“Don’t be afraid of the shadows, that only means there’s a light nearby.” — Evanescence
There is a statistic that shows that over 45% of transgender people will either take their own life or they will attempt to. That is a horrendous statistic! I am one of those statistics. While I was fortunate to never have succeeded at it. I have at least twice in my life attempted to take my life. Though for most of my life, I have contemplated it often. Part of this was due to who I was, or rather who I wasn’t allowed to be. Our society loves to talk about love and acceptance, but much of the time there are strings. You can receive that love and acceptance if you fit their narrow guidelines for how to act or be. So one can only imagine what it is like for someone who decides to come out as transgender.
I found out early on that being a “sissy-boy” was not being tolerated. I soon learned to watch my brothers and try to do as they did. I felt it was the only way to get love and affection. Of course, that plays into your psychi as you now internalize that there is something wrong with you, that you are a reject, defective. Over time this thought pattern deepens until it is second nature. You do all you can to earn love that you lose who you are in the process. When years turn into decades, it becomes ingrained into your persona. In time, you no longer exist, but rather the image takes over. As you learn the things that will gain you acceptance from friends and family, you add these things into the who you are mix. The real you goes further and further into the nether regions of your mind. You internalize that you are a bad person and need to conform to be loved and accepted.
The constant neglecting of self, can have serious impact. Back in the 90’s, I ended up in counseling. We worked to identify who I was. It was hard because my psychologist had to keep pressing as my responses to her questions usually were prefaced by “They say” or “People say” or “I was expected to”. My psychologist would always bring me back to point, but saying, “I don’t care what others say or think, I want to know what you think.” That was a real mind-blower at the time. I was being asked what I, the real I, not the image, thought. Slowly, the “People say” and ” I was expected to’s” turned to, “Well, if I really thought about it, but’s”. She then pushed to stop the buts. She told me there was no buts. In her office, I was allowed to be me, free from any bias. Needless to say this was unsettling to my psychi. She had me start to keep a journal. I was doing a pretty good job writing things down.
After breaking me down to find out who I was, it came out about my childhood. I told her how much I hated being a man. I told her how, many times, I would put a knife to my groin and want to just cut that part off. This alarmed her a bit and she pressed to be sure that I wasn’t at the point of self-mutilation. I assured her that I was too much of a coward to actually go through with it. After a year of sessions, she finally gave me the diagnosis of late stage gender dysphoria. I find that interesting that they called it late stage when I have felt it all my life. I guess because it sort of peaked at this time of my life, it was late stage. From that point on, we started working on resolving my dysphoria. I was soon on my way to transition.
I won’t get into the breakdown of my marriage and divorce, though that did affect my mind. I want to keep this focused on the mental aspect of my experience in being transgendered and the issues that caused me to sink into darkness. The time when I was in transition was a great period, marked with the brief interactions with my ex that often left me drained, angry, and depressed. I came out to work and was told they would support me, but was later told that the job was just a temporary job and I was let go. This complicated matters worse. I found myself out of work and two kids to support. I continued to try to transition, but after six months, with unemployment running out and no job in sight, I made the decision to rebury myself and conform. Once I did, I found myself with a job offer. I am still with that job today. I took it as a sign that I was to never be a woman and that the only life I had was one of conformity. I internalized that I didn’t count and everyone else was more important. I didn’t exist, so I didn’t rate.
I decided that if I was stuck being a man, I was going to be the best man I could be. I soon met an angel of a lady. I fell in love with her and we were soon married. We had a wonderful life together. We shared many adventures including a number of trips to the Southwest. From outside looking in, we were a loving couple who were totally enamored with each other. We built a wonderful life together. We eventually moved from the house she had owned to a new one that was closes to her parents. We loved the new house and the area we were in. It was all magical, but through this all, I carried a shadow. That shadow kept popping out at times. Cindy noted this. She commented that we had all these wonderful things and great beauty around us, but it was like there was a cloud hanging over me all the time. We continued in this mode for quite a while.
We decided to go to Martha’s Vineyard to celebrate our anniversary. We visited a lot of the site and shops. She asked me to find something to do the next day. I said that we should check out this alpaca farm, Island Alpaca. We did and that began yet a whole new phase of our life. Soon we were selling our house in Lakeville and moving to Rock Village to start an alpaca farm.
The place in Rock Village was beautiful The house had a nice farmer’s porch. We had a two stall garage so I could get the bike out of the weather. We soon built a barn and started bringing in the alpacas. All the while there was always a shadow. I was there but not there. Cindy would often ask, what was wrong. I had everything buried so deep that I honestly told her, that I didn’t know. When alone, I would often think of how I could take my life so as to have the littlest impact. These thoughts started taking over my mind. Whenever I was alone, I was calculating least damage scenarios. I found I had returned to putting a knife to my groin. Bit by bit, what was buried started bubbling. The more it did, the more depressed I got as I loved my wife so dearly and didn’t want to lose all I had. The last time, I lost everything and found myself alone, with few family members and friends left. I had to fight this. I had to get it buried yet again.
The more I tried to bury it, the deeper I sank. Oh, like Robin Williams, I put up a brave face, cracking jokes and being the life of the party. I had become a Mason and was buried deep being an officer in four different bodies and a District Ambassador. I was an instructor for a time, lead instructor for while. I had even joined a motorcycle club for a bit. I was a man, I was determined to stay that way for the sake of my wife. The more I fought, the more internal conflict. It was affecting my ability to think straight at times. I was spiraling down and Cindy was noting it. She pointed out all the beauty around us and the wonderful life we had built, yet I was never quite happy.
This went on for a while and culminated when a dear friend and head of our Lodge died of a heart attack. It tore me to shreds. I went to his wake and took the day off to attend his funeral. I listened to person after person talk about this wonderful man and how he lived an authentic life. How he gave his all to his church and community. How he died of a heart attack because his heart had grown too big to be held in his body. The love and respect for him was overwhelming. The thought that hit me was that I had also given of myself for others, but no one even knew me. I wasn’t this image that everyone had grown to love and respect. I was a caricature. I was false. I went home and shaved off the beard. I wanted to quit hiding. The depression got worse. I found myself thinking suicidal thoughts every day now and sometimes multiple times in a day. I found myself crying at every little thing. Cindy took note and pressed.
I finally broke down and told her. I told her about the 90’s and what happened back then. I told her that I had to stay a man or I would end up destroying her life too. I would just have to learn to deal with the depression. After processing what I dumped on her over the next few days, and letting the shock of what I told her sink in, she told me if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right. I started back in counseling. In a few months, it was decided to go back on hormones. I found a great endocrinologist and she got me set up in a program. Cindy became my cheerleader and guide. She took the lead on telling some people. We came up with a plan and worked towards it. We decided to go to First Event in Waltham, a transgender/crossdresser event, to learn more. We attended many seminars, mostly together, but at times we split up so as to cover as many as we could. All this time, I was there and I was Emma. I was free to be me here in this environment, safe from the world. I had a wonderful time and met many others who were working their way through things. Cindy really got an education from it and after hearing other’s stories, really decided we needed to make this happen.
We had to take it slowly though. Surprisingly, my counselor was thinking I should move faster. I told her that there were certain events that we had to work around. The biggest was Make a Fool of Yourself Night. It was a charity fund raiser that I started with the Masons as my Rookie year project. This would be our fifth year running it. We were a great team and each year had raised near a thousand dollars. The prior year, we had made over twelve hundred. I was hoping to go out with the biggest total raised yet. This was always a lot of work and expense for Cindy and I. We made a pasta dinner with meatballs, sausage, salad, and rolls. I made the sauce from scratch at the lodge. I would start cooking at noon, my son would come by three and set up the karaoke. Cindy would be there in the afternoon decorating. We would get donations for things to be raffled.
I kept everything under wraps to protect that night. It was worth it as we brought in fifteen hundred dollars, blowing away the previous years record. Everyone had a great time. I was being pressed about whether we were doing it again next year and I was cagey. How could I tell them that I would probably not even be a Mason next year. Cindy took the opportunity to tell her son at the show. They went back in the kitchen. I was sitting doing my KJing and could see them in there. It looked like he was getting upset. I thought it was because he was being protective of his mother. I later found out it was because he couldn’t believe that I have had to carry this all my life. Got to love that kid. My two daughters joked with me that I should do a song, I’m Coming Out and do a mic drop. Um, no, I paid good money for the mics. So in the end, we did hit a major success with the night. With that past, it was now time to turning my attention to myself.
As I said, I had gotten involved in four bodies in Masonry. I had even become a Knight Templar. I was High Priest (leader) in another body. I had a lot of ritual to learn. My mind just could not absorb anything else. Work was overwhelming at the time. I was really wondering how I could do this at all. I had Cindy by my side though. I drew power from her and found myself working through things. My endo upped my Estradiol which increased my weepiness as Cindy put it. We came up with a plan to move forward.
We slowly started coming out to people. I had some of my Mason friends to the house and explained to them what was going on.. I mentioned that I would probably be demitting. One of the lead people ended up going to Grand Lodge and explaining the situation. Grand Lodge said that since I was a lifetime member of both Grand Lodge and May Flower, there was no need for me to demit. I did have to demit from the other bodies. I decided that I would issue those letters in May when they were putting together the committees to elect new officers for the new year.
We continued to come out. We informed one of my sisters and she told me that she picked up on it when she was at the house for Thanksgiving. She was concerned that my coming out again would break up the family. I told her that I had gotten to the point of taking my life, which would be worse? She was on board after that. Soon we came out to others. Cindy told her family when they had all gathered at our house for Mother’s Day. Their love and acceptance was overwhelming. Many felt as Kyle had said that I should never have had to live a life like that. I was given a lot of hugs and tears. From that day on, I was known as Emma by her family.
I had created my new Facebook page, Emma Morgaine, utilizing my first and middle rather than my last. I needed to make sure it didn’t inadvertently out me, but also allow me to join transgender groups online. I soon got a call from my daughter. She wanted to come over for supper. She got there before Cindy and as she sat at the island while I prepped, she asked, “Um, Dad, who’s Emma?”
I tried to dodge but then decided to just tell her. She had gone through this with me before. I hoped that she would still be accepting. She gave me a big hug and told me it was about time. She has been another of my big champions. She told me that Facebook had suggested me to her as a possible friend. She remembered the name and went to look. I thought I had it locked down, but as it appears she was able to get in and look. She put two and two together rather quickly. She later told me how to lock it down even further to prevent anyone else from finding me.
We started coming out to more and more people. I would find that some had family members or knew of people who also were coming out. The more people we told, the more acceptance I found and it was empowering. We planned our Family Cookout day to be June 12th. This would be the day we would come out to the rest of the family. I was a ball of nerves. Cindy decided that she would be the one to tell them. She felt that if she presented it and showed she was behind me, the might just accept it this time. The day went well, family and friends ate, visited the alpacas, and had a good time. As people were getting ready to go, Cindy called them all together. It was a little more subdued than when she told her family. Yet, one by one they came up and gave me a hug. In their own way they gave acceptance or it appears they did. I really didn’t know how to take the response.
With that out of the way, it was time to go public. Now that all the family knew, I was free to start moving on the actual transition process. The hormones were taking affect and I was starting to show. I was having to go to Texas in July for a data center move. It was decided that I would come out to work then. Given what happened the last time I came out at work, I was a bit nervous. Yes, there are laws now to protect your job, but they can always find one reason or another. We set up a game plan based on the Texas trip. I set up an appointment with HR while down there. I also told my boss I needed a few minutes to talk to him.
Once I was in Texas I managed a few moments to talk to HR and she noted that she had a friend that also transitioned. She was ready to help and put me in touch with the PeopleCenter person that would process everything for me. I then met with my boss. I was nervous, but decided to just go forward. As events go, it was uneventful. I told him and he simply asked how he could help. He asked if I wanted to tell the team or have him do it. I told him I would. Unfortunately, while I wanted to tell them face to face while there, things didn’t go so well with the move and we never got to meat. I later told them during a meeting the following week. I found out that someone from another business unit had transitioned and had written a great letter. One of the guys actually had saved it and sent it to me. That would become the basis for the letter that I would share to work and a modified form became a previous blog. One other teammate told me that a former coworker of his had also transitioned. They gave me full support. I took a day off and went to Social Security and the DMV. I had to go back to DMV later to have an item changed that they didn’t change the first time. When my new Social came in, it was like I was in a dream. This was real! I was now officially known by the government as Emma. I sent a copy to HR and they processed it. I put in a change request for my name change in Outlook. Soon people started calling me Emma. Some asked for the copy of the letter I sent out so they could better understand. I was now officially known in the company as Emma.
It is so surreal at times For all my life, I have had a shadow. I have lived a life of conformity and compliance. I was now beginning a new phase in my life as the real me. I still have some things to get done, credit card changes, bank accounts, etc. I have to wait for my new license to come in as they don’t take the temporary license at most places. The credit union only needed my court order of name change. She had it changed within seconds. She even told me to hold onto my ATM card for the time being as there was a three week backlog. She told me to be careful in stores because my old name would appear on the register and my new ID would say Emma. She said go to the ATM and take out what I need and then go to the store with cash until everything is switched over. That was nice of her.
So that is my journey so far. I am now legally Emma. I have the acceptance of a lot of people and have made some new connections. My counselor is amazed at all I have accomplished in a year. We discussed terminating my sessions as she feels that in becoming me I have become empowered and happier. The darkness is gone and has been replaced with hope. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful farm. No longer do I live in darkness. If only our society would change and allow people to live their lives instead of always forcing people to conform to such narrow ideas of what a person should be. We need to work towards accepting all people for who they are. We need to reduce that number for suicide until it is non-existent.
I share my story in hopes that it will be the light shining in the darkness for another.
I am Emma Morgaine Croft! I am alive!
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.