This past weekend, my wife and I finally got around to seeing Frozen, which has instantly become my favorite non-Pixar Disney movie! Seriously, it’s that good! Unfortunately, as amazing as Frozen is, it was also incredibly triggering of feelings I haven’t had in a while. My old pal dysphoria decided it was time to visit town.
Gender dysphoria and I go way back, in fact, I can’t remember a time in my life when she wasn’t around. As far back into my childhood as I can remember, she was there pretending to be my best friend. It wasn’t so long ago that simply seeing or interacting with another woman, whether in person, on TV, or in a movie, would mean it was time for another date with dysphoria. Sometimes our dates would include dinner at The Jealousy Factory, other times it would be mini golf at Self-Loathing Putt Putt or a long walk along Severe Depression and Anxiety Beach. These weren’t fun dates, they were more like being in my own personal hell, but it was all I knew.
These days, our relationship is much more distant. I don’t see her like I used to and that’s how I prefer it. Transitioning has truly strained things between us and limited the time we spend together. I cheated on her with happiness, but she isn’t the kind of ex that completely disappears. No, she’s the kind of ex that hangs around and reads into things, constantly trying to find some reason why we should still be together.
Fittingly, she’s stuck in the past, just like her place in my life. She knows my present and future are promising and I’m happy with where I am and where I’m going. She knows when I look at myself in the mirror, I see the mask I used to wear less and less and am increasingly able to see myself as I feel I should. I have a long way to go, but I know I can get there and every day brings me one step closer. I’ve come to terms with much of what I’ll never be able to change. Dysphoria knows this and she knows she won’t get too far going after that.
When dysphoria comes to visit me, she loves to rehash the past. She brings up all the “great” times we had together. She reminds me how I watched life pass my by as I was living a life I shouldn’t have been living. I watched the girls I grew up with grow into women and I was left behind with nothing more than a wish to be the same as them. I spent each and every day of college longing for a different life. As each phase of life passed by, it left behind the realization that I’d never get to experience that part of my life as I should have. As the depression piled on, dysphoria was there. This was her specialty, telling me that while I should have transitioned years ago, it was too late now.
I can’t get my teens or twenties back and I’ll never get to live them as a woman. I’ll never get to grow up as a girl. I now know that I was a girl through middle school and high school. And I was a woman in college and my twenties. I just hadn’t quite realized it at the time because I was too busy believing everyone who told me I was a boy. Though, it doesn’t really matter either way now, I certainly didn’t get to live as my gender. For me, this is the hardest part of being transgender. I can’t get those missed experiences back. There’s so much I wish I could have experienced the proper way…prom, puberty (I know, I know), my bachelorette party, wedding, girls’ nights…the list goes on and on. What saves me from this is remembering all the awesome experiences I did get to have. My prom may have been completely terrible, but I had an AMAZING wedding day! Still, feelings tend to be irrational and you can’t always reason with them. I don’t think anything would make me give up the life I did have, but that’s not always enough to console me when I’m hanging out with dysphoria.
As I sat in the theater, eyes glued to the giant screen in front of me, dysphoria made her move. She cuddled up to me and reminded me of the childhood I didn’t have. Watching Anna and Elsa grow up, I was brought back more than twenty years to when I first saw The Little Mermaid. I was six years old and I sat in the theater wishing to no end to be Ariel. I wanted to be just like her. I never shook that, she was always my Disney princess, the one I wanted to be. Frozen’s Anna resonated with me in the same way and brought back everything I felt almost twenty-five years ago. If Frozen had come one when I was a child, Anna would be my princess. She’d be who I wished to grow up as.
At one point, I nearly had to get up and leave the theater. The feelings of a lost life were almost too much for me. For close to two hours, I was a child again, with a whole life ahead of me. I would grow up to be a beautiful princess in the way so many girls wished for. At times, I was almost able to lose myself in the wonder of that, but dysphoria was there to ruin it. She was there to remind me I’m 30 and that’s not the life I had. I may have wished and wished to be a totally awesome, can-take-care-of-herself-and-kick-ass princess, but I never got to tell anyone. It was always my secret. I didn’t get to be a princess for Halloween. I didn’t get to grow up into a beautiful woman.
This is what transition can’t fix. Dysphoria will always be the ex that never goes away. She is the reason I can’t enjoy nice things.