Growing up, I was painfully withdrawn and shy. I loved dressing up in my mother's clothes, dipping my hands into her makeup bag; I wanted dolls, not trucks; I would cry when I got dirty. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I learned that these were not acceptable behaviors. And I didn't substitute boy traits in their place. Essentially, I tried to become androgynous.
At school I became friends with the girls. I was chunky and dumpy, which led to more than my fair share of teasing from the boys, who seemed so foreign to me. I can now see that I was in the deepest of denial about who I truly was. Finally, at age 12, while engaged in that most all-American of pastimes—watching Oprah—I figured it out.
She was interviewing Caroline "Tula" Cossey, a transsexual woman who had once been a Bond Girl, and I was transfixed. "Oh my God, that’s me!" I realized. But it was a very short-lived realization. Just as quickly, and unconsciously, I believe, I made a firm decision not to "allow" this to "happen" to me. EVER. To me, "transsexual" was a terrifying word. That wasn't who I wanted to be. So, instead, I repressed any trace of my gender or sexuality for the next several years—no easy feat considering I was embarking on that roiling, hormone-laden rite of passage known as puberty.
It wasn't until I was safely off at college that I was forced to acknowledge my issues. In a co-ed dorm setting, it's almost impossible to categorically ignore bodies. As a psychology student, I spent hours upon hours in the library researching transsexuality and sexual reassignment surgery. At the time—1995—the term "transgender" hadn't even been invented yet and it was a much less acknowledged issue than it is today. Sadly, I admit, I was trying to figure out how not to be transsexual. Was there a magical cure? Could I take some huge dose of hormones to "fix" me? I was horrified by my situation. I had never uttered a word about these thoughts to a single soul. I was alone in my misery—and suffer I did. I did not want to be a transsexual woman; I wanted to be a "real" woman. And I was determined to keep my head under the covers until the scary gender mismatch was gone.
Fast forward through many years of therapy and eventual sexual reassignment surgery—something I wish I had been able to fast forward through myself, believe me! That was the first up-close-and-personal affront to my denial. I'm now much further along on my way to accepting myself. In fact, I've been living as a woman for so long, I honestly forget at times how much money, effort, and tears it took to make the transition to my correct gender. Yet, the fact remains, it's impossible for me to ignore my history when it comes to sex and relationships. I know that the only path to true love is truly loving and accepting myself—and that means being able to be fully open and honest with everyone in my life, including dating partners.
So far, I have dated several men—many for a few weeks, some for a few months, and one, my first love, for over a year. I have not told a single one about my history. And, frankly, it's because I'm terrified. Just a few weeks ago in therapy, while analyzing the demise of my non-relationship with Glamorous, Gorgeous, & Wealthy Businessman, it hit me: This is the same fear that has haunted me all of my life. The same obstacle that made me cry my way through my first five years of therapy.
Because the fact remains that the biggest hurdle I faced when I decided to become a woman wasn't going under while a surgeon turned the parts I was born with inside out. It wasn't learning to own and operate my brand-new, $25,000 pussy. It was the bloodcurdling fear that correcting a glitch and becoming who I already felt like I was on the inside could mean I would have to live without love. Inner Beauty: What Men Don't Tell You
I thought I had overcome this obstacle years ago, but sadly the fear persists. And I wish I could continue writing about how I have overcome it. I wish I could write further about how I solved my dating struggles. I wish I could say that I was able to create an opening in my life for a fabulous relationship that is enduring and sustaining. Yet, I am left with this horrible pit in my stomach. Do I belong on the Island of Dating Misfits? Am I doomed to either superficial, short-term relationships—while keeping my history a deep, dark secret—or a life of lonely spinsterhood? Intellectually, I can see how it would be possible for me to find a partner who is open-minded and fully accepting. Emotionally, I'm working my ass off in therapy to get there. I hope to report sooner rather than later that I've achieved this goal. Wish me luck please? I could use it.