What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

What a piece of worke is a man! how Noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! in Action, how like an Angel!
in apprehension, how like a God? the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust! Man delights not me; no,
nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seeme
to say soThe Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Act II, Scene ii)

There are those who claim that reality is a shared perception. Our minds often perceive things differently from others, however, and thus our realities may not be quite as shared as some may think.

Someone looking at me on the street would most likely perceive me as a “somewhat overweight, possibly obese, white, hirsute, middle-aged man.” If they pay close attention, they would probably add “married” to that list, as there is a ring on the third finger of my left hand, and without thinking much further, add “heterosexual” based on that previous assumption.

Most of the time, I’m content to not disabuse them of any of their preconceptions, of which there are several.

By the time I was four years old, I knew I was different from other boys. In fact, I insisted that I was a girl. My parents worked diligently to disabuse me of this notion. When I was six, and my father caught me dressed in my sister’s clothing acting as cheerleader for the neighborhood boys’ football game, I was presented with a football uniform for Christmas. I hated that uniform, passionately. 50 years later, I still come across photographs of me in it and get ill.

Ash at age 5Halloween was my one real time of joy throughout the year, as that was the one time that I could get away with dressing as I felt I should every day, and I did it as often as I could. I loved spending time at my grandmother’s, as she and my aunt would let me spend the entire time dressed as “me”.

By my teen years, I was seeing a psychiatrist for my “issues”, as my father grudgingly referred to them. I was diagnosed with what is currently called GID – Gender Identity Disorder – sometimes referred to as transexualism. My parents remained convinced until the end of their lives that “it’s just a phase”. After a while we just didn’t bring it up anymore.

In my senior year of high school, I began correspondence with a person in Kansas City, MO; the plan was to move there upon graduation (she would send me the tickets), live with her and work on transitioning from male to female. A few months before graduation, I panicked, and broke off communication with her. I’ve often wondered whatever happened to Florence.

Instead, I went to college, dropped out of college, enlisted in the Navy, got out of the Navy four years later, almost became a Country-Western DJ, returned to college, met and married the woman who would become mother of my three children …

The desire has never gone away, and it’s unlikely it ever will. It rears its head at times and roars for attention, and I spend hours looking at transitioning guides and start pricing hormones. At this stage in life, that is about the best I can achieve as due to overall health issues, my healing factor is so low that I would never heal from any reparative surgery.

and I quietly cheer on those who have made the leap, at younger and younger ages, and cry for those who, like myself, can no longer jump.

Update 24 January 2018: the above was originally written in 2011, at a point in my life when the possibility of actually transitioning appeared to be a lost opportunity. Not long after, under the direction of President Obama, regulations were eased within the VA Health Care to provide for some forms of treatment for transgender veterans, and I began looking with some small hope.

As my birthday present to myself, on my 59th Birthday, I legally changed my name and resumed my transition which had been “on hold” for nearly 40 years. A few months later, I began HRT, changed the gender markers for my driver’s license, and completed my transition process in the late summer of 2015, not long after my 61st birthday.  The day that I received the Court Order changing my name, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from me, and years of resentment towards that name and the history associated with it began to fade away. Beginning hormone therapy made changes to my body that were finally in consonance with how I had always felt about myself, and the surgical procedures furthered that. I no longer fall asleep at night with the thought of “okay, it wasn’t today, maybe tomorrow.” and waking with “Wonder if this will be the day I do it.”

2015 picture of the authorFriends who have known me for 30+ years sometimes comment how much happier and at ease I seem to them, and that I no longer have that “tired, pained look” on my face all of the time. While that’s certainly true, it’s still not been a “magic wand” journey. But it’s certainly been a better trip.

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