People like to categorize, attach labels to groups with common ideas and believes. I guess it helps us to feel connected to what sets the group apart. Labels helped me to figure what I have been feeling all my life.
Early on in my life I felt different. Different than what I had learned to be a typical boy. I felt more connected to girls and women, and admired them, but in a non-sexual way. I was kind of jealous of their body, the clothes they could chose from and the way they could express themselves. I guess my view of boys was that they needed to be tough, daring and that they didn’t cry. Conversations would be about sports, cars and technical things, but not about feelings and emotions. So I felt boys were appealing more to the rational. I saw girls as frivolous, connected and more elegant, more connected to the emotional. I know this is very stereotypical, but that is what I used to frame things in my early life. Little did I understand that we are on a spectrum.
Being born in the body of a boy, I acted as a boy, but within I felt more connected to things I saw a feminine. In hiding my feelings, I looked forward to car magazines, which at that time had a lot of advertisements with women. Or the post order catalogues, which allowed me to look at dresses, without someone finding out. To others I was looking at cars, electronics and other stuff. I didn’t feel like a girl at that time. Yet I remember I had two distinct groups of friends at school. I would see the boys after school and we would play football or do stunts with our BMX bikes. While during the schoolbreaks I would often sit, walk and talk with the girls.
When I was in my early teens I started to try my mothers clothes. The urge to feel the fabric and the female clothes was getting strong. I felt special at those moments, and it made me happy. I only would try it at night, taking a huge risk as my parents were downstairs. I couldn’t help it and really longed for that feeling, yet I would always feel weird after it. I really thought I was out of my mind or even insane, to have those feelings. At that time I didn’t know about gender identity.
When I started earning money, I would find ways to buy clothes and lingerie. It is easy when you tell it is for your girlfriend. But obviously they were for me. I felt ashamed, but whenever I had the chance to try them, I felt wonderful. All the time imagining what it would like to have an elegant and feminine body. Meeting girls and getting girlfriends, pushed this all to the background. I was taking dancing lessons, as my parents thought it was part of your upbringing. For me it was wonderful, to dance and be around girls. I loved Latin dances are they are very expressive.
Occasionally I would still dress, but it was very limited. I fell in love and then it all moved to the background. I did feel jealous of my wife. Her body and the way she could express herself. But the urge to dress had reduced. Even more so when we got married and we had our children. My life was very much focused around my family, my work and our new house. There was little time, nor opportunity to be me. I pushed it even more to the background. At times I would buy some clothes, only to throw them away after a while. I didn’t want anyone to find them and storing them at home was difficult. Before coming out, I had a period of almost 4 years where I didn’t give in to the feelings.
Then, a couple of years ago, a friend, without knowing, triggered everything. It was in the midst of my mid life and I really wanted to understand this feeling that was so strong. With a lot of resources available on the internet, I started to read about cross dressing, transgender and gender identity in general. When I read personal stories, these were remarkably similar to mine. It was nice to have acknowledgement and it was good to understand I was not insane. But at the same time it was confusing. What was this feeling? Who was I? All my life I had pushed my feelings away, so what did I feel? Slowly I started to be open to the idea I might be a cross dresser. I didn’t hate my body, I just loved to dress and be feminine.
I found so many stories that resonated, that looked like mine, I just had to understand more about me. After makeovers and building courage to go out, I started to reach reach my feelings. When I went out I felt amazing and free. As Liv I opened up, while in my male mode I had always lived a kind of in the shadow.
My therapist teases me a lot, to help me figure things out. I would get upset if he told me my makeup was just a ritual to relax. Of course I would relax, but because I felt happy that how I looked resonated with how I felt. I still find it difficult to clean my face and put Liv back in a suitcase. Just after my coming out, my wife called it a hobby. I am not blaming her, as it is unfamiliar territory for her, but it hurt, as I was not going through this for fun.
Slowly I started to understand this was more than crossdressing. My therapist told me to try and take a couple of days on my own, and live full time as Liv. See how I would feel. I will tell you more about this trip another time, but I had a wonderful time. Being seen as Liv, a woman, made me feel true and at home. Looking back at my past, it all started to make sense. I had been interested in women, admired them, because I wanted to be like them. Stronger, because I feel I am a woman. I just happened to have the problem that my body doesn’t reflect it. Although I am expressing myself as man most of the time, I feel I am a woman within. Out of love and respect for my wife and family I am not showing her at home. It is very difficult at times, to not express my full self, but it is helping to integrate Liv more and more in my life.
Although I know now I am a woman in the wrong body, at times I still look for validation. And my biggest validation came, when I went for an intake at a psychologist for a gender team. Basically you need their approval before you can make any steps to transition or move further. I had prepared for a lengthy conversation, where I had to explain myself and defend why I felt I am a transgender woman. So I went there as Liv, ready for all this ‘tough’ conversation and all kinds of questions. But the questions didn’t come. The therapist accepted me as a woman instantly. She saw Liv and acknowledged my feelings. In me she saw a woman who had been struggling and was asking for advice how to move on.
My story is not unique. I have read and heard many stories that are similar. I feel connected to the stories of transgender women, as I feel the same as they describe. Labels in society helped me to understand who I am. And I love it if we use the labels to unite and find each other. That we feel proud of who we are and help others connect and understand themselves. But at the same time labels are just labels. You are you. Listen to your feelings. When I can express my femininity, I feel happy and aligned. And when people see and recognize me as a woman, using pronouns like she and her I just lit up. Listen to what makes you happy and aligned. Find friends and people around you who accept you, for who you are without asking an explanation.
I am still on my journey to figure things out, but with the friends and wonderful people around me, I feel empowered to take the steps. However difficult they are.