December 6, 2020

Signs of Life

“Am I brave enough? Am I strong enough to follow the desire that burns from within?
To push away my fear, to stand where I’m afraid?
I am through with this, because I am more than this.
I promise to myself, alone and no one else.
My flame is rising higher. I am the fire.
I am the Fire – Halestorm

I find myself at a loss for words. The changes in me the last few weeks nearly defy description.

After a couple of years adrift, in stormy seas, barely clinging to life and so many times wanting to just let go…to succumb to the cold blackness below that beckons me…

… I somehow awoke one morning to calm seas and land in sight.

It seemed to start a couple of weeks ago as I deeply and painfully grieved the loss of my girlfriend. I cried and buried my face in my hands. Tears poured through my fingers as I howled in pain, the sound of a dying animal.

I grabbed my smartphone in some desperate attempt at distraction. I looked absently at my photo gallery through tears and saw her face appear. One of a hundred selfies she had sent me. I groaned in pain at the sight of her. Rather than avert my eyes I slid my thumb rapidly down the screen, all the pictures flew by like the symbols on a slot machine. I tapped my thumb down to stop the rapidly scrolling picture gallery. It rested on a picture of me presenting female one of the days I had been out.

Tears still rolled down my cheeks but I looked at that picture and gradually felt a smile creep accross my face. Grief mercifully interrupted, I was at once struck by the beauty that radiated and suddenly for the first time felt this wonderful deep appreciation for who I am and how far I have come.

In the midst of this heart-rending grief, I felt joy.

For the first time ever, I was overwhelmed by love for myself and a new kind of unconditional love for my now ex-girlfriend. Any resentment I had felt towards her had, in an instant, evaporated. I truly just wanted her to be happy…even if that meant a life without me in it.

At first it seemed like all this change had occurred in an instant. I don’t believe that to be the case.

My therapist has in some ways become an accidental mirror for my own self-perception. I think there is a change that only I see…then she will remark that she sees it without any prompt whatsoever. This has turned out to be wonderfully affirming for me. It means my inside is starting to show on the outside.

She mentioned today that she sensed the beginning of change after I decided to get my ears pierced.

For almost anyone, getting your ears pierced isn’t particularly noteworthy.

For me this was a deep act of self-love, a step further into transition and (probably most importantly) a step forward into fear.

The last two years have been a remarkable lesson in how unrelenting grief can be, and how much emotional pain a person can actually take.

My ups and downs have normally been a day-to-day (or sadly, moment-to-moment) affair. So I eyed this seemingly positive change in my mental well-being with suspicion.

The non-existent graph that has charted my mental state for the last two years looks literally like the roller coaster it has been. Naturally I expect that this positive development is just me cresting the top of the tracks after an impossibly steep climb, stopping to admire the view for longer-than-usual just before the terrifying (and predictable) plunge to the familiar bottom…

No reason to think I’ll be spending any real time up here. Don’t get too cozy.

There has been a distinct progression though. I don’t feel like the same weak, victim that I was before. Being transgender was something that was happening to me…an act of violence.

I had described my life to my therapist as a “death march”. Just one foot in front of the other on my way inextricably to one of any number of unfavorable outcomes.

I find myself now largely at peace…maybe more than anything, with just letting go. Letting go of needing to control, letting go of needing to see the end of my story tied up in a nice little bow.

…and maybe for the first time being open to the new life that lays before me.


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