was happiest running around with his brother and the boys in the neighborhood, getting into things he shouldn’t have been. He really wanted to play baseball and soccer, but was forced into ballet and figure skating. He wanted to play hockey but was strongly discouraged from that too.
But what he really wanted was to be acknowledged for the first time in my life. He wanted to understand why the split between him and the girl me had to happen. Why we couldn’t play with the boys in the neighborhood in middle school and beyond. Why we had to marry a man and have children. And most of all, why I left him hidden alone in the deepest, darkest part of my soul.
As I feel myself become Zander mentally and prepare for physical changes, I feel a deep sense of happiness inside. My wife is supportive, my oldest two children are supportive, the friends who know are supportive, and my ex is supportive. I think a lot of old Air Force colleagues and people who have known me a long time will understand and some things will suddenly make more sense. I never hid parts of my personality that made me unpassable because I didn’t know how. And so more people will likely raise an eyebrow and just kind of know that they really knew all along.
And soon I won’t be split into two anymore. Soon I will just be Zander. The man I was always supposed to be. Completely UNTAMED.