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May 05 2015

Grieving for Joe

This post is the result a ‘feedback loop’ because it has started from comments and concerns I received from other people in regards to my other recent posts.

There two different ways for the transgender person to cope, and that is the same as the two ways that people around the transgender person will cope. Funny enough, they both end in the same place. The only difference is the path taken. One is infinitely more difficult and stressful. One is the ‘quick and easy’ answer the other is years of pain and heartache. They both end in acceptance. Which one would you choose?

I personally… chose the hard one, not by choice of course. I took the only path the subconscious mind could take though this process. I chose to grieve over Joe before embracing Jo. I find many people around me making the same choice. The conscious mind could jump right past it and into acceptance but each person has to figure out what train of logic will help them do that. That is the easier route, but it was not a choice available to me because I did not see the problem. In fact after fully writing this post, and rereading it during the edit… I think both ways of coping happen for everyone. It’s just a matter of how quickly the grieving process goes.

My Birth Mom, who runs Flight of a Phoenix, is has a tendency to share my stories on Parents of Transgender groups on Facebook, which I love. I strongly believe that questions breed knowledge and knowledge breeds acceptance. Occasionally she will send me nice comments from parents. Here is one of those, for context purposes it was in response to the “Smile!” article I put up not along ago. This appears to be a mother embracing her affirmed daughter and choosing to skip past grieving for the son, while there is still pain it appears to be easier to handle.

This is our same experience. I have so many pictures of my daughter when she was young and her best friend was a girl. The pictures changed when she turned thirteen and we moved to a new state. She eventually found another best friend who was a girl but also had friends who were boys and the pictures reflect her pain. She dreaded pictures and never smiled in them. She is once again enjoying pictures as she has found herself in the past year. It is like I found that happy child again. So I never think that I lost a son, I think I have found my happy child again and this time around we are all getting it right. I love seeing the smile. There is still much pain but she is happy again and it makes me feel deep joy. Great piece! Thank you.

The logic here is a redo. This is a chance to go back to them being a child and redo those horrible years. This is mostly the same logic that I have now accepted to explain what happened to me. I buried Jo under a mountain that I had created to hide her. I built it to hide her from my bullies. I built it to hide her from my friends. I built it to hide her from my family. I built it to hide her from myself. – Just noticed I am writing this from Joe’s perspective. Just like Jo was always inside Joe. Joe will always be a part of Jo. This is so much easier in text than to say it… Can you imagine trying to talk about this? Just as Jo could not be lost, Joe will not be lost. He is as much a part of me as she is. He will come back in time. I have another post in the works about that topic as well.

(Changing Narrator) In sixth grade, when society, and puberty, started to push me to confront this issue, I coped the only way my subconscious mind could. I started the process of grieving the loss of Joe. It was as if he was dying in front of my eyes. Therefore, I entered the Kübler-Ross Model of grief. All through this process, my mom had noticed something was wrong, but we hit nothing but dead ends in psychology. Every psychological test that I took me showed me as having various problems, but each problem was just under the level of it being a diagnosable condition. This is because they were symptoms of this now ‘bigger’ problem, not the problem itself. Nobody, including myself, thought to question my gender identity.

For those who do not know the Kübler-Ross Model of grief is the most common way of grieving and follows these five steps: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. Sometimes they are sequential; sometimes they are simultaneous. During this time, without a doubt I had issues and caused pain to all those around me, but most importantly did not know why. I still feel bad about those days. I still feel bad, about all the pain I caused, to them, and to myself. The timeframe in question is 1997 until well, now. If I had to pick a start date for the transition, it would be November 17 1997, call it a poetic estimate.

Denial set in during the fall of 1997. I was in sixth grade and the bullying had begun. I moved from the school I liked and all my friends. I found myself placed into a public school as the “new kid” in a class that had been together since kindergarten. All the bullying was about me being small, feminine, girly, and similar topics. Gym class was always the worst time for this… Denial was painful. I started to deny everything that made me, well, me. I began running around trying to do things in a manly way. I tried to play football. I tried to do all the things that well… I had no talent at, and more importantly, did not want to do, or get better at doing. Denial as always is a waste of time. I tried so hard to convince myself that if I could like football, or woodshop, or anything that boys around me liked, I would be normal. I had more fun, enjoyment, and natural interest taking Home Economics than any of the other ‘manly’ classes I chose to take those years. I would tell stories of my past even greatly exaggerating them if I had to in order to sound manlier. I even went and got a girlfriend before I even knew what a relationship with a significant other meant. I went up to some girl in seventh grade and asked, “Will you be my girlfriend?” she said yes. I did not know what was next. I panicked and we did not speak for a couple of days. Then I apologized to her confessing my ignorance and feeling like a complete ass. Denial consumed sixth, seventh, and a nice chunk of eighth grade as well. Near the end of eighth grade, I saw a chance to be happy again. I was changing schools and going to high school. I could finally be myself in high school!

After that as I entered High School, in the year 2000, I entered Anger and Bargaining. The bullying had started again, along much of the same topics. This time, my reaction was anger. Anger was a tough time for me. I blamed my mom for trying to diagnose me with all these psychological problems because there was none, as showed by testing. I was mad at my friends, and pushed a great deal of them away. Why was I angry with them? I have no idea. I got mad at republicans for being so conservative… I got mad at democrats, and the village where I live, for being so liberal. Even the smallest thing would set me off. I had become an angry person. I quickly needed to find an outlet for my anger. I tried not to displace it to people. I just bottled it up and released it later. I ended up blowing up one day and smashing all the Legos in my basement. The city that I had worked so hard to build, was now gone. I have not rebuilt it since, even though in the last couple of months I have finally wanted to. I do not even know if I have all the pieces anymore. I will have to look though my mom’s basement. My anger lasted until I got a job, and started to move my life forward, in 2011. I cauterized my wound though apathy and falling in love with my husband. Although, I was too depressed to tell him anything, he knew. He knew me better than I knew myself in many ways. During this time, any other grieving process I had to go through, like the loss of my stepsister, was likewise stuck in anger.

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Bargaining created its own interesting story, which started in 2000 and ended around well exactly on… December 31st 2013. I just wanted the pain to go away. I would do anything to make the pain go away… Except of course, confront the actual issue. I had no idea what that was. Each attempt to bargain was an attempt to do something that would make me appear more feminine with my subconscious mind in return reliving the pain from inside. My first attempt at bargaining was to come out as bisexual. Yes, I like men… but I am not that odd! It was easier for me to admit that I was a bisexual man than a straight woman. Part of that was that I still did not realize what was acutely happening in my heart, and in my head. I started testing the waters. Each step I took to becoming more feminine was another bargain. A bargain with a force I did not understand. I was bargaining with my own mind. I did not know at the time, but I was making deals with her. It was a bargain with my heart.

Each step up to, and including, coming out as gay helped me admit little bits about myself. Each step was another bargain I made with her. Each step made it so that I would feel a little more real. Each step allowed me to be more open and honest with myself, and everyone around me. Yet, nothing solved the fundamental problem. I was not able to be myself. I still had terrible dreams, terrible depression. There were always many situations where I had to filter my thoughts. I had to edit myself. I had to be a fake person that did not express what I wished to express. I did not feel complete; I did not feel like a person. I felt like a mindless construct of society. On December 31 2013, I made one last bargain with myself. “If you (subconscious mind) let me find out what’s wrong, I will do my best to fix it.” I had made a large gamble on this last bargain. Would this bargain fail? Each failed bargain before only added to my depression.

Depression was interesting… Depression first started near the beginning in 1998. Near the middle of high school, in 2002, depression set in more strongly. My world was quickly losing its color. To an extent, I still have not shaken some the depression but it is much better than it was. For a couple of years it became a definition of who I was. It caused me to make decisions I should not have, and will not make again. However, it was interesting that every time I was tested it was clear that I had symptoms of depression but the test said it was not able to be diagnosed. Somehow, the test knew the depression was the symptom not the illness. Medicating and treating the symptom does not work as well as well as treating the illness. Somehow, the tests seemed to know that while treating the depression may help, it would not be effective. Depression was probably the worst of the group. Depression was the hardest. I can deal with bargaining and getting nowhere. I can take the anger. I can take the denial. The depression threw me for many tailspins. The one question I feared more than any became a question asked of me nearly every day, and the question that I lied about most often…

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I questioned so many things. Yet, I never questioned my gender identity. I went as far to question if life was worth living. I planned, and was attempting, to end it all. My stepsister interrupted and saved me. I have since lost her. That loss is still a painful place in my heart. As I write this on May 5th her birthday is mere days away… Even though I only planed that horrible action once, in retrospect there were many other attempts. I think about the various occasions where I have subconsciously tried to end it all. The most obvious time to me is the day I ended up in the hospital with Alcohol Poisoning. That time my best friend saved me. There were a couple others were looking back; my actions just seem too questionable. Nobody in their right mind would do some of the things I did.

Suicide risk goes up in teenage years… I sure was a teenager in mind. Suicide risk goes up if you’re transgender… Suicide risk goes up if you are adopted. My three biggest risk factors at that time, and I struggled with all of them. To me, it is amazing I sit here to write today. I feel like there was so much going against me in those years. Yet, the fact that I always had a place to call home… I never felt truly ousted. I had one place where I could breathe, my room. That, gave me what little hope I had in those days. At the time it felt like my life felt had little direction or purpose. Yet, I hid it well. This depression was a constant in my life. It became a pervasive numbness. At the time, I did some research and though ‘am I just another depressed teen and will grow out of it?’ What I did not know was that growth was the problem. Even though my body had grown, my body was that of an adult, my mind, my soul, and my heart refused to grow from that of a child.

On December 31, 2013, I opened my mind to her, in that last faithful bargain. – I just realized that somewhere in the above paragraphs, I changed narrator again, but I cannot figure out where – Joe and Jo will never separate. I am without a doubt both people. She was always effecting my dreams. When I was younger, pre-2000, I always was a male in my dreams. Starting in 2000, in my dreams became more and more genderless. On January 1 2014, I went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, after a nice night at a friend’s place. In addition, I had just made a resolution to myself that would change my life. I had two dreams I will remember forever I did not wake up until three in the afternoon that New Year’s Day.

In the first dream, I was lying in a hospital bed staring up at the ceiling. My entire body was numb and had no feeling. I raised my hands to the florescent lights and saw that my fingers had color, alternating colors, of teal, and eggplant. I noted that it was odd and put my hands down on my chest finding not the flat chest I normally had, but something more… I put my hands down to my tummy and rested them there, thinking. It was then that feeling began to return to my body; pain was starting from below my waist. I was curious and I touched. Something was missing…. Moreover, intense pain shot through my body. I screamed in the dream. Then, I woke up in a panic. It was an hour or so before I could sleep again. The second dream was my husband (then boyfriend) going to a formal occasion. We were already in the car and nothing seemed at all out of place. I looked down; I was wearing a ballroom gown. We ended up going to a wedding for a good friend and his girlfriend. I was a woman, in every way. It was a lovely dream and I felt happy and confident like never before. There was something amazing about this dream. It just felt right. I wanted to stay in it forever, but I knew it was a dream. I knew it would eventually end. In retrospect, over a year later, it should have been obvious then. However, those dreams were very confusing to that boy lying in bed. If I had told anyone about it, things would have probably gotten started quite a bit faster. Since then if my gender was clear in a dream, it has always been female. This fact became another secret of mine.

Acceptance has come slowly over time. It started on that first day of January 2014. I was tired with putting up with the depression. I was tired of putting up with the emotional pain. I was tired of living my life in a way that did not make me happy. In fact, I was just plain tired.

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I sit here over a year later dreaming that someday those dreams will become more than dreams. Self-improvement is something I have avoided for a very long time. Now, I am rushing to get it done. I feel like I am so far behind sometimes. I feel like I have so much further to go than most people. I will get it done in time. I will be a whole person again. Joe and Jo form one whole when put together. I will find out who Jo is, and what she wants. Then some pieces of Joe that I liked, and miss, will come back. In fact, some have never left. To those of you that are grieving Joe, please know he will be back, in some ways at least. In some ways, he already has. I kept flowing back and forth between Jo and Joe in this post. Know that I will forever be a woman, know that I probably have in the inside always been one… But, I’m a tomboy. I am as much him, as I am her. For many years, since 1997, I only had half of myself. It is the combination that will make me whole.

That is my acceptance. That is my resolution. That is my life. My two halves are slowly coming together again. It’s my life.


After I reread and edited the post one last time I scheduled this article to be posted when I would be intentionally out of touch this evening. Then I went, grabbed my husband’s arm and cried in his shoulder. I realized… It was over an almost 18 year process of grief was done. I had finally come to the conclusion that this is not a war between man and woman. This is not a war between Joe and Jo. This is not a war, this is just me. I am who I am. That is all. It is done. Now, I can really start to grow again from that point in time 18 years ago… And therefore, my conclusion included this becomes fact now On 5/5/2015, At 4:30pm.

I am whole again.

About the author

Josie

I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.

1 comment

  1. Marcy

    Thanks for your post. You have overcome so much and I am glad to see that the acceptance is becoming more dominant. BTW, “It’s My Life” has been a theme song for different periods of my life too.”It’s now or never, I want to live while I’m alive, It’s my life!”

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