Coming out letter

March 9, 2014

Dear Vati, Mom, Paulette, Michael, and Anne,

There have been some big and very surprising changes in my life over the last year or so, and it’s time for me to share them with you.  I was waiting to see if they were a passing phase, but at this point they are likely to be permanent (that sounds harsh, but I can’t find a better word).

To alleviate tension in the universe, I’ll get to the big reveal now.  This is my coming out letter, but not in the sense you probably just thought.  Last April I realized I’m transgender.

I’ll try to answer your most likely questions and maybe a few more.  I’m putting this in a letter so you have time to digest it before we talk.  I assume that Michael and Anne will figure out how and when to tell Jonathan and Timmy, though I realize the former is certainly an adult now.

What does transgender mean?  I’m going to summarize some terms because they have been coined fairly recently.  Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.[1]  Gender identity is in your head, namely the sex you identify with, in contrast with gender presentation, which is how you present yourself to the outside world as masculine or feminine or androgynous.  In this context, ‘sex’ refers to male, female, or intersexed (somewhere between M and F).

Have I seen a shrink about this?  Yes, I’m under medical and psychological care through the Mazzoni Center, a local clinic for LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) people.

Am I crazy?  Yes, but only a little.  The diagnostic manuals (DSM IV and V) talk about gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, and apparently I’ve been diagnosed with something like that.  The good part is that means my ongoing treatment is covered by health insurance.  More on treatment later.

How did this come about?  I was getting help with dating and developing social skills, in particular focusing on being genuinely myself instead of trying to project the right illusion for my audience.  A little light bulb went off that I have a very strong feminine side that desperately wanted to be let out, and incidentally was messing up my social life.  At first my mind was reeling and firmly in denial, because I literally never considered this to be possible for me.

Then I checked in with my body, and noticed that it had relaxed enormously and let out a huge sigh of relief.  I learned a long time ago from massage therapy classes that the body can’t tell a lie; and here my body was clearly telling me that this shocking revelation was true. Later when I had time to reflect, I traced some early signs to as far back as junior high.

What caused this?  Nothing, it’s just me coming to terms with a persistent feeling of not fitting in with the roles I’m supposed to fulfill.  It isn’t related to my abuse history, or the diagnosis a while ago of being somewhat intersexed (which was refuted by several doctors), or my birth defect history.  I specifically asked my doctor about the first two, and he assured me they weren’t relevant.  And no, Mom and Vati, it has nothing to do with anything you did or didn’t do as parents.

What does this mean?  Well my wardrobe has gotten a lot more diverse.  Almost all of it is now either unisex or came from the misses’ section instead of the men’s.  But me the person hasn’t particularly changed.  I just found the right way to express who I am, and our society calls that feminine.

Does that mean I’m cross-dressing?  Technically no.  No because I identify as a transgender woman now, and therefore wearing women’s clothing is only appropriate.  But since the outside world can’t see inside my head, they see a 50-year-old man in a knit top and probably think that means I’m cross-dressing.  It’s a matter of perspective.

Is my job in danger?  Probably not.  Drexel and the City of Philadelphia both have very clear and progressive anti-discrimination policies that include protection for transgender people.  I’ve gotten some amused looks from co-workers, especially several women, but no one has said anything.  Gender isn’t relevant to my job, and frankly this is a very personal matter which isn’t really their business.

Does this mean I’m gay?  I still prefer to date women, so the literal answer is ‘no,’ but since I’m trans that means I’m a transgender lesbian, if you have to put a label on it.

Am I going to get surgery ‘down there?’  I don’t know, that’s a huge and very personal decision.

Am I changing my name?  Sort of.  In a couple of contexts I have started using Jennifer.  Why Jennifer?  It’s always been my favorite girl name.  Unfortunately it’s also the most common girl name for the 80’s and half of the 90’s, so it’s not a very original choice.  Most of the time (including professionally) I still use Glenn.

What do I hope for from you?  Love.  Acceptance.  I know this might take a little while to process (it did for me!) but I know that you want me to be happy, and this is part of that journey.  That’s the important thing to remember.

Okay, so much for Q&A.

Last November I started hormone therapy.  I figured as long as I was identifying and dressing more femininely, I might as well look the part a little better.  It felt awkward to look masculine and not identify with it.  Hormone therapy means I’m taking one drug to suppress testosterone (T) to the low level typical of women, and periodically giving myself injections of estrogen.

Over the next two years or so, this will result in some feminizing of my body (softer skin, reduced body hair, fat redistribution (away from shoulders and waist, toward boobs and butt), and many others) and reduced strength due to the lack of T.  When I cautiously started, I figured I’d watch carefully for negative signs physically or psychologically, and stop right away if there were any.  There haven’t been.  My body has been almost bored in spite of the major change in fundamental hormones, so I’m taking this as a sign that it’s something my body wants too.

That’s enough for now.  I’ve done a lot of writing both before and since this transition started, and I’m more than happy to share more if you’re interested.  Just ask.

Love and hugs and stuff,

Glenn


[1] Yes, I’m enough of an academic to cite sources, even for my family!  http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101

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Letter to Jennifer

Letter to Jennifer

Glenn  4/16/13

Backstory:  This is a love letter that was inspired after working with Monica Day and Michele Younger over the last two months.  Most of the pronouns in this piece are wrong.  English is quite inadequate sometimes.

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for being patient with me.  It’s taken a long time to acknowledge you.  Welcome.  In perfect hindsight, the clues were building for a long time.  Finding girls’ hair accessories on the ground as a boy, and examining them like an archeologist trying to decipher a long lost civilization.  Mom always hid in the bathroom to do her hair and makeup, so those female mysteries remained … just that.  The home ec class I really wanted to take in junior high as my very first elective, but couldn’t because boys don’t take things like that.  My pickup truck had your name, and I hopped in and greeted her out loud so many times.  Was that the seed of recognizing you?  The curiosity to buy a pair of pantyhose by mail order shortly after leaving home, but soon gave in to the forbidden nature of such a thing and threw them away.  Shopping in recent years for ‘unisex’ clothes from American Apparel, and yet not knowing why.  These were hints that I was missing something.

I was missing you.

As someone wise said, it doesn’t have to be difficult now, it doesn’t have to be painful.  That’s over.  Gone.  Let those memories be a movie you can watch safely and calmly.  They can’t hurt you now.  Now is the time for joy!  Now is the time for celebration of life and your body and all dimensions of your Self.  You have earned this gift, this rebirth, so take it and run.

You can’t have a pussy or give birth, and I suspect a fake pussy is about as satisfying as a fake orgasm.  But that won’t stop us from exploring other ways to be receptive and savor all aspects of us.  We can make a time and place to explore being receptive in enthusiastic and loving ways.  Ok, how about many times and places?!

It’s okay to be truly masculine too, as we discovered driving home last week.  We can be strong and confident, assertive, and peacefully in control.  Power without oppression.  We claim that aspect too.

I feel like you’re both very grown up and an innocent little girl.  I delight in getting to know each other, and celebrate this new connection.  A new awakening.

Your clothes feel so much more expressive and alive and downright SEXY!  Delicate fabric fluttering against my calves is so delicious I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t enjoy it.  A suit feels like a cage to me, but an Eileen Fisher skirt is simply delicious!  I know we often have to conform to society’s bullshit, but at least we can find more ways to let you come out and play.

For now we can be whole, and that will ease stress, produce calm, and confidence, and open doors for new friendships and new intimacies.  Only when we embody our genuine authentic selves can be connect with others who appreciate and love us for exactly who we are, not who we pretend to be.  Put aside the masks, lower the shields, be ready to accept more possibilities and more love than you ever imagined.

And no more ‘me’ and ‘you’ crap.  We are one.

Hello!  I am Glenn, and I am Jennifer.