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The Zen of


Response to a reader with questions
about changing feelings of gender
identity during transition...

First, it is important to know that these feelings will never go away. Sometimes they may appear to disappear for a while, and other times they may seem all consuming. They travel in waves. So don't ever think that however you feel at the moment is some sort of final position or that it holds any universal meaning. You just have to learn to ride the waves.

When you start out in the direction toward changing your sex, you take it step at a time and never realize how far you came until years after surgery. Along the way you alternately feel feminine and masculine.  But one day, you wake up and actually realize there are things you genuinely miss about the old life and the old body. Hopefully, you find that overall, you are happier now than you were then because you like the new situation (considering both pros and cons) better than the old situation. But quite honestly, there will be things you'll miss, things you'll second-guess and wonder about. And even this will change from day to day as you ride the waves. There may be days of total regret followed by days of absolute elation.

For me, it is five years since surgery and there is no indication that this fluctuation of feelings is ever going to stop. When I  occasionally get depressed I have to keep reminding myself that the depression is not a direction I'm headed but just a trough, and to have faith there will soon be another peak. In truth, I think most transgendered people are a bit bipolar (manic/depressive) by nature. Comes with the territory, I suspect, as we alternate between what our training and our nature are arguing about.

Living in a whole new role is a massive undertaking. It is one thing to like yourself in front of a mirror or venture out for a quick trip somewhere. It is quite another to wake up with tangled hair, to look like a middle-aged guy because you didn't get enough sleep - so you have to pile on the make-up and feel like one of those wrinkly-faced, over-the-hill, old maids with the thinning hair and bright red lips. Hey, its not a pretty picture, but it's what I see in the mirror about half the time. (Of course, we're all overly self-critical, but still, that's the way it often feels!)

The real issue is that sex-change only solves one problem out of the scores of problems the average person carries around. Yet it takes 100 percent of one's emotional and physical resources to solve it. Why any of us go through that is way beyond me. And yet we do. All other problems fade into the background, and this becomes the one and all of life itself. We probably can't help that. It's probably built in to whatever makes us the way we are in the first place.

Some of us will follow a path to make the change. Others will find ways to live with it, perhaps expressing that side of the psyche in other ways that are not as permanent and devastating to an "ordinary" existence. The key is to take time, keep faith that better times are ahead, gather information, experiment - but all in a calm, well-considered grand journey of discovery. Don't burn any bridges. Don't take unnecessary chances just because of the thrill. Adrenaline is not an essential part of the gender experience, yet it can sometimes become the goal itself. Separate the rush from the consideration of your future. Enjoy each for its own merits.

Go slowly. One more year one way or another will really not have any appreciable difference on your ability to enjoy a new life, should that be the road you decide to hike. Find a good therapist. Find a good support group. Gather all the information you can. Find a means of expressing your yearnings in a way that is non-destructive to your current life.

Often we feel that we are more motivated to charge forward than we really are, simply because the pressure has built up for so long it drives us harder. Have you ever turned on the faucet to a hose but left the nozzle closed? Pressure builds up to the point you think the hose will burst. When you finally open the nozzle, it shoots out all over the place like a bat out of hell. But when that penned-up pressure is spent, the normal pressure may provide only a moderate flow. After years of emotional repression, we jump out of the gate like a shot, and sometimes let the momentum carry us a lot farther and a lot faster than we ought to go. Take your time, measure out your drive until the drive is spent and only the real motivation remains.

Then, and only then, will you really know the range in which your personal interests truly lie. And that is the only time at which life decisions can be made with any degree of predictable emotional success.

Best of luck, and keep on riding the waves.



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