In the week that a good-looking young man, Tom Daley, Olympic diver, came out as bisexual I have found myself wondering why this even constitutes news. To me it reinforces the impression that even today to differ from the heterosexual norm is still seen by too many people as worthy of comment.
So what are people going to make of me?
After about thirty years of hiding who I really am from the world through fear of people’s negative reactions I recently came out to my wife about one of the causes of my secretive nature and a trigger for my depression. While I am mostly attracted to women I do also find some men attractive. Not that I’d ever act on this: I’m married and would never contemplate being unfaithful.
But that’s not the whole of my admission. Not by a long chalk. You see, since the age of about 10 I have wanted to be a woman. As a child I borrowed my mother’s clothing when I was alone in the home — at least until I grew too big to fit. As she never said anything to me I always assumed that it was my secret. It turns out that she was aware and discussed the matter with my wife about 10 years ago. And asked her not to say anything to me. I never knew until now that either of them suspected.
I remember a few times when I was en femme, in my early teens, and looking at myself in the bathroom mirror. I recall wishing that I could somehow step through the mirror and be a girl on the other side. I can pass as male without many problems but it has never felt natural; as if I’m not being myself but rather just playing a part. Trying to meet expectations of how I should be. I’ve felt so bad about my body at times that I have taken hormones — oestrogen — when I could get hold of them illicitly. I’ve contemplated castrating myself although the risks and consequences were too serious for me to act on this.
The pressure of the secrecy got to me, made me ill. I came clean to my wife. I told her how I felt, who I am. She said she knew. That shocked me! And when she told me that my mother had known too… It’s no use worrying about what might have been: I have to make the best of where I am today. The good thing is that the relationship between myself and my wife is as strong as it ever was. Hopefully now we have gotten past the bad period where we were failing to communicate effectively and ended up hurting each other.
The first thing I did was buy some new clothes (assisted by my wife who has been completely behind me with her support) and began to spend my time at home in my female identity. I have chosen the name Alex — short for Alexandra — since Ben is a male name. After a two or three weeks of this I decided that I wanted to be myself in public, and my wife and I went out together to a local town, Farnborough, to do some shopping.
Normally we do not meet anybody we know on these outings but that day we encountered three people we know well socially. They reacted very positively to me as Alex and that gave me confidence to go out to the pub that night. I was very nervous when we arrived and insisted that my wife stay close by me as we went in. But as it turned out I had no need to worry: as they started to get over their shock nearly everybody was accepting — even supportive — and I felt relaxed and happy. I even got up and danced for a while — something that I would have been far too self-conscious to do as Ben. But I reasoned that if I could walk in there as Alex, then getting up and dancing was no problem.
That was just over two weeks ago. Since then I have been living as Alex the whole time except for at work where I am still Ben. Most people we know socially now call me Alex, at least when they remember. It has been such a positive experience and I can’t remember when I last felt this happy and contented. Several people have commented that it was a brave thing to do: it didn’t feel that way to me. It was scary, sure, but also felt like something I had to do. The time for hiding was past.
I have also spoken to my doctor about this and am now in the process of being referred to a psychiatrist for gender dysphoria diagnosis. I know that in an earlier post I said that I did not have this condition and that I was content with my body, but that was not true. That was my long-established, ingrained habit of hiding it, of being too afraid to be open about who I really am. The truth, as I stated above, is that I have the wrong body for my gender. I identify not simply as feminine but as female. And that is why I have now started the long process of altering my body to bring it into line with my identity.
I know that a lot of people who know me as Ben have questions, and some of them have been hesitant to approach me. Let me state here that I welcome such questions and will do my best to answer them: I much prefer that people ask me whatever they want to know rather than wonder about this. I am still the same person I have always been. It is just that now I am being true to myself, being who I really believe I am. And that is Alex. The discomfort of being Ben, of being imprisoned in a male body, was slowly grinding me down and causing me harm.
As far as work goes this post will be the first that anybody there has heard about this. I do not intend to transition at work for a while — several months at least. There is a lot of preparation to be done first, and I would like to be some way into my physical transition. Unlike in the pub I am not simply going to turn up one day dressed and made up as Alex: I want people to be aware beforehand so that they can be prepared.
So that, in a nutshell, is that. I am Alex, a trans woman. Currently pursuing a diagnosis and medical treatment to bring my body more into line with my gender identity. And most importantly I am happy.