At a Friday afternoon club gathering—something us older folks know as a FAC—I struck up a conversation with a very fit, short-haired woman. It turned out she was a therapist who works exclusively with 15 to 25-year-old GLBT youth.
“The most common issue I deal with is gender identity,” she said. “I can’t believe how many patients consider themselves transgender in one form or another.”
I asked why the surge. She answered, “The internet. They understand they’re not alone. It gives them confidence. They want to live as themselves. These ‘kids’ won’t put up with being in a closet.”
That’s great, I thought. The young ones have the smarts to be themselves before they get locked into something that doesn’t work for them—like a life in the wrong gender.
I have to confess that I felt a pang—oh, hell, it was way more than that—of envy. I didn’t start to transition until 2009, when I was 52 years old. Those now coming out as transgender have at least a thirty year head start compared to me. They’re wiser, smarter, and braver than I could have ever hoped to be.
The therapist’s report reminded me of what I’ve lost in terms of chance. The chance to live life as a younger woman, making my way in the world.
A few months ago, a friend and I dined at a restaurant where I pointed out a blonde tattooed server in a funky skirt.
“That’s who I’d look like if I had been a girl her age,” I said. “I wish I would’ve gotten the chance.”
Therein lies the rub. I’ve finally gotten to be me, the woman who always lurked inside.
The problem? I’m long past the wonderment of firsts—first love, first apartment, first child, even first dog. As a result, there’s a bit of loss mixed with the joy of womanhood.
Certainly, I’m thrilled to finally have what I call clean lines—the body of a woman. After all those years, my outside matches my inside. I’m thankful that I was able to arrive, so please, don’t get me wrong. I have immense gratitude.
On the other hand, when I see the beautiful twenty and thirty-year-old women who roam Minneapolis’s sidewalks and skyways, I bite my lip. There’s another one I’ll never look like. Or date, I say, to paraphrase a relatively famous comic.
A month ago, a barely thirty-year-old woman sat in my office. “Jane,” a complete stranger, had arranged for an informational interview. Within two minutes of meeting Jane, my knees went weak. She had blonde frizzy hair, an athlete’s body, and the smarts of a young Amelia Earhart. She made me laugh, and even listened attentively to my boring stories. My gaydar pinged wildly. I wanted to kiss her in the worst possible way. Thankfully, reason prevailed.
Yet, once again, the lost chance syndrome surfaced. We struck it off like life-long pals. It made me think that, had I been even fifteen years younger, this woman would have gone for me, notwithstanding my prior history as a boy.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem fair.
For most of you in the GLBT alphabet, what I write here resonates. Unless you came out in high school, to some extent the real you went on hold. Maybe that meant passing up the adorable boy in World Lit or the very athletic girl with delicious muscles in P.E. class. If so, now compound that by three decades, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
It’s not like I dismiss my prior life as a man. In male form, I had everything that anyone could ever want—a loving wife, the big house, a successful career, money in the bank, three cars in the garage. Yet, that was a man’s life. It worked for a while, but not for five decades.
Envy is so non-Buddhist. I’m quite Buddhist, meaning there’s a bit of dissonance here. I tell myself that I’m far wiser at 55 than I would have ever been at 25, and thus, I should be happy. It shouldn’t matter that I never got the thin, tight body of a twenty-something.
Most of the time, I accept this.
But not always.
Ellie Krug welcomes your comments. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.