Hi, my name is Alex and I am a trans-man. This journey was one that actually started 15 years ago when I was 23 years old, but really it has been a part of my whole life.
See, I never knew the word transgender, it was not something that was ever a part of my world in Lake Placid, NY. So when I ventured out into the real world and made a friend that happened to be transgender, it blew the lid off of my sheltered view of limited gender inflexibility. That was when I first started to connect the dots of my past and my present and to really question my own gender identity.
After much introspection and talking it out with my friend at that time I finally came to terms with the fact that I am transgender. I am a person that jumps in with both feet and then looks to see if the pool is full of water, this just has always been me; I immediately started to tell my friends and it wasn’t long before I was calling my parents.
I started by giving them a quick vocabulary lesson and introducing them to the term transgender. Then, I explained to them that I was not the daughter that they thought I was, but instead I was their son. This did not go over well, they felt hurt and confused, my mom kept lecturing me, saying that I was mistaken and she knew that this wasn’t me.
By far my Dad’s reaction was the worst for me. My Dad has not always been able to understand me or agree with me, but never had he looked at me the way he did back then. Not only did he seem about to cry when he looked at me, his eyes and face also shouted his feeling of betrayal from me. He would also pepper our conversations with “I can’t believe you want to hurt yourself this way,” or “you lied to me,” over and over again. All the while saying that he loved me, which I knew was true. I also knew that it would take time for everyone to come to terms with my transition, but his response just hurt so much.
My first reaction was to jump in with both feet, as I do, and start the process of my transition so that my parents would see that it was real and then I was sure things would be better. So I started searching for a therapist, but this is where the tables turned with my so called friend. Instead of supporting me on beginning the most important journey of my life, she put me down and told me how I was going too fast and that I was never going to get on hormones this way because I was too driven. Reading this now, I see immediately the problems with those statements, I see that my “friend” who had not begun her transition couldn’t know those things and that those statements were more to halt my progress than to help me, but at the time I only saw it as her trying to help. The need to wait for some unknown period of time and having my Dad look at me like he did for all that time too was a devastating roadblock. I gave up, I told myself that I could be a tomboy and I would be okay, I said it so often and buried Alex so deep within me that I actually started to believe it.
Shortly after my retreat I met my spouse, we fell in love and had 2 kids, as far as anyone could see we were just a heterosexual couple. But there was a bit more behind the curtain. While I was pregnant with our first child we talked about how I believed once that I was transgender and my spouses response was amazing, “I love you. I don’t care if you are a man or a woman, you are still you and I love you!” I wish I could say that phrase made my eyes and the closet door open so I could be the real me, but instead I just pushed Alex deeper and deeper inside.
Through the next decade I felt ashamed when around members of the transgender community. I felt like I had taken what was theirs and they were going to hate me for it. But I also felt something that I was too afraid to admit to myself at the time, jealousy. Jealousy of them being strong enough to actually be themselves no matter what. I am sure that I missed out on some great friendships because of these feelings and fears.
I am now 38 years old. It was January of this year that my spouse came to me and told me that she was transgender. It was through her bravery to broach this subject with me and have confidence that I would love her just as I always have that gave me the strength to come back out of the closet. As soon as I was able to admit to myself that yes, my feelings are valid and yes, I am a trans-man, things started to change for the better, both in our relationship and also with my mental health.
Once I was able to say I am Alex James Rattee with confidence my anxiety decreased in epic proportions. All of a sudden I felt free from a shackle of perceived womanliness that I had been trying to live in for years. I was also no longer feeling such a great weight of expectation surrounding my role as a mom and a spouse. Immediately my wife, Phoebe is her chosen name, started to notice that I was walking different and carrying myself with much more self esteem. Coming back out of the closet has been the best decision of my life. And now I am pursuing my transition in earnest, as is Phoebe. I actually just did my blood work to begin T and have my next appointment with my doctor about that on the 10th. I have also filled out all the paperwork to change my name and my gender markers, I am waiting on one affidavit from my doctor and then I can send it in and legally become Alex. I am so excited!
There are still some bumps in the road, my parents being a huge one, but I will not let it stop me. They love me and I hope that they will come around and realize how important it is to me and our relationship that they see me as Alex. I know this is not a change that can happen over night and I am willing to give them time. But unlike last time, I have a support system that is amazing. I not only have Phoebe beside me on this journey I also have friends, my brother and his family as well as other relatives who love me and are supportive of my truth and the pursuit of it.