Five years ago, on Pride Weekend, I stepped out the front door of my condo dressed as female for the first time. I had absolutely no clue about make-up or hair back then, meaning that I guessed on everything. The result wasn’t all that great—think AARP Bride of Frankenstein.
Still, I found the guts to phone a cab to take me to Pi, that now-defunct lesbian place. After some awkward moments, the evening at Pi turned out just fine.
Fine enough for me to transition to full time woman in 2009. Surgeries—body and face—followed in 2010.
What have I learned in those five years?
Oh so much! I’ve crammed nearly a life’s worth of learning into half a decade’s amount of time.
Here are my top five takeaways, lessons learned:
1. We Don’t Have a Choice about Some Things in Life. For most of my life, I tried to choose my gender. Me as a girl? No way! I was been born with male plumbing and I was in love with a beautiful woman who adored me as a man. I was certain that if only I could find the right therapist, or chanted the right mantra, or bought more toys or made just enough money, I could exorcise the female demon inside me.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We are who we are. That’s the wonderment—and burden—of being human.
I finally understand that choice really wasn’t part of the equation. Knowing this now takes care of a lot of baggage, like guilt or hurting over people who drift away because they can’t accept me.
I’m Ellie Krug because that’s just who I am.
Writing that made me smile.
2. Transitioning is Nothing Compared to What Some People Go Through. I met a medical aide named “Marie” at the hospital after my reassignment surgery. On my fifth day of recovery, she brought me the Sunday New York Times—what a nice gesture! We shared personal stories and I talked about recently undergoing facial feminization. She let slip that she had too, had had very extensive facial surgeries.
One day, her unstable ex-boyfriend lost his temper and pulled a gun. He shot Marie in the face, and believing she was fatally wounded, he then killed himself.
Marie talked about the many people who helped her—including a surgeon who donated his time—in the months afterwards. Multiple facial surgeries restored what anger and a bullet had taken away, and now, she was getting on with life.
What a story. What a person.
Suddenly, I realized that surgery to turn penis-to-vagina and nine days of recovery fighting boredom were nothing big.
So, when things get sticky—the job, my twenty-something kids, money—I try to remember Marie and what she went through.
It puts everything in context.
3. The Bottom Rung Isn’t Very Pretty. I’ve been doing nonprofit work for a year and a half helping low-income people connect with lawyers. As a man, I resided in that “Top 2%” we heard so much about last election. Now, I’m in the “Bottom 47%.” When I was rich, I thought poor people were simply looking for handouts. Today I understand that for many, race or class or gender, or just plain bad luck, skews the system against them. Some people will have an uphill fight their entire lives.
Paraphrasing a famous movie line, I see poor and marginalized people everywhere.
As Ellie Krug, my true calling is to champion them.
4. Regret is Way Different than Loss. I’ve come to understand that regret is fundamentally different than loss. Transitioning–a life-changing decision, for sure—brought me significant loss, as I allude to above. Yet, not for a second have I regretted transitioning. How could I regret becoming me?
It was how things had to be.
5. Kindness and Gratitude Go a Long Way. Since Pride 2008, I’ve received so much kindness and generosity from others. In turn, this helped Ellie Krug become a kinder—and much more human—person.
I’m certain that wouldn’t have happened had I not first walked out the front door of my condo dressed as a woman.
I am so incredibly grateful to everyone. That includes you, dear gentle readers, who allow me to briefly occupy a space in your mind once a month.
Happy Pride 2013!
Ellie Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org