I’ve unlocked so many repressed memories since I officially came out to myself in November. It’s not just the dreams I had all the way back to elementary school and I have so much I need to just get off my chest. I’m trying to write this without naming names of people but imply only so much that only they know who they are.
In elementary school, I had a lot of dreams about being turned into a girl. I went to bed repeatedly wanting to have the recurring dreams.
Obviously, I turned in trans fiction for homework in 7th grade when I turned Jack Ryan into Jackie Ryan. My teacher said nothing of it at the time but that was just the beginning of how much I have invested in writing or reading trans fiction.
Around the time of my bar mitzvah in 1997, I was having dreams where I was Kate Winslet. No, they were not sexual fantasies. These went on for a while. At cotillion and my bar mitzvah, I was very uncomfortable dancing. I never wanted to lead. Instead, I would have preferred to wrap my arms around a cute guy’s neck. I just kept to myself and hid from the world. It took a good five minutes just to pick someone to dance with.
Around October 1998 or so when Pleasantville came out, I had dreams ALL THE TIME where I’m a girl. In it, we were a family of five. My parents, my brother, a younger sister, and myself (the older sister). I would have these repeatedly and I was always wearing a cami tank top in them. I think a white one? I remember crushing on guys in these dreams, something which I have struggled with for a long time. With my dating history or lack there of, my mom always accused me of being gay and I would scream “No.” Only I’m not gay. I’m perfectly straight and for once in my life, I am finally okay with this. Sure, I’ll probably never have the Orthodox wedding of my dreams but I am at peace with knowing this is who I am and always will be. If I can’t have an Orthodox wedding, I’m not showing up to the chupah.
(Sidenote: my mom thinks gay guys end up with trans women. It may be simple-minded of her to think like that but we come in all shapes and sizes. We are straight, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pan, poly, etc. I’m sorry but gay guys just don’t do it for me, Mom. You’re not going to like me for opening up about this but I have kept this inside for way too long.)
I looked up sex change in 8th grade (1998-1999). I know this because my brother was at a bar mitzvah and I was using my aunt and uncle’s computer. I knew what TS was back then. This was before secretly photoshopping my face on a women’s body or seeing what it might look like with longer hair.
We didn’t get the internet at home until 9th grade around the time my brother had his bar mitzvah. At some point while my dad was cutting the grass and nobody was in the house, I go on Yahoo since Google didn’t exist to look up Boy Wants to Be Girl. This led me to discover a trans fiction website. Over the years I kept telling myself that I would stop reading but I was never able to quit. I was living vicariously through some of the characters in stories and wishing that some of the fictional places were real so that I could just be a female for the rest of my life. High school, college (thank you to the semesters in which I did not have a roommate), my year of working back home after college, my year in Chicago the last time around, and the years I spent in my parents’ house patiently awaiting my return to Chicago.
In the years since I had to move back with my parents because of the economy in 2008-09, pretty much every night went: parents go to bed, I have late night TV on, and then spend G-d knows how long reading trans fiction. My Saturday nights after SNL were late nights for a reason. Some nights, I must have been up until like 2 or 3 in the morning! My only fear was my mom coming into the living room when the dog wanted out. I lived in serious fear of getting caught not just reading trans fiction but also writing trans fiction. The time I spent being unemployed saw me spend plenty of time taking advantage of having the house to myself.
After really coming out to myself, I stopped reading and haven’t been back since.
Where was I? Oh, college. I knew transition was bound to happen by this point. I couldn’t really explain why but I just knew that I needed it to be real. There were nights after graduating, during time back home, that I prayed to wake up as a woman with a husband and children. Nothing ever changed.
It doesn’t matter whether it was a camp, school, shul, or what. There was always that one girl in which I felt an instant connection with. I tricked myself into thinking that these feelings were that of an attraction. Nope. It was just jealousy and envy. That they were cis and I wasn’t. With several girls, I felt that I could be open with them, some way more so than others.
Because of the community I come from, I felt so much pressure on me to date and get married to a nice Jewish girl. The problem with that? I’m a nice Jewish girl who just happened to have the unfortunate luck of being born with the wrong body. And it sucks. I don’t wish this on anyone. Not my enemies or even the people that bullied me into getting laser hair removal on my eyebrows. But thanks for that because it gave me somewhat of an advantage for the hell that is laser hair removal on my face!
I pretty much picked the only girl nearby for homecoming and prom because that was the only way I could go to prom. If I had my way, I just wouldn’t have gone. I’m sorry but that’s the way I feel. I was always uncomfortable with dancing. I had so much pressure against me on all directions because of societal standards. This was 2002-2003 and yet even being seen as gay at the time could get someone bullied. One of my best friends from high school came out as gay after high school. My only regret is that he didn’t tell it to me in person or via email. I had to find out from another friend during a reunion for Jewish students in college. He didn’t get to control the message. I can only hope my friends are respecting my wishes and not telling others that don’t know. The last thing any trans woman or man wants is to be outed.
I like to tell people that Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Amanda Bynes (before she went crazy) got me through college but that’s not entirely true. It was trans fiction, more or less, that got me through college. Something inside me knew that I needed it to be real. But how was I supposed to tell this to my parents? What would they think? How would people feel about me?
Flash forward to 2008 when I moved to Chicago. Thoughts didn’t go away. Around Halloween, I felt this growing urge inside me to go out of my apartment as a woman. Where? I don’t know but I didn’t want to run the risk of being caught by someone I knew from shul. I was single at the time and felt so much pressure on me by my family to start dating and find a wife. There was one person that I felt that instant connection with when I met her just over eight years ago. And by instant connection, I mean envy and jealousy. And yet, I couldn’t help myself but feel I could be open with her except for my gender issues, which nobody knew about because I didn’t let them know. I skipped the Super Bowl to watch her perform. I would make the same decision in a heartbeat because that’s what a good friend would do. But when it came to dating, every time I tried getting words out of my mouth, nothing came out. It got to a point that a friend had to intervene. It ended with me in a sobfest hours before going home for my cousin’s wedding. I was already an emotional wreck at this point but not because of that weekend but everything else that happened that month. The funny thing? I look back on that weekend and laugh now because nothing would have happened. I couldn’t get an erection if I wanted to when looking at girls. I had to play so much mental gymnastics with myself. Newsflash: don’t try mental gymnastics as you only end up hating yourself for it.
People that saw me knew I needed help. That I needed to see a therapist. I was just too proud to admit it. I didn’t see a therapist, really, until November 2015 after I came out to myself for real and admit that I was transgender. But what would have happened if I did see a therapist and open up about my gender issues? Would my parents have still forced me back home? They were threatening ultimatums every month. My luck ran out after Yom Kippur in 2009. I don’t really open up about what really happened over Labor Day weekend in 2009 but after Shabbas, it was not fun. That weekend was not exactly something I could easily forget. I was a sobfest at work today just thinking about it. And yet, I had to hide who I was in my parents’ own house. So much fear. I couldn’t go shopping in department stores without knowing that my mom wants to get me clothes in the wrong department. I just hated shopping.
Cut to August in New York for a wedding: I had walked 12 miles or so in Manhattan. My legs were dead so I was complaining about them. One of my friends ended up asking if I ever wore heels. I could not lie fast enough. I’m surprised that I lied with a straight face. It ate me alive until Chanukah last year when I finally came out to them.
Cut to this week when I ask my mom about what’s happening with Thanksgiving. My budget won’t exactly let me get a flight home so Megabus to Indy seems to be the only option. It became a huge fight when my mom demanded that I be in boymode. I’m not doing Thanksgiving at a restaurant because those just end up being miserable and I just don’t eat a thing. I post on Facebook about this and people just end up chewing me out saying my parents need more time. How much more time do I need to give them? It will have been nearly 13 months by then. I’m not changing who I am for anyone.
Things got so bad after I came out to them. They returned all my packages and denied it. The Shabbas before Chanukah, I end up taking it out on my friends because of all the fighting. It wasn’t fair of me to do so. These friends are very close to me. They are as close as non-family can be. And yet, I just didn’t know how to tell them that I’m transgender. That Friday night after dinner, I just end up making myself comfortable on the couch and sleep. I was out cold for like an hour, maybe even more. I just didn’t want to deal with my parents at all. Somehow, we got to talking about therapists so I mentioned I’m seeing one but didn’t want to get into the reasoning as to why. On that Sunday, I spoke to one of them and finally came out and asked as to how to break the news to the family. She suggested talking with her husband, which I did. These are very religious people and we’re still friends.
Ultimately, I ended up coming out to the family on that Monday and Tuesday after I had a breakdown following a former friend calling me mentally ill for being trans. My phone blew up that Monday. More people from high school contacted me in one day than ever before (not counting birthdays because Facebook reminds you–on that note, please wait until AFTER the fast ends to wish me a happy birthday this year).
The week leading up to December 25th, I had a therapist appointment and a support group that day. I later went to Kohl’s because I needed my fix. Dysphoria was so bad at this point. Oh, another package was listed as delivered. I go to the doorstep. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nadda. On Tuesday, I was in a really horrible mood and messaged my first cousins and brother if they would miss me if I killed myself.
On December 24th, my parents didn’t go to the dinner like the year before because they were ashamed of me–it’s the same reason why they didn’t go to the wedding at the end of January. They hated that I came out to this family. They wanted to force me back into a closet. They didn’t want me, well, being me. They wanted me to be their idea of me, only that’s not really me. I’m not their son. I never was their son. I’ve always been their daughter and I hope to G-d that they start seeing a therapist soon to work out their issues because I just can’t imagine my life without them.
That brings me to the wedding. It snowed the Wednesday before. It snowed again on Friday–so much that if I took off of work, I would be fired because of their point system. Ten points and you’re out of there. They didn’t like that they had to let me leave early on Fridays so that I could get ready for Shabbas. I had bought some cute winter boots in December–and thank you to my cousin for letting me ship them to you. When my mom saw said boots, she threw a fit. Anyway, I wore the boots Wednesday through Sunday because of the snow. On that Monday, I’m trying to get my sneakers on and I just couldn’t. I asked about wearing crocs to the wedding. Dress shoes were preferred. I had to seriously push myself to get to the wedding. There were several Shabbas afternoons that I didn’t make the walk over to one house for lunch because I didn’t want to look at the mirror. There was one time in December that I just broke down and cried on the walk over.
The night of the wedding? I walked out to my car after leaving not knowing if I would see several of these people again after moving. It could very well be the last time I see everyone in one place. I hope it isn’t. I really do. I cried for a good ten minutes before starting the car. I miss them. I miss hanging out with them. I miss the four-course Shabbas dinners and three-course Shabbas lunches that spoiled me for the lack of better words. I love Chicago but I’m not going to lie here: Shabbas just isn’t the same anymore but transitioning back home just wasn’t a realistic option–would anyone have taken me in after my parents kicked me out of the house? And what about being able to afford hormones and such while trying to find another job because I would have been fired? My budget is so tight right now and my apartment isn’t even conducive for a Shabbas meal, let alone an actual table. I’m stretching out food as it is each month and it may also be a factor in why I lost nearly 20 pounds. I cut out soft drinks with being on a spiro (a diuretic that flushes out the sodium).
I’ve already lost a few family members and it sucks: a transphobic uncle and two cousins who have a limited worldview. Did I mention I get to see said cousins this weekend? I’m going to be as civil as I can.
I’m going to end this on a positive note: I get to see extended family on Shabbas and Sunday.