This is something I don't often write about. It's part of me, I've known about it for a long time, but the environment I'm currently in forces me to stay deeply closeted. Not too many people who know me in real life know about this, but the number is increasing. My brother now knows, for example.
That one's a bit of a tale, that it is. I wasn't exactly going to tell him - I couldn't muster up the courage - but then, a friend of mine (who's also genderqueer) forced my hand. It's a good thing she did, too. He and I now live fairly close to one another, and my status is no longer a point of tension. I'm not sure that he knows entirely what it means, but then, explaining transgenderism to the cisgendered is like explaining green to someone who's always been blind. What matters is that he knows, and that he knows that I've been like this for a very long time.
It's hard to say how long, exactly. The first stirrings probably started when I was a little kid, but I first became truly conscious of it in middle school. Anything before that is only in retrospect, which I might be viewing with pickle-colored goggles. But anyway, that makes it about 1993 or so that I first noticed that I was a bit more girlish than most guys. I denied it back then - after all, all I wanted, oh so desperately, was to fit in. What teenager doesn't? It was back then that I first experimented with cross-dressing. Now, all this came at the same time as puberty, and the initial interest in sex. Way to confuse things. I think I'd have been a lot clearer about my own condition if this had started either earlier or later.
But, as my luck would have it, it didn't. So, I spent most of my middle school and high school days thinking that my cross-dressing was just some kind of fetish, and being OK with that. Looking back on it, I now realize there was more to it than that - it's just that with the rush of hormones that comes with adolescence, the sexual implications were the strongest. Denial had a lot to do with it too. I wouldn't have called myself a cross-dresser back then (even though I definitely cross-dressed!), much less a transvestite, transgenderist or transsexual. And I didn't learn about the full spectrum of genderqueerness until much later. I had my own word for what I did. I called it raising Farklur.* Even though I went as far as to steal paraphernalia, and keep caches of clothes secretly hidden, I couldn't bring myself to admit what I was doing - or what I was.
And so I went on, lying to myself. I lied, and "raised Farklur" on until I graduated from high school. I don't think I ever got discovered in that time. If ever I did, I was never confronted about it. I was never confronted about why I furtively raced back into my room and locked the door when my mother came home. I was never confronted about why certain articles of clothing were on different hangers. God, I was so dumb back then. Of course, maybe I only think the signs were obvious because if I were in my parents' place, I'd see it - which is only because I've done it. Maybe they did see it, and chose to stay silent. I don't know. I can't imagine my stealth was really that good. No teen's ever is. Ask any parent of any teenager anytime ever.
Anyway, this didn't stop until I went to college. Just before I went, I secretly destroyed or returned my cache of clothes. I returned what I thought I could, destroyed what I thought would be noticed. Better to be without, than to be caught. And then I moved into the dorms. I didn't dress while I was there, but oh, did I want to. To make a long story short, college, for me, was an epic failure, because I wasn't ready, and I was burnt out on high school. So, back I came. For a few months I puttered ineffectually, working at Arby's while I tried to find my way. Eventually a way found me, in the form of the Navy.
Next stop, boot camp. This was supposed to be 9-12 weeks of heck. It turned into six months of hell, thanks to injury. I got hurt, and got stuck. Eventually I got out and went to A school. All through this time, I didn't dress, though I fantasized my ass off. And then I got to my first command. There, I kept a lid on things for a few months, but eventually, with my newfound freedom, I started dressing again. It had been 18, almost 20 months since I last did.
Those 18 months had been spent wrestling with - and sometimes, vanquishing - a lot of inner demons. Having finally come out of that fight significantly changed, I could now address this lurking demon - the demon that had been lurking in my subconscious for nearly a decade that I'd been aware of. It was sometime in here that I finally blew through all the denial and bullshit, and used the real word for what I was doing. It was also now, divorced from the sex lightning of puberty, and with 18 months of analytical distance, that I could really look at what I was doing. Introspection was, and is, terrifying - but instructive. I finally got the balls to apply the T-word - transvestite - to myself. As it turns out, that wasn't exactly the right word - I'm really closer to a transsexual, though I don't fit all of the classical signs - but just having a description, having a label, and knowing that I wasn't alone.
A year or so after this, I came out. Well, kinda. I wrote a diary on kuro5hin - back when it wasn't a morass of stupid - and I kinda came out to the internet in general. Since then, I've been - more or less - out online. Well, either out or silent. But, a lot has gone on since then. First, came my most recent stint in Italy. It was my first real taste of solitude and freedom. I'd had self-sufficiency at the two commands before that, but here, I lived alone and had a lot of time to get to know myself, free of serious worries about people peering into my personal life. In my solitude, I found a lot of things. I discovered more about myself and my condition, and realized that I wasn't a fetishistic transvestite. I mean, I kinda knew that before, I knew there was more to it, but I really came to terms with the idea. Sometime around here, I found the furry fandom, and as it happens, it's a very good thing that I did, because it led to my biggest leap of self-discovery yet - but that's a story to be told further on. I met lots of people through this vehicle. Some were assholes, some were great.
It was during all this that I spiraled into a dark depression thanks to a bunch of events happening around me. I was more or less absent from E2 at this time, too. But, I came through this darkness, too. Now, I call myself a transgenderist or a transsexual, when I have time to explain nuances. When I don't, I just say "genderqueer". It helps a lot that there's a bloody awful lot of genderqueerness in the Furry community. This made it a lot easier to get comfortable with telling people. The first couple times I told people, it was hard. It was very very hard. I mean, it's easy, almost casual, when you're telling people you don't know, who don't know you, the generic "them". It's harder, the more you know someone. It was hard telling people online. It's harder telling people in real life.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyway, sometime in all that, I moved back to the US, and moved in with my current friends/roommates. I suppose nakama is the better word, now that I think of it. In the interest of protecting the innocent, I'm going to refer to them by their handles here. When I moved in, it was with Atma and Raven, who are both genderqueer. Eventually, we acquired two more, living in a flat across from us, who we knew through the fandom. Around now is when I ended up telling my brother. Then my friend-cum-ward-cum-well, whatever you call someone in such a position, moved in. He's not trans, but he's gay, and a lot of the same issues apply. Though I daresay being homosexual is a little better understood. Maybe.
Anyway, I now feel more in control of my destiny than ever before. I know what I am, or at least, I have a better clue. Now, I need to take the steps I've been avoiding. I need to tell my parents, and more than that, I need to see a psychologist, preferably a non-military one. And I need to do it soon. This is the big stumbling block in deciding whether or not to make the Navy a career. I've been in for over a decade, now. I have options - including a few that would let me earn a government pension - but the time to decide is advancing fast. 30** September, 2011 is the drop-dead date. I have to decide by then. And I'm beginning to think that I can't ignore what, who and how I am any longer. For all the military has given to me, it's finally becoming more of an encumbrance than a help. I think I could stomach ten more years, but that's not the point anymore. I need to be me, free of all the other horseshit. Oh, there'll always be horseshit, I know - that's just how the world works - but it'll be a positive step.
I need to stop equivocating, and just seize the damn day. Only problem is, I don't even know where to look. I've been self-examining just because I can't tell a mil-shrink about this. So, where do I go to even begin looking for a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or the like who specializes in this stuff? I can tell you one thing, finding out is going to be very high on my list, when I get back. I'm not just living for me anymore, I've got someone else to get kickstarted into a good life - which is a story for another time - and I need to be all I can be. Without the Army, mind you!
*This makes more sense if you know that Farklur was one of many netherworlds that were a fixture of the many fantasy settings of my childhood. It was, or became, the place where those whose lives were dominated by lust went after death, and it was a land of indulgence ad nauseam, not so much of punishment.
**Donut fucking seeds!