Two years ago, November 2015, while playing a female character in Skyrim, I began to consider my gender. The game was not the only--nor even a major--reason, merely the inciting incident. I didn't allot that consideration of my gender much energy at that point in time, just sort of put it on the back burner of my mind, allowing it to simmer.
In March, I still hadn't admitted my gender dysphoria to anyone, but I knew that something about my gender didn't sit right, and that it never had.
In April or May I first admitted this unease to a friend who's very well-educated on gender and sexuality, and through that conversation, I realized that I am agender. I am neither male nor female. A bunch of confusing puzzle pieces of my history suddenly began to fall into place. Why I'd always felt weird being called handsome. Why Bible studies on "being a man of God" never felt relevant to me--and why I've only ever felt comfortable in co-ed Bible study groups. Why I didn't understand what the big deal was that my sister and I, when we were young, pretended to be mermaids or ponies. I didn't know it mattered until my dad corrected me, stating that I should be a merman, and it was years later before I understood what he meant.
I tried to start a conversation about gender with my mom in the context of the friend I'd talked with. That friend identifies as genderqueer. My mom was clearly uncomfortable and she firmly shut the conversation down after only a couple sentences.
A week or two later, at the first appointment with my current counselor, I briefly mentioned that I was feeling unclear about my gender. Within the week, my gender dysphoria vanished. I simply wasn't thinking about it anymore. It's not that I suddenly felt right being a man, but more like my soul decided not to worry about it while I worked on recovery from unrelated emotional trauma. I still can't fathom why this postponement naturally occurred, but that's what happened. And to be honest, I'm glad that it did.
The knowledge that I am agender didn't change the way I lived. It's not like they make agender clothing and there's no established stereotypical agender personality--I suspect the majority of people don't even know agender people exist. I'd spent 29 years emulating a guy, and figured I might as well continue to do so. It's what was easiest.
Skip forward to June of this year, 13ish months after identifying my gender. My dysphoria resurfaced. It wasn't a big issue--it didn't have me feeling depressed or trapped or any of the other things LGBTQ people often experience in the early stages of discovery--but it was there in the back of my mind, one item on the list of things I think about when sitting on the toilet or driving or taking a shower, the things I think about when not focused on something else. "Chewing the cud", as an old pastor of mine would put it.
For those of you who don't know, two years ago, my ex-wife left me. A month later, my high school best friend died by suicide. It turns out he was gay and felt trapped, according to the note he left; in the twenty years we were friends (the first ten of which, we were inseparable) he never come out to me. A couple months after that, in early April, I nearly died by suicide myself, but instead I checked myself into Overlake Hospital for about a week. Things looked up, but I crashed again over the span of the next five weeks, and I ended up back in the hospital. After being discharged, it was obvious that going back to my apartment and living alone was not sustainable, and so I moved into my mom's basement. This, as you might imagine, has done wonders for my ego, and unfortunately, I'm fairly sensitive about it.
After a year and a half of counseling, and a year of attending DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) classes, my mental health is significantly more stable, if not quite where it needs to be in order for me to live independently. So here I remain, 30 years old, in my mom's basement in Port Orchard.
In August of this year, I house-sat for five days for my sister while she was on vacation. It was the first time I'd lived alone in nearly 18 months. I nervously took the opportunity to try on a dress for the first time in my life. It was a little snug, as my sister is smaller than I am. It felt wrong and right and uncomfortable and exhilarating and freeing. I loved how I looked, and I was scared that I did. I prayed, and asked my mom to pray, that God would keep me clear-minded (though I didn't tell my mom what the topic was, not because I wanted to trick her, but because I didn't want to come out to her when I wasn't even sure there was a closet out of which to come).
Over the span of the week, I purchased some inexpensive clothes and a wig on Amazon. I bought makeup "for my girlfriend" from Fred Meyer. I nervously and self-consciously tried on bras at Victoria's Secret, and purchased one. I hung out with Erin on Friday night, and had her make me look as girly as possible with makeup, all in an attempt to determine--one way or another--was this natural for me or unnatural? Did I gain a sense of peace or a sense of dissonance? The goal of answering these questions is how I justified the costs: either I spent $200 and determined I was not transgender, thus saving hundreds or thousands of dollars on counseling to arrive at the same conclusion, or I spent $200 to determine I was transgender, and the majority of the money became a worthwhile, long-term investment in clothing.
I spent Saturday, my last full day of house-sitting, morning to night in makeup, my wig, my bra, and my dress. I even worked up the nerve to order pizza delivery, answering the door and briefly conversing in my best approximation of a girl. Doing all this actually allowed my mind to slip into the belief and mindset that I was female--far more easily and far deeper than I anticipated it could. And for the first time in my life, I liked who I was as a person, independent of circumstance. This feeling of inner peace and rightness; the answer I 'heard' from God when I prayed directly asking, "Is this really me?"; the way this conclusion explained so many more previously confusing aspects of my life than simply being agender did; and this newfound affection for myself, all in combination confirmed that I am more naturally a woman than a man.
I am still agender--there are aspects of "being a woman" that don't match me (for instance, I am nearly certain studying how to be a "woman of God" would feel as alien as studying how to be a "man of God" always has) and a few of being a man that do--but deep down I have always wanted to have a female body. When I imagine having breasts and female anatomy--every time I imagine it--I smile involuntarily; it makes my heart lighter. I am convinced that transitioning to being female is the best way to most closely live out the identity God has borne in me.
I'm under no illusion: transitioning will make my life harder, not easier. In fact, it already has, and I've barely begun. But it's not about that. It's not pros and cons. The choice is not between male and female, but between living as the person I am and pretending to be someone else. A couple months ago, I described it as a choice between liking myself and feeling indifference for myself; having spent the last few months coming out to people and hanging out with those people dressed like a girl, it is no longer indifference, but dissonance that I feel when forcing myself to act male.
Transitioning is not a choice. It is the only natural action to take upon fully investigating my gender. And honestly, I love that my life is taking this turn.
I absolutely encourage curiosity. If there is something you don't understand about being transgender, about what it's like, about how or why I view certain things the way I do, I would love to talk to you about it. These kinds of discussions engender both trust and growth for all participants.