Losing My Past
Explaining the past is difficult for anyone who is transgender. Stories of playing softball for your alma mater become blended with your brother’s experiences playing baseball so you don’t “out” yourself as transgender. Explaining how you busted your knee in high school football becomes a story about playing a powderpuff pick-up game with friends.
Sports are largely separated by gender. The same is true for the military. This will slowly change with women being allowed to serve in combat roles. Today, however, if you went to Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego it labels you as male since no women are sent there for training. You cannot talk about boot camp without exposing who you were – your gender assigned at birth – just as discussing your time on submarines or serving in the infantry would out you.
There are many transgender people serving in the military today. We serve in silence. Some of us go to great lengths to hide who we are while in the service. Once out of the service, a lot of us go to great lengths to hide our new gender. After transitioning, we do not want others to know of our past because we want others to accept us for our new gender. But hiding our background creates a whole new set of fears and anxieties.
By gaining the male characteristics that I had always wanted, I lost my history as a woman. It is as if I never existed before my transition. I can no longer share some of my most joyous moments that expose me as having once lived my life as a woman. When someone asks where my daughter’s mother is, I cringe and say it is complicated. I want to tell them that it was me that gave birth to them, but I choose to remain silent. In my silence, I feel guilty that I am doing a disservice to other transgender persons by remaining invisible and passing as male.
I do not voice my transgender status in my local community. It is a personal choice, and I have had to come to terms with it. It is not just me I have to think about; it is my family as well. Being transgender is still stigmatized in society. I know we need to change the hearts and minds of Americans, but the price to pay to make change happen is very steep. Since I am new to this town, I want to gain the community’s respect before I come out. Beyond the city limits, though, I want my voice as a trans man to be heard.
At my daughters’ school Valentine’s Day party, red and pink hearts, balloons and streamers dotted the classroom. My Valentine’s Day sweethearts are my twin daughters. I gave birth to them, yet I can no longer share that joyous moment with other mothers. While watching the kids pass out candy and cards, two mothers were talking about their pregnancy experiences. One spoke of how difficult her daughter was to deliver. The other said she had a pretty easy time. My thoughts raced; I wanted to connect with them, but how could I? I wanted to say having twins was amazing. Feeling both of them wrestle around inside me was such a strange sensation. I wanted to say I had a C-section. That they came early because the doctor accidentally induced early labor. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.
I am Dad now. And nobody knows that I used to be their mother.
So instead, I said, “We had twins.” That was all I said and all I could say. From there, one mom said her sister had twins and that she used to breast feed them both at the same time. The other cut in and said she just doesn’t know how those mothers do it, and that she has the utmost respect for women who have twins. I wanted to be a part of that magic.
A trans woman veteran named Paula told me,
Those of us who are no longer serving in uniform have an obligation to tell our histories truthfully if we ever hope to change the regulations for those who are in uniform and can’t tell their truths. The public needs to know our stories and putting faces and real people on the issue of ‘transgender service’ will be vital to winning just as it was in repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
However, outing yourself is complicated at best.
A friend of mine, an active duty trans man in the Army, tries to embrace his past in hopes that it will help others that are questioning their gender.
I’m trying to embrace myself and my past – both civilian and military. I tell people why I left [the military] and my story, and it outs me. But I want to come to terms with myself in every point of my life, and am hoping that my story helps other people someday…Overall, though, being honest and open seems to be my best bet. I’ve gotten nothing but respect in return…nothing malicious yet.
Explaining one’s past is a personal choice, but the decision nonetheless causes a great deal of anxiety. I am still conflicted about choosing to lose my history as a woman. Hopefully, I will overcome my fears and embrace my past so others can see the true me.
About the Author: Evan Young is originally from Little Rock, Ark. He graduated basic training in 1989, transitioned from a sergeant to lieutenant in 1998, and rose to the rank of Major before retiring in 2013. Evan and his partner currently live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their two children.