I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m in Captain America.
It’s true! Skip to about 6:11 in the clip below and you will see me set some dishes on a table.
Yep, that’s me. Or, I suppose you could say, that’s the boy I was. Though in the truest possible sense, I wasn’t ever really him.
I remember the way I felt that day, filming at that house down in Redondo Beach. It was much the same as I’d felt nearly every day for a few years prior, and nearly every day for years and years to follow.
Words always fail me when I try to articulate what that feeling is. People sometimes argue that transgender people are living a lie, pretending to be something they’re not. There’s no way I can make them understand this, since I can’t open up my soul and let them step inside and experience what I’ve experienced for years and years, but they have it backwards. It was being a boy that was the lie. Every day, it weighed on me, this feeling like I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. The emotional pain was so acute that it was often almost physical, like a little knife twisting in my heart. This has made me withdrawn for much of my life—It’s hard to feel the normal joys and sorrows of everyday life when a source of pain is always so immediate. And of course, others were hurt as well, as I tried and failed to behave in ways that were expected of me, and as I pressured myself to act the part in the misguided belief that maybe I was just crazy and maybe someday it would all go away.
Things are better now. I’ve accepted who I am and I don’t hide it from others. But I still have a long way to go. And it still hurts. Some days are harder than others. Gender dysphoria is real, and it is painful. That’s why the American Medical Association recommends that treatment be provided for it.
Occasionally, someone will post a comment about me that’s along the lines of, “If you identify as a female, why do you still look like a dude? Why not finish with your transition before publicly presenting yourself as Carolyn?”
That’s a fair question. If you had told me even a few years ago that I would one day be in this position, being publicly out as a transgender person at this awkward stage of my transition, I would have said you were crazy. Nothing sounded more terrifying to me than the prospect of being out before having fully transitioned. In fact, my plan (or at least my fantasy) was always to go “stealth,” as it’s sometimes called in the T community. To transition and then maybe start a new job in a new place where most people didn’t know about my past and accepted me at face value as the person I am.
But when push came to shove, denying my true identity was more painful than acknowledging it was scary, and so here I am.
The reason why I remain at this awkward stage, and will for at least a little while yet (much to my dismay) is money. Not every person who makes the MTF transition needs facial feminization surgery, but I’ve been cursed with a particularly masculine facial structure, and so I consider facial feminization surgery absolutely necessary. (Other surgeries are necessary, too, but FFS will have the biggest impact on how I’m perceived in my day-to-day life, and as such, it’s easily the top priority for me.) You may not think that FFS can really have a dramatic impact on a transgender person’s life, but indeed, for many transgender women, it makes absolutely all the difference in the world. Most who undergo FFS don’t make the results public, for understandable reasons. They want to be seen by the world as the women they really are and now appear to be, and often, images of the time before are painful reminders of a time they’d rather forget. But some do opt to demonstrate just how dramatic the results can be. For instance, in the video below, FFS is an essential part of Meghan’s transformation.
It’s also extremely expensive. I had one consultation with a surgeon here in San Francisco, one of the most well-respected FFS surgeons in the world, but at close to $40,000, surgery with him was prohibitively costly for me. I am now looking into having the surgery done in Thailand. Going to Thailand for a surgical procedure may sound foolhardy and dangerous, but this particular surgeon has an excellent reputation. He is more affordable, but far from cheap, and while I might be able to afford having FFS with him within the next year or two (I hope), it will cost every penny I’ve spent years saving.
I’m on the brink of turning 35, which is much older than I’d hoped to be to still be dealing with these issues, but these vital services remain far more costly than they should be. More U.S. companies are covering or assisting with the costs of surgery for their transgender employees, and that is a wonderful trend, but it has a long way to go. If you’re ever in a position where you have the power to speak up and nudge this trend in the right direction, I urge you to do so.
There’s a great line in the film The Edge. Charles Morse, the millionaire played by Anthony Hopkins, says, “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.” In my head, that often gets changed to “Never feel sorry for a woman who reviews video games for a living.” In fact, my life is full of blessings and good fortune. I am one of the lucky ones, and I never forget it. But that fortune in so much of my life doesn’t eliminate the pain that results from looking in the mirror and seeing someone who I know isn’t me looking back. Sometimes, I just need to talk about it. Thanks for reading. And if you have any ideas for how I might be able to do some fundraising and tackle the financially daunting next step of my journey a little sooner, well, I’m all ears.