I made my decision to transition a year and a half ago and I can say without any hesitation that it’s been the second best experience of my life, with only marrying my wife ahead of it. Transition has changed my life and how I feel about myself in ways I don’t have words to describe. However, that doesn’t change the fact that transition can be complicated and challenging and sometimes you’d give anything for it to just be over. For me, there’s one specific aspect of transition that I utterly and completely hate. It’s not giving myself weekly injections, it’s not the awkwardness of constantly being in situations where you need to explain that you’re transgender (e.g. getting carded at the bar), it’s not the coming out to friends and family, it’s not all the money transition can cost, and it’s not getting my face blasted with a laser on a regular basis to remove all the hair. I can handle that stuff. At this point, I’m not even phased by any of it.
The part that sucks is having to maintain two completely different identities during the “in-between,” that time between when you decide to transition and when you’re finally fully out and living as your true self “full time.” I hate this. Hate it! Hate it! Hate it! When I finally decided I was going to embrace who I truly am and transition, I was eager to choose my name and start interacting with people as myself. It didn’t take me long to choose the name Amelia and I quickly went ahead and created Tumblr and Twitter accounts, among others. As I came out to my friends, I asked them each to start using this name.
As much as I wanted to only be my real self and only be referred to as Amelia, I knew I had to be patient. So for the last year and a half, I’ve lived a double life. At times, I lived as my old boring self, the one everyone knew and, when possible, I lived as myself, as Amelia. Often times, I would be living both simultaneously, switching back and forth depending on who walked in and out of the room or whether I was talking to the person next to me or with someone on my phone via text or Twitter. In the beginning, things were a bit easier as I was Amelia only in very limited settings, but this progressively changed as my transition moved forward and I started spending more and more time being myself. In more recent months, I’ve been spending more time outside of my house physically being myself in addition to moving more and more of my online presence over to my to my new name.
During the day, I would continue to be my old self at work while chatting with people and hanging out on Twitter as myself. Because of the number of coworkers I’m friends with on Facebook, I was forced to leave this account under my old name and identity until just this week. I toyed with created a new account, but this just didn’t seem to be worth the effort. None of these people at work knew I had an entire secret life, that the person they knew me as was a lie. At night and on the weekends, I was Amelia. I only used this name and physically presented myself as Amelia as much as possible. I was like my own personal superhero, out there being awesome and people in my life didn’t even know about it.
I used to think it was hard to keep my real self hidden when I was still lying to myself about who I really am. I lived within a carefully scripted web of lies. Everything I said and every single move I made had to first pass through a conscious filter to ensure any trace of my real gender was either stripped out or hidden. If that sounds exhausting, that’s because it was. I didn’t think things could get more challenging than this, but I turned out to be wrong. Even though I wasn’t showing people the real person I was, I still wasn’t living a double life, that real person wasn’t allowed to actually exist.
Once you decide to actually explore yourself and you’re ready to go ahead with transition, it’s like opening the proverbial Pandora’s Box, you don’t know what you’re going to find and there’s no putting it back away. When I started actually letting myself out, the filter became something I needed to actually turn off and then back on again. I needed to constantly be on top of when the filter needed to be on. Letting nothing through 100% of the time is a lot easier than letting nothing through 50% of the time.
Finally coming out at work this week means I no longer need to keep my old identity around. I only have to be me, the superhero. I only need to use the name Amelia unless my legal name is required–and that’s only for another couple weeks. I can now talk about the things I’ve kept hidden. When coworkers ask the obligatory “what’d you do this weekend” question, I no longer need to either make something up or sound boring and tell them I just stayed in. When I go to Starbucks or Chipotle at lunch and bring back a drink or burrito with the name Amelia written on it, I no longer need to worry about hiding the name from everyone…or having to use my birth name. I don’t need to worry about mannerisms anymore. I don’t need to be secretive about doctor’s appointments and why all of a sudden, even though I’m a marathon runner, I started caring about my weight and not eating too much. I don’t need to worry someone will come over to my desk to show me something and see the name on my GMail (which I always keep open) or the name on the user account I use to test code on my local system.
Transition brings a whole lot of challenges, but most of them aren’t too hard to get used to. Unfortunately, living a double life isn’t one of those things I was ever able to get used to. I could and did do it, but I hated every moment of it. I was constantly on the verge of saying the wrong name, my birth name while out as myself or Amelia at work. Not even a few days would go by without having to either rely on a string of lies or clever wording to hide my real identity. If I couldn’t come up with a lie quick enough, I’d have to quickly change the subject or simply hope no one was actually paying attention or thought to question the words that just left my mouth.
I’m so glad this is coming to an end. Death to my old self and my old identity. That guy was a dick anyway.