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Coming Out (Part Three Of Four): When I Actually Came Out

There’s two things you should know, which kind of make this story a tad less dramatic and awesome and fun to tell than it would otherwise be:

1) My family are scattered all over the place. We currently live in Vancouver, Alaska, Montreal, North Carolina, England, Scotland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Boston, Canterlot, New York and Toronto. I’m the only one in Vancouver, and I made one of those up.

2) At the time all this happened, I had only recently moved to Vancouver, and didn’t yet have any friends in the city. Except for Mittens, my cybernetic velociraptor.

This means all my coming out as trans didn’t happen in person, which makes the story a whole lot less cool and exciting than most people’s stories. Sending e-mails doesn’t quite have the same dramatic force as speaking to family in dim 1am kitchens over glasses of port. Nonetheless, I can hardly do a series all about coming out without talking about my own coming out. It’s times like these that I regret my policy of telling the truth about my experiences.

“No seriously, guys! I totally killed a Tigerman warlock with an allen key and a pack of mint skittles!”

Finally coming to terms with my need to transition was directly connected to my efforts to kick my heroin addiction. I found myself sitting three months in to a relapse that had gotten to the point of daily use (or multiple-times daily, when I could afford it). I was quite literally just waiting to die, and my depression had also gotten to the point of suicidality just a few months previous, at the beginning of the relapse.

When I made up my mind to quit, I knew that making it last would mean making a very serious re-appraisal of my life, my choices, my regrets, and the sources of the pain I was trying to medicate. I knew it would require a very long, hard look at myself, and confronting all the things I had desperately been trying to avoid confronting for all those years. After a few weeks of this process, I finally allowed myself to acknowledge the problem that had been staring me in the fact for such a long time. I knew it was there, I’d always known it was there, but I had just been too scared to confront it and openly name it. But this time, I knew that I had finally been backed into a corner, and my choice was to either deal with it or simply allow myself to die. As others have said before me: I didn’t choose to accept myself and choose to transition, I chose not to die, I chose not to kill myself.

I had to finally say it, speak the terrifying truth: I was transsexual. I had to transition.

Now, as said, I’d known this for a very, very long time. It’s not like coming out of my big hazy lovely Mazzy Star-soundtracked opiate haze resulted in a “Eureka! Now I understand! I want to be a girl!” kind of moment.  The truth had been lingering beneath the surface… not quite beneath consciousness, as I was certainly conscious of it, but beneath the threshold of truths I was willing to accept. I think it speaks volumes about human perception that we can know something so intimately and acutely for such a long period of time and still just not be able to admit it. It’s kind of like someone on trial for murder, with a mountain of incontrovertible evidence staring her in the face, still insisting over and over that she didn’t do it. Except even weirder, because I was the accused, the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the judge. And the evidence too? Thinnest. Stretched. Analogy. Ever.

In childhood I knew that I was different from other kids, and from other boys, since I first was able to articulate a concept of difference. But there were lots of things that were different about me, and my head was always cluttered with a thousand concepts, and a thousand means of iterating my identity and positioning myself as Other. Most adults… my parents, my teachers, friends of the family… simply chalked up my isolation from other children and inability to fit into conventional norms of behaviour (and gender) as simply being an issue of my being “creative”, “artistic”, “intelligent” and “gifted”. My dad and brothers often just called it “weird”. For the first part of my life, I was able to simply accept that as the explanation: I was just “weird”. And for some reason I just didn’t worry too much about explaining it beyond that. I knew that I was not like other boys, but I didn’t worry too much about defining what exactly I was like.

There were certain hints and intimations along the way, little breadcrumbs forming a trail, but none of them were substantive enough. I was too caught up in other concerns and confusions, and I chalked it up to an overall fractured identity and sense of alienation (though I’d be awfully impressed if my 9 year-old self was able to use the terms “fractured identity” and “sense of alienation”).

One of the first chapter books I read, purchased during a book fair, was about a boy hearing the superstition that if you kiss your own elbow (on the hard, outside part) you’ll turn into a member of the opposite sex. Later that evening he falls out of bed and gets tangled up in his sheets… in the process, he finds himself in such a position that he’s able to kiss his elbow, and can’t resist doing so out of curiosity, and partly just to prove he’s able. The rest of the book follows his story as he begins to believe he’s turning into a girl, but is actually simply learning to open up and free himself from constrained gender roles… he starts becoming more in touch with his emotions, gets better at penmanship and English class, learns how to do gymnastics and befriends a socially isolated girl who he used to pick on and ends up playing jacks with her.

That book fascinated me, I immediately felt a strong desire to be able to become a girl myself, and secretly tried as hard as I could to kiss my own elbow. I was bitterly disappointed at the end of the book when it turns out that he wasn’t turning into a girl, and that such a thing can’t really happen. I began trying out other superstitions… liking wishing on stars, or praying to God to change me. I wished that one morning I’d just wake up and be female. I imagined countless different iterations of this scenario, trying to imagine what the ideal version would be: would my friends and family recognize me or would the magic reconfigure the universe so it would be like I had always been female? I thought it over endlessly, literally trying to figure out ways to bend reality itself. All of it in secret. And all without ever showing any outward interest in “girly” things. I knew it wasn’t allowed. But I also knew I wanted to be a girl. I just wasn’t quite able to get from that point to being able to accept my identity as such (not yet understanding the concept of gender beyond simple physical fact), and I didn’t really have any frame of reference for articulating those feelings. I knew there was such a thing as “sex change operations” and “transsexuals”, but I mentally categorized that as something apart from actually being female, and knew that they were considered gross, wrong and funny, ridiculous, a cultural punchline. In fact, I’m pretty sure I primarily learned about “sex changes” through overhearing crude jokes at their expense.

But when I was 14 years old, and adolescence began to set in… well… there were a few things that happened. One was the experience of my body masculinizing, which completely horrified me. I was turning into something alien and repulsive to my sense of self. On top of that, my adolescence wasn’t quite going in a normal way. This is something that is still very embarrassing to talk about, but… well, for some reason, whether the prednisone I was taking for my asthma or perhaps some kind of underlying intersex condition like Klinefelter’s or MAIS, my body was also developing some feminine secondary sex characteristics. This resulted in my frequently being gendered female. This was extremely emotionally complex for me in that on the one hand it didn’t really feel wrong for me, but at the same time I was being viciously mocked and bullied for it by my peers. One day I decided that the easiest thing to do would be to simply become a woman. I didn’t dislike the idea, after all, and actually thought it would be really nice. It would also mean I wouldn’t have to continue to experience all the creepy, alienating changes in my body, but instead just go with the ones that didn’t feel quite so wrong. I’d be free from all the constraining expectations of male socialization that I’d hated for so long, and no one would pick on me for looking like a girl any more.

(those feminine characteristics I’d developed, and the masculine traits I’d averted, have of course turned out to be a blessing and have ended up making it much easier for me to pass and be accepted as female. I’d say it was the universe karmically balancing out my previous suffering if it weren’t for the fact that there’s no such thing as karma and for the truly epic, incomprehensible, cosmic degree to which the universe doesn’t care about my tiny, mind-blowingly insignificant life)

So… after a couple days thinking over this thought of becoming a girl, I decided to tell my family, or at least the segment I was living with at the time: my father, his second wife, and my brothers. They were so horrified by it. Writing this, right now, I can still feel my heart sink, a lump in my stomach, a stab of humiliation, and a welling sadness. My father was appalled. My brothers were embarrassed. My then-stepmother didn’t take me seriously, mocked it and said “if you’re serious you should just do it, but if this is a joke you should just shut up about it.” I was terrified of their reaction, and decided that I’d run with her suggestion- it was just a joke. Hahaha. You didn’t really think I wanted to actually become a woman did you? Hahaha. Who would want something like that? I was just kidding. You know. Because of how everyone at school picks on me for looking like a girl. Lulzy lulz.

And after saying that, I couldn’t go back to it. I couldn’t tell them I’d been serious. It just hurt so much, and the looks on their faces stuck with me. I bottled it up inside, and decided I wouldn’t think about it, I’d push it away. It was a stupid idea. I even tried convincing myself it had been just a joke (but as good at lying to myself as I’ve always been, that one never took). But still… that was the first step forward. That was when I’d first articulated to myself the desire to pursue transition.

It took a long time before it began to emerge again. I can’t really remember what triggered it, but when I was 17, in the months leading up to when I dropped out of high school, it came back. That time, I felt it strongly enough that I began researching it. I’d stay up awake for entire nights browsing the internet, reading all about it. I went to sites like Transsexual Road Map and Authentikate and Amberspace and Lynn Conway’s TS Women’s Successes (I wonder if I should add myself to that?) and everything. I even took the stupid fucking COGIATI (which said something like “oh hai, i’m in ur gender identity, giving u teh tranz”). I learned the terminology, learned the process and risks, learned what transition actually entailed, and learned what I could expect. I decided I was going to do it.

I knew the first step was getting a therapist. So I asked my mom (who I was then living with) to help me get into therapy, “for depression”, and she kindly obliged. Unfortunately, in order to afford it, it had to be done through her place of employment, Duke University. That required about a 7 month waiting period.

By the time I finally got to begin seeing that therapist, I had become scared and repressed again, and pushed myself back into denial. At no point over the 6 months I saw that therapist did I tell him about my gender identity issues, or even my sexual attraction to men. It didn’t help that he was a young man who took a very “buddy”-ish approach to his patients… this caused me to regard him as something of a peer, and made me not want to expose any of my secrets, present my vulnerabilities or cause him to think less of me. Funny thing, though… I sort of did send one little covert hint, when I made him a mix CD. I put a song on it by one of the Elephant Six bands (I forget which… maybe early Of Montreal?) called “Tim, I Wish You Were Born A Girl”.

He said he liked the mix but hated that song.

Over the following years my wish to transition kept emerging again and again. Almost exactly every two years. Every time I would begin formulating some kind of plan, and go through the same contemplations about names and style and how I’d come out and how my future plans would change and what treatments I would and wouldn’t pursue and try to figure out how to afford it… and then go ahead and convince myself it wasn’t the right time, or I had too much to lose, or I couldn’t afford it, or it was “too late” anyway, and I’d try to come up with some kind of compromise. I’d try to come up with various identities that would “suffice”… like trying to express my femininity through a male identity, via things like goth, twee, indie or dandyism. Or by coming out as gay, and adopting a somewhat femme persona within that idiom (which was a bit of a failure in its own right, since I was still too scared of people questioning my gender to actually open up that side of myself).

So for twelve years I knew I was transsexual without ever acting on it, until I found myself suicidal, alone in a dingy East Vancouver basement suite removed from all my friends and family, slowly dying of heroin addiction. THEN, and ONLY then, was I able to finally say “yeah, I should probably do something about this.”

So please don’t call me brave. Brave would have been accepting the disappointment of my family and pursuing it when I was 14. Brave would have been being able to open up to a therapist in a confidential setting. Brave would have been being able to stick with my choices, confront the actual issue, and not constantly seek out an easier alternative. Brave is not waiting until you’re actually dying before you finally address a problem.

Isolated as I was in Vancouver, the first people I told were a group of friends from a web forum I’d been a member of for a very very long time. This forum had long since split off from its original subject matter, but I’d been there for about nine years at that point, and it had become a very small but intimate group. I’d met lots of the members IRL, and I’d shared a tremendous amount about my life, up to and including my struggle with heroin and problems with family and even the sexual assault I’d experienced when I was 16. So telling them only seemed appropriate, really, and there was a sense of consequencelessness, like it would hurt to lose them but they couldn’t really lash out at me, no matter how poorly they took it. But they reacted really well. The only reaction that was even remotely hurtful was one person with a somewhat Butlerian feminist attitude who sort of said “Who cares? What’s the big deal? Gender is just a performance and doesn’t really matter.”

I relied on them for initial support, and articulating the process I was going through, but I remained closed up about it to my family and my IRL friends for a long while.

However, I felt at that point like I’d already wasted enough of my life, and that I wanted to transition as quickly as I could. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist to get my diagnosis and approval for hormones and simultaneously got myself on a waitlist for one of the clinics in Vancouver that handles trans patients and HRT prescriptions, timing it so my appointment with them would follow shortly after acquiring my approval letter. I began going in for laser hair removal whenever I could scramble together enough cash, and likewise began doing a bit of shopping for girl clothes and make-up whenever able (using things like Halloween, and female accompaniment, as cover… oh the many cashiers who told me how sweet it was that I was buying gifts for my girlfriend).

I immediately began attending weekly support groups and met all kinds of great trans people (along with all kinds of not-so-great ones), who were an invaluable source of information and support, and also helped confirm that I was doing the right thing in how happy I felt to be around people who treated and accepted me as female, and would refer to me by the name Natalie (once I finally chose it) and by female pronouns, regardless of how long it was before I began publicly presenting as female.

I decided to transition in early September. By Christmas I had started hormones. A month after that, my depression had almost completely faded, I felt happier and more at peace than I ever had, the hormones and the changes occurring in my body felt completely right, and I was absolutely certain that I had made the right choice- the best choice I’d ever made in a life that up until then had been defined by mistakes.

It took awhile before I finally began telling family. My reasoning for this, at the time, was that I wanted to wait until I was past the “point of no return”, so that there would sort of be no point in them trying to talk me out of it. That way I’d simply be informing them of a decision I’d made, that they could accept or not, and I’d be sparing myself the possibility of having them try to talk me out of it.

I was definitely scared. Very, very, very scared. Stupidly so. The memories of what had happened the first time still lingered with me. I was also very poor, and still partly dependent on my family for financial support. Being cut off would make things incredibly difficult for me, and cripple my transition, in that a lot of it is rather expensive, even in British Columbia where my hormones were free and I didn’t need to worry about saving up for SRS.

Nonetheless, it felt terrible not to tell them. Eventually, I felt able to do so, in the Spring. Telling my mom went incredibly, incredibly well. The only thing she was upset about was that I hadn’t trusted her enough to tell her sooner, and that I had suspected she might reject me. She felt a bit hurt that I doubted the degree to which she loved me unconditionally. She also felt a bit sad in the sense that my previous identity, her son, was now being lost. I advised that she just think of it like when The Doctor regenerates. Gone but not really. That seemed to help. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the first things she did was send me a little care package with a card, a hand-knit pair of gloves and matching cowl, a toy sonic screwdriver, a bracelet and some eye make-up.

Next I told my brother, who also took it well and didn’t seem to mind at all. He admitted that it was a bit strange to him, but he understood, and knew that I had to do what was necessary in order for me to be happy. We met up in person back in December for the first time since, and we got along wonderfully. He gave me a lovely amber necklace as a Christmas gift, and said that while it was still a bit weird for him, seeing me in person helped him come to terms with it, and he could tell that I was much happier now and my life was seeming to finally be moving in the right direction. We also found that our interests have become very similar in a lot of ways, as I was now writing for skeptic blogs, and he was now a geologist and climate scientist who had to deal with creationists and climate denialists on a regular basis. It was a great little visit. I inexplicably cried my eyes out on the walk back to Granville Skytrain station. I don’t know the name for whatever it was I was feeling.

My father was the third person I told, and with him I was especially terrified. As said, I still had memories of how he reacted the first time, and while I was growing up he definitely had a certain concept of masculinity, and was never very good at disguising his disappointment when I strayed from it. But he also reacted positively, assuring me that he still loved me and always would, and, just like my mom, primarily expressed a bit of sadness that I hadn’t told him sooner.

I recently went to visit him in Montreal, back in November, and aside from the occasional pronoun and name slip, he was pretty great about everything. He even came along with me to a Transgender Day Of Remembrance Event at Berri Square.

And finally, I came out to all my friends via good ol’ Facebook. I made a status update, changed my gender, and trusted word of mouth to take care of the rest. Almost everyone was completely supportive and understanding, many of them expressing a lot of pride that I was able to come to terms with this, and wishing me the best. Only one person had a problem, but he was someone I had already known to be deeply transphobic (used to make lots of Silence Of The Lambs jokes, and relentlessly mocked a trans woman professor of botany at the college we attended), but he just quietly unfriended me without making any kind of spectacle or saying anything nasty.

A couple months later, when I finally went full-time, I shut down the old account, buried my old name, and moved on as Natalie.

All in all, my coming out went as perfectly as it possibly could.

What saddens me, though, is that cases like mine are very rare. The majority of my trans friends are in some way alienated from their families. It’s a tragic thing that so often the act of coming out has to be such a difficult choice and sacrifice… to have to choose to be able to live a happy life and live as who you truly are, but having to also lose your family and friends, sometimes lose your entire community and network of support. It sickens me that things like bigotry, misinformation, bias, cultural taboos about gender and religious edicts can end up getting to the point where they render unconditional love condition, and tear people from their families. Force them to make these choices and sacrifices.

But it’s beautiful, in a way, that so many people do find the courage and strength to make that choice. That we have a community primarily comprised of people who were able to move past the enormous amount of hatred and shame in our culture, and all the costs, risks, and sacrifices involved in coming out and transitioning, and assert themselves, claim their identity, and push forward for a life of happiness, integrity, honesty and being true to one’s needs rather than a life of compromise, sadness and quiet desperation.

I think it suggests immense hope about who we can be, us little crazy struggling humans, that trans people exist at all.

Comments

  1. says

    Your middle paragraphs (recalling your wishes and prayers) are exactly what I went through from twelve until eighteen or so. I know you’re not the person to tell this to, so I probably should find a therapist, but it’s still so terrifying to even take that step, to go to a therapist scares the hell out of me. I know I’ll feel better, and I know it’ll fix a lot of the anxiety I have, but I’m scared.

    • Emily says

      I remember going through a lot of those things with the wishing and everything, and while I don’t think I’ve ever truly suffered from depression, I remember some times of absolute despair because I wasn’t a girl.

      The first steps are the scariest, but seeing a therapist isn’t something that should be scary. It’ll be fine! You can do it! *cheerleader time*

      • says

        Yea, I’m never really so depressed I want to die or kill myself or anything like that – and 14 or so years of male adolesence has allowed me to reluctantly enjoy some small aspects of myself. It was my ex-boyfriend that really made me realize where the gender divide happened, because while we were intimate – he always focused on my male bits… and it always made me uncomfortable, and I’m sure that I would’ve been able to be happier in that relationship were he more focused away from them.

        I think my major fear going to a therapist is that I’m happy enough being what I am now, not what I want to be. That I’m accepting of my fate being born in the wrong body will somehow disqualify me from having the opportunity to properly be who I am is terrifying to me at the moment. Like I said, I don’t suffer deep depression – anxiety attacks, but that’s entirely different.

        There are those nights, though – when I cry myself to sleep or wake up sobbing because certain afflictions of maleness force me to realize the body-mind disparity.

        • says

          I was a lot like you, I think. I waited and waited to transition, more or less okay with being male, but never really liking it. I was never depressed or suicidal or anxious, but transition clarified one thing for me: I was never really happy, either. My life afterward suggests that I never really knew what “happiness” was in the first place. If you’ll tolerate a religious metaphor (I know, but bear with me…), it was like the scales falling away from my eyes. For what it’s worth, I started medical transition when I was 40. It’s never too late.

          I wouldn’t worry too much about whether a therapist doesn’t think you’re depressed enough to transition. If they pull that shit, fire them and find someone else. That’s an old model. The new standards of care are much more liberal with the process. They’re there to help you with what YOU want. A good therapist will understand whether you need intensive counseling or not. I didn’t need it and I only saw mine once every few months. We usually talked about football or art. We didn’t talk all that much about gender issues. She was amused when I brought her a Microsoft Project chart with my plan for transition. She had never seen that before.

          Also, here’s the thing about the early stages of medical transition. You’ll know in pretty short order whether or not it’s something for you. Hormone therapy really does weed people out. If it feels wrong, stop. There’s no shame in it.

          Regardless of what you decide, your identity is still valid. Don’t worry about whether how you present undermines that. It doesn’t. Best of luck.

  2. says

    What saddens me, though, is that cases like mine are very rare. The majority of my trans friends are in some way alienated from their families. It’s a tragic thing that so often the act of coming out has to be such a difficult choice and sacrifice… to have to choose to be able to live a happy life and live as who you truly are, but having to also lose your family and friends, sometimes lose your entire community and network of support.

    This is changing a little, I think. Your narrative isn’t nearly as rare as it used to be. I’ve met more and more trans people whose support networks have remained intact or, indeed, have strengthened. It’s still not a dominant narrative, unfortunately, and there are still plenty of horror stories out there, but the tide is turning.

    My own coming out could not have gone better. I have a friend whose parents helped her choose her name based on what they were planning to name her had she been born a girl. My own brothers were surprisingly nonchalant. I never had the opportunity to come out to my parents, but aunts and uncles and cousins have all been absolutely great. I didn’t lose any friends, and became closer to some of them (I was always emotionally unavailable in my old life, which prevented this). I dunno. Maybe I just got lucky, but maybe, just maybe, the odds are improving.

    (As a side note, even though I never came out as trans to my parents, I did come out as atheist to my mother. That went poorly. I think she might have preferred it if I had come out as gay or trans. We never spoke of it again.)

    • Emily says

      I’ve had another one of those wonderfully easy and supportive coming outs. My parents were fine (and are actually helping finance my transition), my friends have been overwhelmingly supportive, and even one friend reacted to my coming out by telling me they had already been seeing a therapist for a few months for gender issues.

      • says

        Hah! It’s amazing what coming out reveals about the people around you. My own revealed that my friends are all extra awesome. Glad to hear another success story, though.

  3. says

    That is painful. Thank you so much.

    It reminded me I should contact a friend who wants to transition but is really convinced she won’t pass and she’ll lose her girlfriend (who is accepting at least). Last time we spoke she talked about girl names but I haven’t heard from her in a while, and I’m worried. Optimistically I hope it means she’s on hormones
    and not being in contact with the people I know her through. But maybe not, and I just keep thinking, what can you even say to someone who’s so scared?

    • kim says

      I’m pretty clueless about what you could say to them regarding transitioning since I’m a cisfemale (not looking to transition) and am here for my own improved understanding about other people’s lives and struggles rather than being able to give guidance.
      But I think that just like everyone else in the world, she would appreciate knowing that you’re thinking about her and hope she is doing well. Express your hope that you could get together and chat. Knowing you are a friend, that you care about her and she can feel safe talking to you can only help.

    • Anders says

      Tell her she can call whenever and wherever if the world seems like too dark a place. Tell her that you’ll listen to her without judging, that you’ll always be a shoulder to cry on. Tell her she can tell you anything, no matter how ridiculous or embarassing, and you will never pass it on to anyone.

      Then follow up on that promise.

  4. Anders says

    I’ve had a shitty day and I needed something to remind that there’s some good in the world. And it’s worth fighting for. Thanks.

    Your story of keeping things secret reminds of those family dinner dramas where there’s some dark secret lingering in the background. Everyone knows about it, and everyone knows everybody else knows about it, but as long as no one talks about it everyone can pretend it never happened.

    Resident pharmacologist here: No, prednisone does not have any such side effects what I can see. You can check if you have Klinefelters of course, but I wouldn’t bother. There are no long-term side effects you have to worry about as far as I can see.

    You have asthma? Do not ever, ever, ever take beta-blockers (for lowering blood pressure or calming a racing heart) under any circumstances. They will trigger a severe asthma attack and your Salbutamol will be useless against it. People have died because they didn’t know what they were doing.

    Finally, would it really have been better if we had called you chickenshit? :)

    Again, thanks for sharing.

  5. jeffengel says

    You had a choice between carrying on the way you were and dying, or choosing to say and do the things you’d been terrified of for years and get addiction under control. You opted for the tougher choice. We can darn well call you brave for that! And we can darn well call everyone else in a similar position brave too.

    If’d you saved someone else from a suicidal heroin streak and helped her accept her female gender identity, take the steps to actualize it anatomically, and update accordingly how strangers, friends, and family identify her, we’d be praising you as a hero. It turns out that she was you. So yeah, you were well-motivated – but also in that much more challenging of a condition to pull it off. Just take the bow, woman. You HAVE earned it.

  6. Besomyka says

    Maybe I shouldn’t have read this at work. Got me all teared up! Like other commenters, I personally strongly identify with those middle bits about wishing. Happened at about the same age for me as well.

    Helps me feel like I’m not as different as I sometimes feel that I am. Everyone is different, but there’s a lot of touchstones that are pretty similar. I’m glad you’re writing Natalie.

  7. says

    Oh man, I would love to see you do a critical piece on the COGIATI. I mean, I don’t know if criticizing JDR would be considered dirty pool because of her mental health issues, but I do think she needs to be taken to task for spreading misinformation.

  8. Anders says

    I’ve got questions regarding your career as a drug addict. Is this the thread to ask them in or will there be later posts where they would be more appropriate?

      • Anders says

        And any questions you feel uncomfortable, just say so and I will not push.

        My first question isn’t about addiction, though. It’s about your brother, the younger one. How did he react to you truly coming out? You said you had lost touch with him – was this the reason?

        How did you finance your drug habit? AFAIK, these things aren’t free? Did you steal? Deal? Or just cut down on nonessentials like food?

        And also, what does it feel like, taking heroin? You’re a writer – can you paint me a picture with words? Or would that be a dangerous endeavor?

        You have already shared far and beyond the call of duty. I would not have you soeak about anything you’re uncomfortable with. Answer only the questions you feel like answering.

        Thank you.

        P.S. Your relative in Canterlot, would that be Prince Blueblood? :D

        • says

          - My relationship with my younger brother is one of the things I’d rather not get into too much.

          – It was by cutting down on other things. Almost the entirety of the money that should have been going to various essentials was going to drugs instead, and I managed to stay alive with sheer resourcefulness. I barely ate. Also, I gradually sold off all my books and records and CDs, a lot of my clothes, and was constantly juggling my few remaining valuables like my ipod and laptop in and out of the pawn shop.

          – I could describe heroin, yeah, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. It could be very triggering for anyone reading this, especially if I got all poetic about it. Basically, it’s just a rush of physical pleasure, contentment and well-being. Everything in the whole world melts away except for you in a little warm ball of feeling-okay-ness.

          • Anders says

            Thank you for answering. Like I said, you’ve already told us more than we could reasonably expect. I’ve been given demerol and diazepam a few times when my left shoulder popped and it’s amazing how the pain just stops being relevant.

            But you forgot the most important question – are you related to Prince Blueblood? ;)

        • Rasmus says

          Since you’re Swedish and curious you might want to check out the flashback.org forum boards if you haven’t done so already. There’s a ton of first-hand information from people who consume all sorts of drugs (all of it neatly organized into sub-forums).

          You will also find a large number of rosy ‘success stories’ about people who use drugs, including heroin, without running into any serious problems.

          I think it’s probably reasonable to assume that the population of people who post most often on such forums is subject to selection in favor of drug consumers who can handle their drugs better than the average person can or could.

          (Standard warning about judging information critically, staring into the abyss, etc…)

      • Anders says

        And yet “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”

        I hate having to make you think about this, and I hate my ghoulish fascination with the black parts of what is basically a bright and positive post; the kind of post, in fact, that I requested earlier, when the blog was still in its infancy. So why do I do it?

        Because I’m scared. I don’t even like to type the word ‘heroin’. I have to force myself to not use a euphemism like “big H”. To me heroin is a life without hope, it is the stink of piss and vomit, a slow death in a drug den with flaking wallpaper or a quick death in a public restroom. “Her lips were red, her looks were free, Her locks were yellow as gold…” The thought of a friend being there is a nagging voice in the back of my mind saying “You could have stopped this. You let it happen.” It’s irrational but I’m powerless against it.

        So I strive to learn more about it, to maybe be able to ward off the demons by knowing their True Name. And so I stop rambling and come to my questions.

        1. Do you still have cravings?

        2. What is the crash like?

        This post was more about my neuroses than about anything else, but I needed you to understand why I keep nagging. I can’t stop thinking about it until I’ve asked. You don’t have to answer, but I have to ask.

        • says

          1. I wouldn’t call them cravings, really. That seems like such a small word for it. Like “I’m craving some pretzels right now!” … I do still have desires, yes. That never goes away. You don’t experience something like that and then forget it exists. Somewhere in your mind you still know, and always will know, that it’s possible to have that. I’ll never be able to forget that technically speaking, I could have the syringe loaded and pressed against my vein by the end of this hour.

          2. I wouldn’t call it a crash, either. You don’t really crash from heroin. It doesn’t work like that. The come down is gradual, and the high is a “down” high not an “up” high. Do you mean withdrawal? Because that is pretty hellish. Clammy skin, twitches and spasms, aching joints, pain throughout your body, hurts to move, feels like your flesh is strangling your bones, drippy nose, watery eyes, like you’re leaking from throughout your body, intense anxiety, hyper-sensitivity to all stimuli, diarrhea, almost entirely unable to sleep, can’t even sit still (but it also hurts to move), etc. Most of all just this general feeling of intense physical discomfort. Like it hurts to exist.

          • Anders says

            Reminds me of this:

            They call me Smoky Joe
            And I’m as thin as a coroner’s needle
            I got a pocket full of rocks
            Man, I shake like a cold chihuahua
            I got a runny nose
            And a road map on my arm
            I blew my gig pokin’ ’round the gallery
            With someone else’s rig
            I know, I understand
            I watch my body hauled off
            By the local garbage man

        • Anders says

          ‘Craving’ is the technical term. We are working out exactly how it works, but it has to do with a hyper-awareness of things that are related to the stimulus – that’s your “triggers”, and is related to dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area. This, btw, is “hyper-intellectualization” – the other way I deal with fear.

          Trigger warning, I guess
          Hmm… the book* says euphoria for 45 seconds to several minutes, sedation and tranquility for up to an hour (heroin has a very short half-life), another 3 to 5 hours of.. feeling normal I guess and then the sickness of early withdrawal. So I guess it was withdrawal I was asking for. Good. Thank you for answering.

          *Goodman&Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 9th edition (1995), p. 567.

  9. Erin W says

    “Vancouver, Alaska, Montreal, North Carolina, England, Scotland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Boston, Canterlot, New York and Toronto.”

    I see what you did there, Ms. Steed…

  10. Dalillama says

    Yeah, unfortunately my husband’s experience with coming out to his family as trans did not go nearly as well, although there’s a lot of other reasons that he’s not in contact with them anymore that don’t relate to his being trans at all, so we consider that to be just the final straw as far as his relationship with them goes.

  11. says

    I find myself on the edge of my seat awaiting the final installment. Thank you for these.

    Thank you for joining FTB. I would have never discovered this blog otherwise, and it has changed my life for the better.

    I am scared as a parent that my kids may struggle with various identity issues and be to frightened to come speak to me about them. I try as a parent to make it a pretty common place discussion that what it means to be a girl or a boy isn’t always what culture teaches you to expect. I am still scared that they won’t tell me if they go through something this big. I want to be a source of strength for them in so many ways.

    I say that I am scared as a parent that my kids won’t talk to me, mostly because I am scared to talk to them about my own lack of societal conformity. At least in one way. I am scared that they may reject me when I find a way to tell them. I am scared that no matter how much I teach them that gender, race, and who we love, all present in incalculable numbers of ways, they may one day decide something about my presentation is intolerable. It scares me to pieces.

    I have been pretty lucky. I grew up confident from my own position of privilege. Safely comfortable in my gender, though I wouldn’t be able to define what being a girls is to me anyway, I never had to deal with the haters. I was likewise safe in my sexuality. I felt at home being attracted to both boys and girls, I never had to deal with the implications being gay or straight. I could present as both and argue from the perspective as both.

    I never had to hide before. I never even hid my lack of faith from those I loved. I have to now. I have to lie. I have to tell have truths. I have to decide who I can trust enough to divulge the full truth to. These posts have helped me deal with that. I am hoping that my new blog will help me deal with that as it is anonymous. Funny thing is I am still weighing whether to unmask that aspect of myself online. I am frightened that one day it may come back to haunt me.

  12. says

    Thank you for this post Natalie. I have never been so sure that I wasn’t alone in my experience coming to terms with my gender identity as I was reading this article. I remember reading that book about the elbow myth as a kid, I remember my mother’s reaction the first time I told her and I remember being told that I was a freak. I don’t really have a comment here, just extreme gratitude.

    • TomeWyrm says

      I actually said “Awwwwwwww” aloud. I don’t usually vocalize at the computer. It was just too heartwarmingly CUTE though!

  13. Nentuaby says

    As I’ve mentioned before, one of the first things she did was send me a little care package with a card, a hand-knit pair of gloves and matching cowl, a toy sonic screwdriver, a bracelet and some ey make-up.

    I teared up a little bit there. That’s so nerdy-sweet.

  14. says

    *noncreepy Internet hug!*

    This resonated with me more than any other description of being trans I’ve ever read. I’ve had a few things a bit easier than you, I think – I guess I’m super lucky.

  15. says

    Another outstanding entry!

    I hope I’m not coming off as rude or dismissive, but I’m struck by two things here:

    How different this is from anything I’ve ever experienced, since I’m a straight cis male.

    How similar this is to things I’ve experienced, because while specific experiences might be different, emotions are more or less universal.

    Natalie, you’ve got a special skill as a writer, which is that you can take very individual experiences and write about them in a way that allows people to relate in a more general sense. For instance, I’ll never know what it is to go through exactly your life experiences, but I can absolutely relate to feeling isolated from my family and that have not been meeting their expectations for me. I really appreciate what you do, and I look forward to the next installment.

  16. frankb says

    That is a very moving story, Natalie. Thanks for sharing. Dealing with family can be the hardest thing. You want their approval or acceptance so much and can be so afraid of not getting it. I know that feeling well.

  17. Kara says

    One of the first chapter books I read, purchased during a book fair, was about a boy hearing the superstition that if you kiss your own elbow (on the hard, outside part) you’ll turn into a member of the opposite sex…

    Ha, I remember that story too! I’m pretty sure I read it before I’d started feeling obvious gender dysphoria, but I do remember feeling a sort of wistful intrigue as I read it.

    One thing that I didn’t like about it: if I recall correctly, after he thought he’d counteracted the transformation (by kissing his elbow again), he started acting a little more like a jerk again toward the other girl, or something. Kind of similarly, wasn’t there a bigger guy who’d been kind of bullying him in turn? But, during the time when the protagonist thought he was transforming, he started thinking more positively about the bigger guy–I don’t remember whether the book addressed a possible attraction or not, I might have imagined that–and I think the other guy seemed to act nicer to him too.

    I knew there was such a thing as “sex change operations” and “transsexuals”, but I mentally categorized that as something apart from actually being female, and knew that they were considered gross, wrong and funny, ridiculous, a cultural punchline.

    Yeah, this for me too. It’s almost like I didn’t recognize it as a viable option, because that’s not something normal people do, that’s something THOSE people do… you know, the OTHER people… the freaks and deviants.

  18. Shaun says

    I teared up more than once reading this. I’ve wrestled with my own sexuality for most of my life; while I’m not trans, or gay, I definitely am not a standard-issue cis-hetero-male, either. You’ve won at least one new reader with this post.

    +1

  19. TomeWyrm says

    So much of this post had me saying things like “Oh hey, I did that too!” or “I can remember doing that!”. You’ve made me question my assumptions about myself in the insane way I do such things. Topics of personal curiosity include the interactions between my bisexuality whatever transexuality I have (or don’t have), and also the emergence of my femininity as possibly the major contributing factor to a radical personality change I started to undergo a couple years before puberty.

    I love it when I find someone that can make me question my own assumptions simply by being themselves, so thank you for sharing yourself with us all!

  20. SoF says

    I came out to family when I was about 9 and had the same experience as you (I’m ftm though), there was a negative reaction and that pushed me much deeper into the closet than I have been before. So much so that I somehow got amnesic about the whole thing and couldn’t understand my trans id as trans anymore. Coming out for the 2. time was much harder than it should have been.
    I sometimes wonder if it’s not better to keep your mouth shut when you’re young and still living at home.
    The 2. coming out when I was about 24 went badly too and pushed me back into the closet. At the moment I’m thinking about my 3. try.
    I realize though that for many younger trans people it’s become easier.

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