Letter to Dad, Final Draft

Here’s the final draft of my letter to my dad. I recently created an Author Blog in which I use my new name and pronouns, which I expect Dad will see, so I need to send this now, I guess, or else make up some half-truths about pen names.

Dear Dad,

This is a difficult letter to write, but it’s an important one. I hope you will read it with an open mind and a loving heart.

For as long as I can remember, I have held a deeply guarded secret: I have always felt much more male than female. When I was little I tried to content myself with being a tomboy, but I knew, even then, that I wasn’t really a girl. The inner-me is, and always has been, a boy.

I know I was a frighteningly smart and independent little kid with a vivid imagination and a strong will. I was lucky, because you and my mom nurtured my inquisitiveness and creativity, and mostly ignored and/or indulged my creative gender expression. You bought me football pajamas to sleep in and a buckskin outfit so I could play Daniel Boone to my heart’s content. I was also Batman, Captain Nemo, Casey Jones, a motorcycle stunt rider, a fireman, a policeman, an unnamed Indian scout, a Civil War soldier, a fighter pilot, and probably a hundred other exciting characters.

The one thing I never was, in all that imaginative play, was female. Even when I was pretending to be a horse or a cougar or a soaring magic condor, I was male.

It’s not that I was in any doubt as to the physical details of my body. I knew I had a female body and must be, therefore, a girl. I tried my best to make peace with it, but I never felt comfortable. Even in sleep, if I had a gender in a dream, I was male.

I’ve spent untold and vast quantities of energy trying to understand what it must be like to feel like a girl, trying to make myself be a girl, and never succeeded in doing anything but making myself more frustrated.

In a conversation with my sister in 1993 or ‘94, I came out to her as bisexual, and I very tentatively broached the subject of gender identity, and how I didn’t really feel like a girl. Sister was definite: she was attracted only to boys, and she felt like a girl, she’d always felt like a girl, she’d never questioned it.

It was an epiphany for me: for the first time I had some evidence that people really could have a preference and a surety about their own gender. It didn’t answer my own questions, but it gave me a yardstick to measure against, and permission to go ahead and accept that I wasn’t mainstream. That I was, in many senses of the word, queer.

When I was twelve or thirteen I remember reading about Christine Jorgensen and being completely fascinated. A whole new world opened up for me. And one of my most treasured childhood books was The Incredible Deborah, a biography of Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

I’ve been reading articles and blogs and websites and medical journals about sex-change for years, but I never let myself really consider the possibility that I could change my gender identity. In fact I think I hung on to the outer trappings of femininity — long hair, skirts, jewelry, even the spelling of my nickname — as long as I did, because I felt the only way to make myself conform to the gender my body dictated was to create an illusion.

Five or six years ago I started having internet conversations with other transgendered people who were born female, wherein we would excitedly discover that we shared a common experience. And I watched like a penniless kid through an ice cream shop window while they embarked on transition, changing their gender presentation to match the gender they felt inside.

I started wearing men’s clothes and underwear several years ago. Following my hysterectomy in 2008, I was very briefly on hormone replacement therapy, but I stopped within six months of the surgery. When I got the estrogen and progesterone out of my system I felt better than I had since I hit puberty: more centered, more calm, with more energy and zest for life. It was a surprise to me, as I’d been expecting typical menopausal symptoms, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

A little over a year ago I gave up wearing women’s clothing entirely, cut my hair short, bound my breasts flat, and found that for the first time since childhood, I liked what I saw in the mirror.

So the question is, how far do I want to go? If it were easy, if there were a magic wand, I’d have a male body in a heartbeat and be delighted about it. There are no magic wands, but there are further steps I can take. I am exploring the possibility of changing my body and the way the rest of the world perceives me to fit the way I see myself: to slip to the other side of the gender equation, and approach the world from a place of assumed maleness.

I have been seeing a psychologist who specializes in gender identity, and he agrees that I am, in his opinion, transgendered. He has approved me for testosterone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, both of which I am considering.

I also intend to change my name to [Nezu’s New Name]. You have already noted that I have changed the spelling of [Nezu’s Nickname] to the more conventionally male version.

I’ll still be me. Even if I grow a beard, have a flat chest, and sing tenor or baritone instead of alto, I expect to keep my aesthetic sense, my facility with feelings, emotions, and language, my softheartedness when it comes to kids and animals, my artistic sensitivity, and my creative nature. And of course I’ll still be as queer as a three-eyed cat. Bisexual is bisexual is bisexual no matter what equipment I might be packing.

Fundamentally, the thing I want you to know is that I am happy. I am embarking on this deeper exploration of gender from a place of strength and certainty. I have a community of friends and family, including my church and my Nashville family, who support me in this, and several transgender friends who have successfully navigated their own transitions.

I don’t expect you to necessarily understand this right away; after all, I have had four decades of living with this idea, but it is brand new to you. I will happily answer any questions you might have. The thing I hope for most is that you will support me and continue to love me, as your son who was born a daughter, and as your child who loves you.

[Nezu]

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~ by Nezu on 31 May 2011.

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