I love Boy George and Culture Club. I have loved them since I was about 6 years old. The whole idea of a boy dressed like a girl didn’t even strike me as strange. I liked their songs, their voices, all of their music. As I’ve gotten older, that hasn’t changed, although I understand so much more of what they mean. It’s like when you are a kid, you just dismiss whatever concepts you don’t understand. That’s definitely what I did with so much in music and movies.
One of my favorite songs by Culture Club is “Black Money.” I didn’t even know this song as a kid, probably because it was on the other side of the cassette from everything I loved. As an adult, it hit me pretty deep the first time I really listened to it. “Somebody else’s life cannot be mine.”
It took me so long to understand that. The life I was trying to live wasn’t the life I was meant to be living. I was trying to be the perfect parent, spouse, and employee but I was so unhappy. I was wearing clothes I hated, feeling uncomfortable in all of it, except my military uniform. I was trying to sell various MLM products, convinced that would somehow connect me to what I was supposed to be in life. But none of it felt fulfilling or like me at all. I mistakenly thought that if I continued to force myself out of my comfort zone, I would LEARN how to live as a girl. But if I refused to learn a child, tried a bit as a middle schooler but wasn’t successful, tried slightly harder as a teenager, stopped trying in college, and tried a bit as a young adult with zero success, why did I think I could finally learn in adulthood with full effort? Why couldn’t I see that I was destroying myself from the inside? Every time I did one of these insane things, I felt gross. I felt wrong. I was miserable.
It took me a long time to just stop faking it. I cleared my closet of the clothes that I could not stand and felt awkward in. I threw all the barely used makeup away. I hated how it felt on my skin and how insecure I felt walking around with it on. I hated the expensive shoes I kept buying but never wearing because I hated them so me in the mirror. I tried SO HARD to like what I thought I was supposed to like. I tried to wear my hair in ways that were more feminine but I hated it. Every time I would get it cut short, I would try to find a feminine short style that I could style the way I liked it without seeming like I was trying to be a boy.
Eventually I just stopped. I brought shirts for my oldest’s high school graduation that I hated. I was trying to dress like I felt I should. I’ve never wanted my identity to be something that affected my kids negatively. It was hard enough on them that I was in the military, but to be something completely different than everyone else’s mom…that was too much. I had a huge panic attack that came out as extreme angry that day. I hated both of the shirts and how they fit. I felt like I was in drag. I always have in women’s clothes. They all just make me feel so uncomfortable.
The more I have drifted into wearing what feels good to me, the more I have rediscovered who I am. I have remembered who I wanted to be when I was a kid. I remember who I was, and who I have always been. I often make the mistake of reading what the rest of the world thinks about people like me. Like being trans is a mental illness, or I just didn’t try hard enough to like myself as I was. That I am a groomer who wants to recruit children with a “trans agenda.” That’s pretty laughable because I have shed so many tears trying to make myself NOT be trans. If there was any way I could change myself, I would. I have tried. I don’t want this for anyone else. The pain that I endured my entire life with this is not something I would ever try to force on anyone else. I just want to live my own life quietly in a way that is comfortable for me without anyone harassing or hurting me or my family.
I tried my own type of conversion therapy by forcing myself to do things that felt awful and uncomfortable for decades. I prayed so hard for so many years to just be changed and learned to accept myself. I went to church faithfully for years. I did everything I was supposed to do and I believed wholeheartedly that all the prayers would help me. I prayed FOR YEARS for this to go away. It didn’t. I tried and cried and tried some more. I tried to not bring it up in therapy because I didn’t want to even acknowledge that it was real. If I hide it, it’s not there.
If only that worked. It didn’t. When I finally brought it up in therapy, it was tough. We first talked about why I was trying to avoid it. Why I didn’t want to acknowledge it and why I was so scared of it. I finally blurted out because that makes it real. And I don’t want this to be real. And then she asked the question that changed my life. “Do you think the reason you are so unhappy is because you don’t want to see who you really are? And pushing that, among other things, away is just making you live a life that feels terrible?”
Yes. Yes that was exactly it. Because the moment I plucked those thoughts from the hidden abyss in my soul and let myself consider this as a reality, I started to feel lighter and better. I started crying out so much pain and invalidation that I was forcing on myself. I starting thinking about why I hate mirrors and pictures and why I shower without looking down as much as possible and why I cannot stand to see myself at all. I never liked to see myself in pictures since puberty. I hated being in any pictures. It didn’t matter what my weight was, how great my hair looked, or if I was wearing something I loved. I loved being in pictures as a kid and forced myself into pictures that I wasn’t supposed to be in. I was always posing and being goofy because I loved it. And then puberty hit and I hated seeing myself looking the way I did. I felt ugly and gross.
After the military, I was able to design my life the way I wanted it for the most part. I could choose what I wanted to do for work; or not even work. I could chose what activities I enjoyed without worrying about if I should choose to do that because people might think it’s weird. I didn’t have to worry about what anyone else might think. And now I get to wear whatever I want. I have made so many changes in that I refuse to wear anything that makes me uncomfortable. I am under no pressure from anyone to wear anything I don’t want to wear. This part of my life is so much better than the last part. I am finally happy. I am finally me, living my own life and not someone else’s. FINALLY.