Stealth – not just for fighter jets

Published 30, Jul, 2012

Wes Austin on his trans journey: “I believe there comes a point in nearly every trans person’s life where they must decide what to do with their personal, pre-transition history.”

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again

Maya Angelou

I believe there comes a point in nearly every trans person’s life where they must decide what to do with their personal, pre-transition history. I have wrestled with this choice in the past and I continue to wrestle with every time I meet someone new. I need to decide if I am going to own my past or shun it.

The choice before me is daunting. On one hand, owning my past can be fraught with explanations, side trips into education and awkward moments a-plenty. Trying to explain to a newly made friend that there had been an entire life prior to the current incarnation can be offputting, to say the very least.  On the other hand, denying that there WAS a whole lifetime prior to my current presentation denies me the wealth of experience and knowledge brought by my previous life.

Indeed, it feels very much like my life pre-transition is a whole and separate entity of its own. I look back at my past with a sense of bewildered detachment at times and wonder who that person was. I realize that the person to whom those experiences belong is me, however at the same time, I barely recognize that individual anymore. What I see is a young girl who lives in a fog of confusion, fear, sadness and pain. Someone who spent many of her days trying to decide if she was crazy or if there really was something wrong.

I remember the days and nights I spent questioning my own sanity. I couldn’t get rid of the sense that there was something deeply and fundamentally wrong with me. It was so hard to explain that the wrongness wasn’t about a moral badness, but a sense that something just didn’t fit right. I felt out of step, out of touch and not comfortable in my own skin.

The kind of past that, to this day, still brings back feelings of shame, isolation, fear and sadness. I remember the hours spent in my room feeling pain so sharp that my only relief would be through self-injury. There were always waves of shame that would follow the brief relief of that pain. I felt such a deep and profound sadness that, on more than one occasion, I considered taking my own life as a solution. I’m terribly thankful I never did choose that option. I lived with a constant sense that I wasn’t quite like everyone else and, for the life of me, I couldn’t ever figure out why. It is a frustrating past indeed.

Those parts of my history are one’s I’d rather forget.

I can’t forget them however, as those experiences often lie alongside good and happy memories. I have memories of living out on Vancouver Island, moving to downtown Toronto, spending time with good friends and being briefly relieved of the pain and sadness. I remember finding out that I was going to have my first child and how amazed and filled with hope I was. There was all this despite the fact I was essentially homeless, dirt poor and had no plan. I remember how the Universe dropped the chance to live in B.C. in my lap and how grateful, excited and blessed I was to be given the chance to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth (if you ask me).

Those parts of my history, I don’t want to forget. Nor do I want to deny they ever happened.

I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to deny the past, no matter how painful it may be.

My past is an integral part of who I am. The experiences, both good and bad, have shaped me into being the person I am today.

Erasing my past and trying to present as a whole person feels very much to me like perpetuating a lie. I didn’t have a boyhood, I didn’t watch my penis grow and start doing crazy things. My dad never sat me down and had ‘the talk’ nor was I expected to ‘suck it up’ because I was a boy. I don’t share the same boyhood programing as many men in this society do.

Instead, I was taught not to make a fuss. I learned that, while it is ok to have an opinion, voicing it too loudly is never a good idea. I do have to say though, that last one didn’t take so well.

Still, completely rewriting my past to suit my present is, tantamount to boldfaced lying.

So, instead of lying, I have to walk the fine line between disclosure and discretion. Choosing whom to tell what to and trying to decide if the person I’m speaking to is safe enough to come out to.

Not a great choice, but the best one I feel I can make under the circumstance. Authentic, honest and open.