Success is often measured by the amount of money and belongings we accumulate in life. I won’t argue that those things aren’t important and helpful, but I measure my life’s success by a different yardstick. I count myself successful even though I really don’t have much money, property, or possessions. My measure of success is the happiness I’ve achieved through successfully transitioning to my correct gender identity. Since my transition, I literally wake up with a smile on my face every single day. Everywhere I go, that joy goes with me because the joy emanates from within.
This was not how I felt prior to transition. Before transition I had a hard time smiling. In fact, people used to comment that I rarely smiled. That’s because I was deeply unhappy and had been for my entire life. Nothing brought me joy because I felt disconnected from my feelings. Early in life, I discovered that my exterior self didn’t match my interior self. That created a whole series of both emotional and psychological difficulties. Over time I learned to hide my true feelings, but when I did that, I felt nothing at all. No happiness or sadness, no excitement or anticipation. I just felt numb. I watched others around me experience life while I simply observed and wondered why I couldn't feel anything at all.
Actually, I knew what the problem was, but didn’t know how to solve it. For many years I thought I was the only person on the planet with this problem. The only human who felt like my physical gender didn’t match my psychological/emotional gender. I felt like a freak. Slowly over time, I began to discover clues that there were others like me. Eventually, I even located some at a club not too distant from my apartment in Los Angeles. Initially, I was overjoyed to find this community and I discovered the joy I had been missing whenever I was at the club dressed as my appropriate gender. Going there and meeting others who were like me led me to understand that I was in fact, Transgender. While I very much enjoyed these evenings with my new community, it was only a partial solution. I was happy while I was able to dress and act as I felt, but this was usually only two nights or so a month. In between, I was still sad and depressed. Feeling alive during those eight or ten hours a month led me to wonder how I might feel if I could be myself all of the time?
I began researching a gender transition. This was before the internet, so most of the information either came from clinical books I found in the library or from other Trans women I met at the club. Many of the girls at the club were happy to just cross-dress, but some of us wanted more. We didn’t see ourselves as males in women’s clothing, but as women who were in the wrong body. I began seeking out conversation with the girls who felt the same way I did. I learned that some of them were on female hormones. This seemed so radical when I first heard about it. It scared me to take powerful hormones, but I found the idea of changing my body was intensely compelling. There were a couple of girls in the community who had had breast implants and facial surgery and they were happy to show me. At that time, the quality of care was horrible, and one of these women was permanently disfigured by unscrupulous doctors. They didn’t look so much like cisgender women, but more androgenous. Their voices didn’t change with the plastic surgery either. Many lost their jobs after having these surgeries and both of these girls wound up as sex workers in order to survive. And this was during the AIDS decade. One not only lost her job but lost her children and family as well. All of this and the cost of having any of these surgeries were far out of my reach anyway. The path to transition looked impossible and the long-term survival rate bleak.
So I let it go for decades. I pursued my career and started a family. I did my best to be happy and put transitioning behind me. But it didn’t work. I was still deeply unhappy and my wife left me for another man after she found out about my gender identity problem. I became a weekend parent and did my best to provide for my children. Time passed but every day I was still in the wrong body. I still felt depressed and disconnected. My children grew up and away from me, and I was once again left alone in the wrong body.
Over the years I had managed to save some money. Not a lot, but a decent nest egg. I was at a crossroads. Do I buy a house or do I begin the long and expensive process towards transition? I had enough money for facial feminization and voice surgery as well as the costly process of hair removal and hair replacement. It was going to take every penny I saved. The clock was ticking too. My hairline had receded over the years and my facial and body hair had increased. Time wasn’t on my side. I began to realize it was now or never.
I took the leap. I spent the money and the time. The thousands of dollars, and the hundreds of hours of hair removal, multiple surgeries, and recoveries. After everything, I finally arrived where I have always longed to be. Where my exterior self matches the person I feel inside. The first day I returned to work as a woman my perma-smile appeared and has never left. It's been over a decade now. I may not be wealthy or financially secure, but I’m deeply happy. After a lifetime of feeling depressed and disconnected, I wouldn’t trade this joy for anything.