How does one balance gender, work and life when there is ongoing conflict within? Can choosing your gender bring happiness? Or is it contentedness?
Through the years I have had occasion to deal with this question, both in theory and practice, and the results were inspiring. As some of you may know, I began life -- like many of you -- as what I interpreted as a closet cross-dresser, compelled by some fetishistic force I could neither adequately comprehend, explain, nor balance.
I indulged in long-term HRT -- on more than one occasion -- beginning in 2000 when I came out; four year later on the verge of what everyone (including myself) thought would be my swan dive into full transition, I reverted back to living as a full-time male. While I have since had occasion to cross-dress again -- for the same-sex wedding expo in 2011, a friends night out and the Invasion of the Pines in 2012, I have for the most part been living male -- without being haunted by some compulsion stalking me from the shadows.
I had encountered and interacted with a wide-variety of transgender people during my years, and it is through my own experiences, and theirs, that I formed many of the opinions that I’ve written about. But in this case, I pull more from my own experiences.
Many of us -- at least those of us who were growing up in the pre-Internet era -- had little information about the condition and conflict of our internal compulsions. They caused us to struggle day to day, week to week and year to year; always considering it to be in some way a phase that would eventually go away.
To our dismay however, following those moments of intense gratification during our cross-dressing episodes, it never does go away. And, as we grow older, we come to realize it probably never would. Moreover, the knowledge of that creates an ever-present obstacle in our lives.
For many, the act of cross-dressing was simply something they liked to do; for others, like myself, it wasn’t something we liked to do, but rather a manifestation of who we are.
Dr. Harry Benjamin surmised that to treat a person suffering from the condition now widely known as gender dysphoria syndrome, would require gender reassignment surgery (GRS), previously referred to as sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) once they have met the Standards of Care he outlined.
For late-life transsexuals, however, such procedures to transition to the opposite physical gender of one’s birth are not always an easy or practical solution; by late life many have families, including children, and careers, as well as financial and other restraints.
It was long surmised that transition -- on its own -- would result in a happy, fulfilled life. In most cases, a very high 90+ percentage, post-op transsexuals that met the Standards of Care voiced no regret in doing so.
Is lack of regret and happiness the same? And what if one's gender is not so easily defined as transsexual, or are unable -- for a multitude of reasons -- unable to partake in such a life shift?
In his book “You’ll See It When You Believe It,” Dr. Wayne Dyer -- discussing work and happiness --, noted that one doesn’t have to have the dream job to be happy; that one can simply be a means to an end; the work can producer to self-sustaining funds required to find happiness elsewhere.
Why should gender choice be required for happiness? While I felt more contented in my gender choice, it alone did not bring happiness, but was merely an enhancement to the happiness that I already resided within me; the joy I found from the act of living.
Thus, I would suggest that while struggling with gender conflict, that we also deal with inner happiness; how to locate and experience it. Art, nature, friends, family, achievement, and so on can all aid in achieving internal happiness.
We’ve all read about those that are so distraught about their gender conflict that they’d rather not live at all than live in the wrong body. Their all-consumed with the thoughts of gender. In larger numbers, there are also those distressed by the heavy weight caused by their compulsion to cross-dress, the conflict that secret causes, as well as the lingering unanswered question “What's wrong with me, why can’t I be normal?”
To those I would ask “ What is normal?” Every decision we make in our lives -- and their subsequent consequences --, every road we take, every kindness we offer, or slight we deliver, is of our own choosing, and ultimately our own responsibility.
So I would offer that we should accept responsibility in the reality of our gender, gender I.D., and seek out ways to be happy people first, and then deal with everything else. Seek and nurture those things we like to do, interaction with friends -- those we don't have any secrets from --, and most importantly, let happy experiences run through us within trying to hold on to them.
Go get happy, and deal with the gender dysphoria in your life as best you can, in whichever way works best for you. But remember that transition alone, unto itself, will not make happy an unhappy life.