In fact I feel, well, alive. Like I’ve been living my whole life blind and now I’ve opened my eyes.Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen
It’s a common thing to hear from people who get their first pair of glasses, that they finally understand what it feels like to see with good vision. Their eyes have been opened to the world that exists around them in a clarity they never thought possible. My brother in law said “oh my gosh you can read the words!” when referencing a video game he had been playing. It makes you wonder how people can go so long and have no idea they needed something so vital and important.
This week I read the AMAZING book Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard. It is such a wonderfully crafted story about a young girl named Mare Barrow, who finds herself among a world of silver blooded elite, as she pretends to be a silver herself, while also trying to keep everyone around her from discovering that she has “lower” red blood. This story really gripped me from the moment I started reading it and never let go. I stayed up two nights in a row until about 1 am reading, just so I could finish it. If you have the opportunity to read this book, I highly recommend it!
The quote at the top comes from Red Queen, and I bring it up, because that’s the way I described my first time out in the world in women’s clothes. I was 29, it was July, and I had just come out to my parents. I was on my way to a therapist appointment to discuss my gender issues, and she encouraged me to go out and get an outfit and wear it in. She said it would help me start to feel at home in my body. Up until that point, I had spent almost 20 years dressing up in secret. 20 years hiding from the world, borrowing clothes from the women in my life without them knowing. I have since apologized to those women, but at the time, I needed an outlet for my repressed inner woman and didn’t have a better way.
The night prior to walking into the world, I went to target to go shopping. A nice saleswoman helped me pick out a dress that was way too big for me, under the guise that I was shopping for my wife. I was too scared to tell her the dress was for me. But even with the setback, I still had made progress. I had a new dress to wear. The next day, I went, to my appointment in a dress, the first time ever having stepped outside my bedroom in women’s clothes. I had a full beard, and looked mighty hilarious, but it was an important first step. People saw me like that, I interacted with 3 or 4 people at the therapists office. This was no longer something that was just myself. This was my future, who I was destined to become. When I got home, I was asked how things went, and my only response was, “It’s like seeing color for the very first time.” It was a relatively mundane drive across town, and yet, it was so important to my self esteem and who I was, that I cherish that memory.
So back to my very first question, how can someone go so long, without knowing something is wrong. I don’t have an answer, I’m not sure anyone does. But when you are transgender, something a large chunk of the world doesn’t “agree” with, it becomes hard to accept that about yourself. Who can you safely talk to when you start to feel different? Will your parents understand their 12 year old “boy”, when they goes to bed wishing they could be a woman? Will your friends shun you at the pivotal time where how you’re perceived at school is everything? Or is it easier to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and repress for 20 years, even if it hurts to do so? It’s so easy to fall into a routine of unhappiness that it becomes normalized. It’s your daily life, you hardly notice it. It’s background noise.
But, when you finally gain the courage to come out, to accept yourself, to begin making changes in your life to get better, you become so very aware of everything that was wrong before. Immediately, I could remember things about my life I never remembered happening. Feelings of dysphoria that I didn’t understand at the time. I also saw an exit. A way to get better. To be happy. It was like seeing color for the first time.