Coming out of the closet is a powerful thing, rooted in powerful emotions. Some people find courage comes from love, from having powerful feelings of something greater than they. Something shared, greater than the sum of hearts. The closet door opens and we proudly proclaim — despite our fear, we’re queer! Deal with it!
But what if love holds you back? What if the most endearing things about you are a mirage? A lie without a single word… spoken by your own flesh?
Inside my closet lived a beloved husband, a proud son, and a caring brother. For the woman to be born, it would require death by my own hand. I loved my family too much to destroy the illusion.
Instead, I carried my closet. I tried to live my truth, only to put the hormones away and give HIM my life. I wanted desperately to be loved, but in doing so I hated myself more than ever.
For 16 years, SHE wept as she suffocated in a coffin of her own construction, concealed by flesh and confined to suffer until one day my wife was able to see her suffering and to pull her free.
This was written before that day. It is the view from the inside of my closet. Please forgive the darkness within. There was a time in which it was difficult for light to make its way in.
A Glimpse into the Darkness
I am a liar, a liar of the worst kind. What makes me a horrible liar is that I told the truth, a truth no one wanted to hear. For as much as people clamor that they love the truth and that all they want to hear from people is the truth, what they really want is bullshit.
People need bullshit. They adorn themselves with it. They protect themselves with it. They cherish it.
It’s amazing the mental gymnastics people will do to justify their privilege… Or justify doing nothing to ease the suffering of people around them. The worst of them use this as an excuse for exploiting the suffering of others.
Some justify their bullshit with religion…
“Have you read what it says in Leviticus, brother?!”
‘The part about shrimp or the part against the tattoos you’ve got?’ I want to say, but remain silent because they are beyond reason.
“God wants me to hurt you because you make him angry.” All the misery in the world… war, poverty, cruelty, and yet me taking estrogen is going to be what brings down judgement?
“I’m better than you because I pray better than you.” I’ve heard this all my life from people who teach Christ like a country club… the great rebel for compassion and mercy who broke bread with the dregs of society. Yet, because they wear a golden cross, they are somehow holier.
“God hates what you are doing and wants me to stop you from doing it.” This one hurts, especially when it comes from friends, from people you know are family. The same people who also keep you from going to Thanksgiving dinner and who refuse to eat anything from your table, even though they knew you before and used to tell you then what a wonderful Christian man they thought you were.
There is also the ever so perfect, “It’s not bad, because God wanted me to do it!” This is evil. I have seen trans children break down crying because of people blinded by their bigotry. I have seen people wearing the collar referring to children as abominations. I once saw a woman professed to provide care and mercy to the sick use her position instead to advocate that I and others like me are predators…
“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”
At this point, I’m not sure there isn’t bullshit in religion, but I can’t fault the creator for what creation seems to do. If anything, I like to think they, the Almighty Creator, are fed up with the bullshit of the sanctimonious. Every creed says “love one another as I have loved you,” but that’s not what people remember. Memory is a matter of convenience, especially when it gets in the way of people hating you.
But I digress…
I am a liar, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give you bullshit, it just means it will be harder for you to separate the pearls from shit. Why should you take my word for it? Shouldn’t I at least explain or are you simply going to take me at my word?
Let’s start with the lie, “I am a man.” I have a Y-chromosome, I have a penis, but I am no man. I am a woman. I have no breasts, no vagina, no womb, but I am a woman.
I know this to be true, but yet I present this falsehood of a man to the rest of the world. I dress as a man, eat as a man, talk as a man, even make love as a man, but there is no truth in it – at least not for me.
Once, I decided I could not live the lie anymore. I went to the doctors. I sat in dim offices decorated with miniature Zen gardens. Lying on my back, listening to the gently flowing water, I made my confession. I confessed to the skirts and blouses hidden behind the boxes of baseball cards in my closet. I confessed to hiding mascara and eyeliner in my secret hiding hole, behind my playboy cards… Of stealing moments alone to put on an old bra and panties too forgotten to be missed, before donning an old wrinkled blouse with woman’s jeans hidden in a forsaken corner of the closet.
I confessed to the ritual of borrowing the only pair of clip-on earrings mother owned, foundation, makeup, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, and mascara – blending as best I could to cover the differences in skin tone between myself and other female relatives who “misplaced” items essential for my rites of femininity. To covert efforts made so I could glance into a mirror and not see my mother’s son. To just sit at my desk and do my homework, cherishing moments when I could be just another girl diligent in her studies while her parents were off to earn our daily bread.
Often the ritual was broken… Knocks on the front door — just a little too early. My grandma might have visited, checking that her grandson was well and keeping to task in his schoolwork. Or friends would come over, wanting to hang out away from their parents or to use the new novelty available in my home: the internet. The worst would be parents returning home early… I used to always pre-fill the bathtub so that if my parents got there early, I would have enough time to hide the clothes I was wearing and to frantically remove my makeup but still have a convenient excuse for why it took me so long to get to the door… The sturdy locks on heavy doors would be enough to explain the delay of my male presence to friends and my grandma, but not mom or dad… Too many close calls would eventually reveal the horrible secret truth! There had to be a reckoning! I needed to confront myself!
At school, I would stand on the tennis court, stealing the occasional glance at the boys practicing football and there was a feeling of disgust with the idea of any of them ever touching me as a lover. I would glance at the other girls on the tennis court, dashing across the court to return shots across the net and I knew I was entranced, as well as confused. The secret books I read said I had to want the boys to be valid, to be as they said a “transsexual”… If I had boy parts and I liked girls, why would I feel like a girl?
One night, when I knew I would be alone for a while, I decided to do something special. I pulled out some special lingerie: a bustier that had been outgrown by my mother years ago and its companion bottom. Then I reached for something I never dared to reach for… The little black dress, which hung alone for so long. It was something real and elegant, something that sadly was not likely to ever be worn again. The façade of my parent’s perfect marriage was the next thing that would be crumbling in my life.
I was so scared and excited as I slid the fabric over my body, feeling elated as it draped over my curves, a creation of shapewear squeezing my pubescent body into a feminine form. I continued the rite until I looked in the mirror and could see my mother’s daughter instead of her son. The heels, the purse, the outfit, my makeup, everything was lovely. In another world — where my creator mercifully made my mind harmonious with my body-I could have been getting ready for a date… except that would never happen. Puberty was starting to shape my body in ways that mocked my mind. The cracking of my voice had already started and I would slide out of the feminine alto into a masculine baritone in the next two years. Soon my smooth legs, legs I was already being mocked for, would be getting hairier, harder, masculine.
I looked at myself in the mirror and said goodbye. What I wanted could not be and to delude myself would be a fool’s paradise. No girl in our little town would want a girl like me. There was no future for me if I pursued this. To be anything other than a statistic, I felt I would need to harden my heart, my soul, and my body.
My eyes started to well up with tears. The girl in the mirror watched the drops fall down her cheek as she stripped in front of the lying mirror. This was the long goodbye… I could not be that girl, and I would bury her – bury myself after this day, my secret suicide.
At 16, the world is such a huge place, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, it’s easier to live within the margins, even if it makes you miserable. It would be another 15 years for me to face a truth that could not stay buried and faced with again; it is natural to be completely terrified.
Fortunately for me, it was truly darkest before the dawn. When I wrote this, it was only three years ago. I knew I was transgender but felt completely powerless to do anything to change that. I wound up crying alone in my car at 4 AM, calling the Transgender Lifeline in desperation ― because I formulated a plan to take my own life and knew I was in danger.
Supportive friends, allies in the community in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as my spouse finding her love for the female soul beneath my skin, helped me find my way. Today I work professionally and politically as a proud queer woman. There is much to savor from life, much that needs to be done to move us all forward. By telling my story and living my truth, I hope to contribute my part and lift up the wonderful people in our queer and transgender community.