A good friend of mine - also a transgender woman, but currently unable to transition - sent me a surprising message. She apologized for not reaching out to check on my mental health recently.
In previous articles and videos, I made no secret of feeling depressed to the point of planning suicide. Clearly, I made it through the depression - in part because I rested last week instead of creating content. But my friend's comment reminded me the transgender community has extremely few resources for understanding ourselves.
My friend assumed - because I have transitioned gender - I would naturally be ecstatic. So happy, in fact, that I could not possibly feel suicidal. While I have been very honest about my experience during transition, I also recognize I hold back the very worst of times. Those periods are personal: they seem irrelevant, unable to contribute to a story of the joy of gender transition.
But in my attempt to portray the beauty of becoming the person I knew I was but never acknowledged, I neglected to describe the darker side of my experience. As a result, I shortchanged my readers’ understanding of gender transition. It is appropriate now to explain how I could receive everything I could ever want...and still feel awful.
The caldera of gender dysphoria
I've known since I was a child - certainly by 7 or 8 years old, and likely younger - my gender did not match the expectations of my social environment. For my own safety, I hid myself. I buried my true self away, obscured it even from myself.
My true self erupted occasionally, as geysers over the Yellowstone caldera foreshadow the eventual danger posed to thousands of miles around. My life was punctuated by periods of depression, dissociation, and delusion, but my apparent high level of functioning prevented mental health professionals from trusting my observations.
It was not until I carved my thighs with a butcher knife badly enough to cause concern for my safety that I received help at all. I can only imagine the effect on my friends and family when psychosis would take me. Imagination is all I have: I was not in a state to observe myself, certainly not objectively.
After I found help for my immediate problems, my life stabilized - enough that my wife and I bought a house and had a son. I assumed a role as a parent in the way my social environment expected me to.
Although I cleaned up and committed myself to making my son's childhood better than mine, I did it at my expense. I buried my true self further, and the caldera filled until there was no other option than to burst free.
I heard the Yellowstone caldera - when it erupts in the next 100,000 years - could blanket much of North America in lava. Not ash. Lava. The United States - assuming it exists that long - will not survive further.
Fortunately, the fallout from my breakdown at the end of 2021 was not as dramatic. I was forced to confront the pressure that had been building for decades. It was a difficult period as I examined who I knew I was, the gender I intended to transition my whole life, and the lies I told myself to continue to ignore the pain I could never escape.
I don't know if my gender dysphoria caused psychotic episodes, or if it only contributed to their depth. Maybe my dissociation and delusion were coincidental with gender dysphoria, although anecdotal evidence suggests comorbidity. But when I made the decision to transition gender - when I finally took the first step toward my inner woman to coax her into the outer world - my life improved rapidly.
I calmed. I experienced emotions. I ceased needing to harm myself in a twisted caricature of self-care. For once...I felt happy. I could just exist. I could just live. As Amethysta emerged from the vapors of the cauldron, so did my understanding of the real delusion - that I believed I could be transgender and not do anything about it.
After the calamity
My epiphany is well-documented in my articles. Over the past year, I've spoken with many transgender people. I've documented our stories. I've tried to explain - at least to myself - what the transgender experience feels like and where it originates.
So far, it appears my work has not been in vain. I do what I can to lift up my community - to speak, as an early mentor put it - for us all. After so long, after a career chasing dollars instead of peace, I found my purpose. I found a cause to which to devote my life. I found a community with whom to celebrate my successes and mourn my losses.
But did I mourn my losses with my community? No.
Before I transitioned, I learned to suppress my emotions, to deny my pain, and to ignore the consequences. It was a survival tactic. But doing so after transition had the same result as before - worse, even, because now I am able to feel the emotions before I stuff them deeper and deeper.
My transition has been very public and very rapid. I effected a social transition in under six months. It appeared as if everything went my way, and my symptoms of gender dysphoria evaporated as I became better able to pass in public.
Trees had returned after the eruption, but underneath the caldera existed a deeper threat.
The underworld of childhood
As gender dysphoria faded into the background, I peeled back enough layers and freed enough cognitive resources to expose my deeper-seated issues. The ability to feel emotions means it hurts keenly to process my psychology. I know when I'm doing a good job now and when I'm doing a bad job - if it hurts, I'm probably doing a good job.
Today, however, I am better equipped to handle the issues and to address them. I have tools I never had before. I believe - and experience confirms - I am far stronger in my softness, far more capable in my vulnerability, to handle processing the issues that existed underneath gender dysphoria.
Even with improved cognitive abilities, however, I still have moments in which I don't want to continue, where I feel it will be easier to let go and fail than to hold on and prevail. I know very well those moments are due to my gender transition - by clearing enough of the buzz in my head to perceive the problems at all.
It feels terrible to remember and analyze my childhood and the broken relationships throughout my life. But I would never have been able to do it in the first place if I hadn't transitioned. I would have remained ignorant. I would have continued to believe my life would never - could never - improve. And it is likely my chances of suicide would be higher.
The return of the heroine
To be clear, transitioning gender is not a panacea. When we transgender people undertake this path, we risk offending our family, our friends, even our government. As payment for our efforts, we uncover the screaming child we've heard in our heads for so long. Our lives do not magically metamorphose into perfection when we begin transitioning and become our true selves.
But no human being lives a life without pain or fear or guilt. We suffer. We learn - maybe. We improve - hopefully.
Thank the Goddess I transitioned gender. I feel more whole physically, and I continue to sweep out cobwebs psychologically.
I cannot tell you gender transition isn't hard - because it is. But when we do it, we are more pure, we are more free. As we address the real issues once and for all, we can let go of our old lives and its old problems.
It will be painful. The accumulated detritus of an unlived life must be burned away to make room for a life worth examining. At times, despair will set in. We must persevere.
I reiterate - it will be painful. And it will be worth it.