Autumn Interview #1, August 2015

Autumn had been in the process of transitioning for three months when I met her. She was attending a graduate program at Rutgers University.

“I grew up in CT in a suburban environment. It was not a happy family. After college I became a consultant/research analyst for a company outside Boston. I liked it reasonably well, but I wasn’t totally satisfied working for the private sector. As my 20s went on, depression and my gender dysphoria began to overwhelm me.

My earliest memories were from the age of five or six, and I remember knowing I was not ‘one of the guys.’ But at the time I didn’t have a vocabulary to express it or understand what I was feeling. I got to a point where I knew I was one of the girls but I couldn’t admit it to myself. I got so scared because if I told anyone no one would believe me and I thought I would be dismissed, laughed at, or worse. I felt like my parents would hate me. My dad wanted to be the kind of parent his father never was, to play sports with me and be my little league coach. I liked sports too, so it was a good way to bond with my father. But I didn’t like doing other traditionally male things. I was always a sensitive child and a huge reader. Reading was my escape.

Up until the fourth grade I had friends, but then I became tremendously shy. I would have panic attacks; throw up on social occasions. I was terrified if my mom left me at a party. My parents never did anything to help me. My mom was overwhelmed with her own mental issues. My dad is a good person but he was not good with those kinds of issues.

In middle school and high school I closed myself off from girls. I was sent to an all-boys high school and I became a recluse. When I went to college and was with both genders again, I learned a lot about myself. I realized I admired women more than guys. I felt a huge amount of longing to be female and I felt guilty about being male, and about wanting to be female. I just felt inadequate regarding traditional male gender roles.

In hindsight it took me much longer than I wish it had to take action. It was so confusing because with women I saw a reflection of myself but I was so deep in denial. I would be like, ‘isn’t that a funny thing to think,’ and I would just ignore it. I admired women’s clothing as far superior to male clothing, and would just think, ‘this is just a weird sexual fetish.’ It was a way to make sense of and rationalize it. And that would make me feel even more ashamed of myself. I had an all-consuming sense of longing and pointlessness. I can’t even express how badly it stinks. I didn’t know about transgender issues until about five years ago. And then I finally asked myself, ‘am I transgender?’ I reached the point where I couldn’t become sexually aroused unless I saw myself in a female role. I just knew deep down that something was wrong.

I have been depressed my entire life. I was physically numb. But about four years ago I found a great therapist who helped me validate my emotions. A light when on and I began seriously asking myself, ‘am I transgender?’ I was so scared that at first I would brush it aside and run away from that thought. I was afraid I could never pass as female, that I would be rejected, that I couldn’t afford the cost. I kept denying it, but one day I read the story of a college basketball player who was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. But she realized that what she wanted to do was play basketball. So I thought, if I was terminally ill like that, what would I do? I decided I would have to become my true self. That’s when I realized I was really transgender. Since then, I developed a feeling of contentment and satisfaction that has never left since.

At first I would buy female clothes and wear them in private. I couldn’t bring myself to wear them in public. But that would just add to my gender dysphoria because it was temporary. Then I would feel ashamed, and I would throw my female clothes into a dumpster. I didn’t really start buying female clothes a lot until I started coming out.

The first person I came out to was by text message. She has become a close friend now, but she wasn’t then, so it wasn’t as scary. I knew her to be extremely compassionate. I slowly came out to other people. I went to get my ears pierced right after I came out, January 5. I was so self-conscious; it just felt like everyone was looking at me. Eventually I did my hair and wore women’s clothing on the streets of New Haven. Doing that made me feel much more confident in a matter of weeks.
When my dad found out I was transgender, he was a trooper. He had always treated me like a best friend and I was worried he would be devastated. But he hugged me and tears came into his eyes. My dad doesn’t cry at all. Then he nodded and was encouraging. I know it was difficult for him because about a half hour later I heard him breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating, in the next room. A parent may feel almost like his child has died. But he has been great ever since. I haven’t spoken to my mother for seven months. My mother called me an embarrassment, a disgrace, said I was disgusting. But she has always been very troubled, so I was able to get over it quickly.

My old friends have been supportive with the exception of my two best friends, who work for the church. The friendship is over; that was traumatic. It has eaten me up. I told them in a text, and they said they would support me, but it turns out they didn’t know what transgender meant. We are no longer friends. It has been very hurtful.

March 31 is the first time I took hormones and the next day I felt so much better. People joke about PMS but I hadn’t been getting the hormones to go with the way my brain is wired—as a female. Finally my brain could function the way it was meant to.

Although there are some downsides to being transgender, they are so overshadowed by the positives that I don’t see them. For instance there are difficulties in finding transgender insurance. But I am lucky because I am not in relationship and I don’t have children so I don’t have to deal with those conflicts. When I complete my graduate program I don’t think it will be hard to find a job in a large metropolitan area. I may be able to work for the government or relatively liberal employers who are in the process of seeking transgender insurance as we speak. I am relatively young so I am lucky in regard to people who were pioneers in transgender. People today are much more aware of it; that makes it easier.

Since I started to take hormones I have felt more comfortable in my own skin. Before I didn’t feel like my body was my home. I felt like a stranger to my body, like I was trespassing. I am a huge fan of the TV show The Americans. It’s the show where there are Soviet spies and they are completely living a lie. I relate so much to that experience. Just acting so different from what you actually are. You feel like a con artist, a fraud, because gender is so overwhelming as a part of one’s identity.”