This is a coming out story for Pride Month: maybe not the kind you’re expecting. I have often written about how Loki is a god that requires our honesty. Why is that? I think it’s because Loki is a trickster and a god of destruction. But what does that really mean?
The trickster is a god who through either his own folly or observation turns convention on its head. I think sometimes people mistake convention to mean “order” and order is always good: thereby making the trickster an adversarial figure. But sometimes business as usual isn’t a good thing: sometimes it’s oppressive and sometimes it defends ignorance. Sometimes our order needs to be disrupted in order to be re-evaluated. I think people will often stay in familiar discomfort rather than choose an uncertain alternative. This is part of the reason the trickster makes us so uncomfortable. He pushes us into the deep end of the pool where we can’t see the bottom.
Similarly, Loki is a god who destroys. In Vedic thought, when you see a particularly frightening and bloodthirsty god, it’s often the demons of ego they are consuming. Ego isn’t just being “too big for your britches”. Ego is all of the comfortable stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what our lives mean. Just like convention, we can grow so comfortable in the stories we tell about ourselves, good or bad, that we begin to believe that’s truly who we are. When we outgrow those stories, we will still cling to them because even if they’re uncomfortable they’re safe and familiar.
I’ve been practicing what I preach lately, and have finally allowed myself to let go of one of these big stories I’ve told about myself for a very long time. One I repeated and repeated long after I knew it my heart it wasn’t true anymore. I hope that you will read these next words with compassion.
I have finally admitted to myself after years of internal struggle that I no longer identify as transgender in the strictest sense of the word (and for those who didn’t know that first bit, surprise!).
I started identifying as male when I was 18, and began to medically transition when I was 21. At this time in the early 2000’s being trans wasn’t something that was a large public issue yet. I had only met one person who wanted to transition in my life: a girl (not really though) that I was interested in high school, and even then I didn’t fully understand what he was moving towards.
I had been gender non-conforming my entire life, which was challenging with a father who was selectively Catholic and a mother with very traditional ideas about femininity. Not that I’m saying my parents didn’t love me deeply: they did, and I know they were doing their best, but my upbringing was littered with micro aggressions that slowly taught me to hate myself for things I couldn’t change. I’ll get there in a minute.
When I started to research changing genders there were 2 websites by FTM’s total on the internet and social media didn’t really exist to the extent we have it today. I saw commonalities that I felt at the time validated my own feelings of trans ness: one had an eating disorder (I’d been trying to starve myself into a more androgynous shape for years at that point) and the other had identified as a butch lesbian (what I clearly had been since childhood). I could easily point to my past and show you many trans red flags, and that’s what I did when my father panicked and sent me to his therapist friend when I told them what I had been researching. After a year and a half of therapy I was formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and it was onward to transition from there. For a time I was happy and comfortable, but there was always something in the back of my mind that wouldn’t give me peace. I knew somehow that I wasn’t being completely honest with myself.
I felt I couldn’t, for example, share with my dad’s therapist friend that he had sent me to in order to fix me, that I had been in a secret relationship with my best friend (a girl) for three years and had to keep it a secret from her Catholic parents and my parents that tried to subtly encourage me out of being gay at every opportunity. My father ultimately blamed my girlfriend when I told him I was thinking of transition, and told me he thought it was “disgusting” that anyone would imply we had been a couple. I never told him we were. Some of my father’s best friends were lesbians, so this never made sense to me. He would support his lesbian friends, and then tell me offhandedly how gay men were possessed by vengeful female spirits. Why did I have to play by different rules than everyone else? I love and miss my father. I forgive him for being flawed… but he really fucked my head up
I didn’t tell the therapist that I had been at war with my body and gender presentation for years. My mother supported my extreme dieting and made me feel ugly with subtle looks and remarks any time I chose to dress butch as a teen, and would exude relief and enthusiasm any time I tried to force myself to be feminine or any time a man (of any age) showed sexual interest in me, even in passing. I was in a tug of war between masculine and feminine in my mind for years, because at that point I genuinely didn’t believe that you could be female any way you wanted to and still be acceptable.
There wasn’t always a divide between my masculine presentation and my female body. I was actually quite comfortable with both for a long time. Even though I was often mistaken for a boy, I would laugh it off and still walk through life knowing I was a girl. The worst time that this happened was the first time in my memory I ever felt deeply ashamed of who I was.
My parents were extremely protective, and I went to the same tiny Montessori school from the first through the 7th grade. I had never thought to be ashamed of myself. I took my discomfort with dresses and long hair to the max when I was 12 and cut my hair like a boy and started to dress only in boys clothes (which I had mostly worn since I could dress myself anyway). I even told my mom that I was more interested in girls than boys (She was cautiously supportive, and then my dad started to offhandedly say strange things like “I had a patient who was a lesbian, but women were so much drama she’s back to men now”).
Despite the fact I was showing some very butch lesbian symptoms, my dad thought Catholic School was a logical next step from a 7 year career in Montessori school. So I went to interview at the school, dressed like I always was, and the girls were extremely nice to me! I was so sheltered I didn’t even think to question why. I didn’t even know at that point that Christians believed that non-Christians and gays went to hell.
When I actually enrolled and they wouldn’t let me wear the boys uniform that all changed. I was bullied and treated very coldly by the girls, and wasn’t sure what I had done wrong other than being a little socially awkward. It wasn’t until later that year my friend (who became my girlfriend) told me that they had been so nice to me that day because all the kids had thought I was a boy and the girls had been flirting with me. Great first impression for a bunch of Catholics. That sent an ugly message straight to my Fetch: people only like you when they think you’re a boy.
I remember vividly the first “free dress” day at that school that I came dressed in boy clothes (and fuck that, they were MY clothes) and feeling so ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I wasn’t dressed like the other girls or treated like the other girls. It was the first time I remember hating myself. That began the yo-yo I went through my whole adolescence of forcing myself to try to be more feminine until I cracked and would go back to being masculine until the next shame event would throw me back in the other direction again.
My dad tried to hook me up with the son of one of his patients during one of my femme phases and my first year of high school. It was fun to have a boyfriend… never mind that I never even so much as kissed him. I knew that I was sexually attracted to women’s bodies at this point and always had been… I had just never realized, as ridiculous as it seems, that’s was what sexual orientation meant. When you’re a girl your told about who you “fall in love with”, not what gets you horny. I love many men in my life… but I didn’t know back then that love and orientation aren’t the same.
I remember my parents trying to encourage me into all kinds of relationships with boys: ones in which I would not physically engage (The boys never made me feel forced and I thank the gods they were kind). I vividly remember my first prom. A boy who liked me asked me to go, and I ditched him there for a girl I was interested in (the one who was really trans). Not very nice, but it’s hard to be nice when you are too afraid to be honest. I couldn’t help being gay, and I so wish someone had just had to courage to say it out loud. To call it what it was. But it was my own shameful secret to carry and no adults seemed to want to give a name to the unspoken shadow over my life.
I remember that before she told me she had fallen in love with me, my friend who became my 3 year secret girlfriend told me that she felt compassion for gay people because they had a mental illness. She apologized when I told her I was a lesbian. Even so, she would tell me things when we were dating that made me feel like she wished I was a boy and not a girl. We both hated our bodies and both had eating disorders. Eventually I started to wish that I was a boy too. How much easier would my life be if I didn’t have to hide who I was or try to conform to ideas of female beauty.
My father forced me to stop seeing my girlfriend when I went into therapy. I never even got to grieve because nobody could know our secret. Even close friends of ours didn’t know we were a couple. I didn’t tell them because I was ashamed of who I was.
Paradoxically, when I was trying to decide if I was going to transition I also decided to try dating boys. If I couldn’t be a lesbian and couldn’t stomach being straight, maybe I could meet my parents in the middle and be a gay man. That doesn’t make any fucking kind of sense, but that’s where I was at the time. Yaoi didn’t help: those gay boys who looked like women were having adventurous love lives with men. Why not me? My first relationship with a boy was extremely mentally abusive on top of not being sexually fulfilling to me. I never told him (or the two other guys I slept with after that relationship) that I’ve never had an orgasm with a man. I can’t. Even when I was fantasizing about women as hard as I could. In retrospect I don’t know why I was hurting myself like that. It felt like there was no other option.
I was single and had sworn off trying to force myself into relationships with men when I was about to have top surgery. A few days before the surgery I was in Tahoe with my brother, when a beautiful lesbian woman came up to me and told me how cute she thought I was. The feeling was mutual. She introduced herself to me as Athena (!) and asked me if I wanted to come hang out where she was staying. I was so star struck I forgot what she said. I could never find her. To this day I wonder: if I had just wrote down the fucking address would I still have transitioned? Was she a messenger from the Pallas star that’s so prominent in my own chart and embodies female masculinity? I’ll never know.
I remember fear and uncertainty being the last feeling to shoot through me when I got on the operating table. I still had no idea who I was.
I had top surgery and started dating the woman I would marry not long after. My father was dying of melanoma and had been lying to me about how sick he was for years. I never told him she was my partner. Our relationship was in conflict over my transition when he died. I started hormones the day of his funeral: a powerful and confusing symbol if there was any.
For many years it was so easy for me to disappear into being a straight white man. To finally be treated like a normal person for the first time in my life. Male privilege was very real. When I was a man, people thought I was cute. They thought I was funny, they thought I was intelligent. I liked this new persona and this new respect. When I was a woman and a lesbian sometimes I was funny, but I was rarely smart and at worst a an aggressive, know it all bitch.
My ego and sense of self worth got very tied up into being a man (a heathen man at that) and a husband. I started to have frequent dreams about my body going back to being female, or me having to present as female and being unable to, over and over. I suppressed those feelings of uncertainty because at that late hour they were very inconvenient. Even when I would have panic attacks at night: feeling fear and distress for all of the pressure I was putting my body under, I would suppress it and smile again in the morning. My femaleness became like a vengeful goddess. Like Tiamat rising from the sea of my unconscious only to be struck down by Marduk: my idealized male personae. My maleness was the good part of me. My femaleness: the unloveable dyke, that needed to die and stop ruining my life.
I took mushrooms for the first time last year. When I was peaking and beginning to come down, the person who flashed vividly in my mind was Athena: that woman who might have been the key to my salvation. She was the image of who I had secretly wanted to be. Who I had really been underneath all of my Ego’s armor. Transition had saved me from trying to force myself into femininity or heterosexual relationships, but it has been a bandaid over wounds I had never allowed myself to examine long enough to heal.
I wanted to destroy that awkward lesbian teenager, not love her. She was the unloveable part of me of that nobody had wanted. Fuck her, I’m a new person now. A man my peers love and respect, not that awkward little girl in men’s clothing who does nothing but embarrass herself and do “disgusting” things behind her parents’ backs. But in that moment I saw who I really was, and I couldn’t unsee it. I wasn’t strong or brave in that moment: I had been limping along on a leg I was pretending wasn’t broken.
I tried to suppress it for another year. I tried to tell myself that I was dealing with internalized transphobia, not internalized homophobia and internalized misogyny. The only problem was… I had always felt loved and accepted as a trans man. I had never felt loved, especially by myself, when I was just a butch lesbian: what felt like the worst kind of woman I could possibly be. I remember being angry in the past when I had been clocked as a lesbian and not a man: angry and vulnerable and afraid that they had seen me at my most unloveable.
Then I tried to get a PAP smear. 10 years of testosterone had given me such bad vaginal atrophy that they had to try to take the sample 3 times. The last time I had to take estrogen topically in order to fix the damage. It bounced back amazingly in two weeks, and by that point I had heard the suggestion of “hysterectomy” being thrown around. My body had been partially healed… and I had the choice of removing my female organs… and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to remove this last link I had to my femaleness. I had been beating this butch dyke to death for years, and when it came time to give her the killing blow I couldn’t bear to do it. Why? That was an uncomfortable question to have to answer.
“Because you aren’t really trans” was the answer. You were always a traumatized, gender non conforming woman. You can’t kill her because she IS you. I grappled with that for a long time. Sex Reassignment isn’t exactly an easy thing to bounce back from. It would be so much easier to force myself back into my old state: pride in being a man and a trans man… except I’d seen behind the curtain now and it was to late. I couldn’t unsee what I had seen. I knew it was the truth because of the enormous sense of relief and fear I felt. Fear of the unknown. I don’t know how to be a woman. I don’t know how to be a lesbian. I never allowed myself to just be what I was.
I finally had a realization that I couldn’t fully love myself until my male and female sides were allowed to have equal places in my life. The Sacred Twins needed to stop being at war for me to find peace. I couldn’t try to destroy one in favor of the other anymore. I made a very hard choice, and this is the first time I’m publicly sharing that choice: I’m detransitioning.
I’m afraid of disappointing my trans friends and family. I’m afraid that after 10 years of male privilege my skin isn’t thick enough to handle being a gay woman in an increasingly hostile country. I’m afraid that people will want to harm me or my loved ones when they see me for what I really am. But Loki demands truth and honesty. How can I say that so loudly to so many people if I can’t bear to do it myself.
I’m sharing this because I want to be honest with myself. Because being a straight man became as much a prison for me as trying to be a straight woman. It was a much nicer prison and at least it was comfortable and had windows… but I can’t live here anymore. I outgrew it.
So here I am as a 32 year old adult who has a lot of wounds and is FINALLY coming out to the world as a lesbian. Still gender queer to be sure, still trans in a way, but I need to be seen and be loved as a queer woman, because I need to prove to myself that I can be. I still don’t fully believe that I can be loved for who I am, but I hope anyone who cares about me can help prove me wrong. I believe in and support trans identities… but I don’t feel authentic there anymore. A person can transition for many good reasons: my reason was trauma.
On the summer solstice this year I tried mushrooms for the second time. I felt all of the “wrong” women rising up in my blood. My European ancestresses: The witches and wise women who had been murdered because they were women with power, or women who didn’t fit. In some stories it was women who lured the Watchers from heaven: the fallen angels who were the sires of the Nephillim: the “bad women” who had the power to unlock dimensions and sleep with angels. I was surrounded by trees, sobbing on the earth, begging their forgiveness for turning my back on them and turning my back on myself. Begging for whatever healing they could offer me. Then the world dissolved into peacock feathers and eyes and I spent the next 2 hours in the 7th heaven of Melek Taus… but that’s a different story!
The very next morning my cycle returned after 10 years. A prayer answered?
I am scared to be telling this story. Scared that it will be misconstrued into a story to attack trans people and trans identities (it most certainly isn’t. This is MY experience and not anyone else’s). I believe that trans women are women and trans men are men. I’m scared that I will let down trans people who identified with me. I’m afraid that I’m not strong enough to be a butch lesbian in this world, or someone who openly walks between male and female roles. But I feel like I have to try for my own sake.
Loki demands honestly, and this is the most honest I’ve felt since I was a child who didn’t know what shame was yet. I hope you can forgive me for being a person in pain, and for doing the best I could with what I had. I’m doing my best to forgive myself.
So this is my coming out moment. Happy Pride.