12th February, 2002
Hi Mum and Dad,
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this letter is the hardest one I've ever had to write. I've been racking my brain for weeks trying to figure out how to tell you what I need to, and finally realised that there is no "right" or "best" way to go about this - so I'm just going to be brief and too the point.
The fact is that I suffer from a birth defect called Gender Dysphoria (also known as Gender Identity Disorder or Transsexualism). I realise that this will come as a huge shock to you, and I honestly understand if you feel shock or anger at me for telling you this. All I ask is that you read this letter and try to understand.
There are a lot of preconceptions and misunderstandings about this disorder, but the most important thing to understand is that it's a physical - rather than a psychological - condition. In other words, it's not (as many people think) a matter of choice or environment (something which can be cured by counselling), but is instead a deformity (the gender of the brain and sex of the body develop differently, possibly due to a hormonal imbalance during pregnancy).
The best medical explanation I've seen is "An Open Letter to Physicans" (http://www.genderweb.org/medical/docs/gmed19.html). I'd strongly recommend reading this if you want to understand the likely causes of the condition.
I can't emphasise enough that the fact that this is a birth defect means that it is nobody's fault - upbringing has nothing to do with it - so please don't feel guilty. You've absolutely no reason to.
I've been aware of my feelings since I was between six and eight years old, but never felt able to confide in anyone. Worse still, I can now see that I was so afraid and ashamed of how I felt that that I invented my whole "visible" personality to disguise them. No wonder I've always been introverted and distant.
In effect, the person most people know as "[Deadname]" isn't really me - it's what I call a "mask" - a way of allowing myself to appear to be what others expected me to be, and protect myself from pain and guilt. The worst thing about this is that nobody has ever truly known me - and worse still, I've not even known myself. This sort of response is, it turns out, very common amongst sufferers of this condition.
Over the last year I've finally began to face up to who I am and start the long process of healing. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the last 6 months have been the most painful in my life - I now understand why the suicide rate among sufferers is as high as it is. It's truly horrible for everybody concerned.
As time has moved on I've become more and more aware that my feelings weren't going to go away - no matter how much counselling I undertook. There are only two ways to deal with this condition and survive: either suppress my identity again (which I don't think I could do now - and believe me I've tried) - or seek medical help.
I now know I have no choice but to start on the latter path. Although it will take several years and probably be the hardest thing I've ever done, I've every reason to expect that the results will be fine (in fact, I was surprised to discover that treatment for this condition is almost routine now).
The tragic (but I'm afraid inevitable) consequence of all this is that my marriage is coming to an end. We both recently consulted solicitors, although we will both be living here for several months. After that, she is planning to start her own career, and hopefully the kids will be staying with me here (though obviously everything's still a bit up in the air right now).
I can't express how awful I feel at having to do this to her, and believe me, I'm very conscious of the impact this will have on all our lives. However, I'm certain this is the right way for us, and I'm sure that the kids will be able to adapt easily (all the friends I've consulted and research I've done recently supports this conclusion, though I'm under no illusions about how difficult it will be).
I can certainly understand any reservations you may have about this.
It's not all bad news though. Acceptance has allowed me to start the process of healing and share who I am and how I feel with those closest to me. In doing so, I've become stronger in my faith, much closer to those around me and discovered facets of my personality which have been repressed until now. I'm certainly a better person for it.
I should mention that I've been very blessed in that all the friends I've discussed this with (including several in our Church and my boss at work) have been incredibly understanding and supportive - in fact not one person has condemned or turned their back on me. I pray that will continue, and that you will feel able to join them.
Please call me when you've had time to think about what I've said, and don't be afraid to ask about anything you're unsure of. I know it will take you some time to come to terms with this (after all, it took me 28 years!), so if you need a bit of time, I'll understand.
Above all, I can't emphasise enough that in I'm still the same person I've always been - but now I'm beginning to get the confidence to let my true self be seen. My only regret is that I couldn't have faced this much sooner.
Love and God Bless,
P.S. There is a huge amount of information about this subject on the web. Here are a couple of links which I think you should read alongside this letter (I can give you more if you need them):
An Open Letter to the Parents, Family and Friends of a Transsexual
Transsexualism - What is it? Help for Families
There are also several support organisations in the UK which might be able to help. If you feel that you need to talk to someone, please let me know and I'll do what I can.
Copyright 2002-2020 by Anna-Jayne Metcalfe.
All Rights Reserved