Many of you know I suffered mightily with deep depression this past year. It was undoubtedly the darkest period of my life. That debilitating time however, has given birth to the greatest joy I have ever experienced—a self-revelation that has turned my world right-side-up and inside out, in the most unexpected and utterly joyous ways—a joy so remarkable I can barely contain it. My insides have come into focus in a way that I now see my life with more clarity than ever before . Who I am as a person—a soul—an individual has finally, after all these years of heart wrenching—gut-churning work—soul-searching, and spiritual–psychological exploration—revealed itself to me. And I tell you here and now I have never been so happy, so grateful to be alive, so full of wonder and possibilities.
I am transgender, a male-to-female-transsexual. I have had this condition since I was born, only in my case, due to various childhood experiences, I didn’t consciously know it. However, my spirit and my body were always at odds with one another and I couldn’t figure out why. I have suffered for decades with a deep inward confusion– knowing something wasn’t right inside–in my heart, body, mind—but not understanding what it was. I tried hard to be man, and in many ways succeeded, but something has always been wrong–off, unsettled, and I didn’t know what it was until this past spring. It has all fallen into place in a way that not only makes sense but is incredibly beautiful, and I am over-the-moon happy, relieved, grateful, and eager to fully embrace this realization in every way I can.
Some of you might be surprised at this pronouncement, while others not so much. Please know that there were many of you I wanted to tell individually, but logistically, just couldn’t. Please forgive the impersonal nature of coming out on Facebook and my blog. It’s the best I could do.
You have to take my word for it, of course, that I am transgender. There is no way I can convince you that I am telling the truth, especially to those of you who have known me for many, many years as a male-bodied person named, Joseph. I did not ask to be transgender though. This is not a choice I am making. This is a medical condition where there is no real “cure.” There is treatment however, and that takes the form of transitioning, over time, with the help of hormone therapies, surgeries, as well as many other outward and inward procedures and actions that effect the outward body to better enable it to match my inward spirit.
Once I discovered my condition I chose to continue pretending to be the Joseph everybody knew because I was afraid of the consequences of coming out and living the truth—consequences to my family, to my school, and to my relationships with you. I chose to hide—hide who I am out of fear. I am done hiding. I am being released from prison. I am free to roam and to celebrate a whole new life of the conscious awareness of who I am.
Yes, I know, I have fathered 3 sons and been married over 20 years. I had to buy into my masculine body—my masculine presentation and gender constructs—I had to for reasons I will not get into here. But no more. I am a woman and I am deeply grateful to this body for carrying me so far and for the work it still needs to do. But I am a woman and will no longer hide the real me.
Please try to understand this is not a choice I am making. I was born this way—right gender, wrong body parts. I am not “doing” anything except finally living the way I was always meant to live—as a woman. I am not doing this to “take Joseph away from you.” I will always be the same old me—the same personality. You are not losing anyone, yet you are gaining the most settled, authentic me I have ever known—I am myself. You are gaining me—the real me.
As I write this I feel conflicted—like I am talking about my own funeral while still alive, and there is some strange truth to this sensation. The bigger truth however—the one that encompasses all others, is that I am being born. I am coming to life in a way I didn’t know was possible. Maybe my poetry did—but I didn’t see this coming, and dear hearts, I am deeply happy, peaceful, centered, aware, and, yes, scared. This is all new. I feel at once empowered and vulnerable and want your acceptance, affirmation, and love. I also know that I must and will carry on regardless of what anyone says or thinks. I accept myself for who I really am. I love who I am and who I am becoming. I am beautiful. And yes, I would like your acceptance. I want you to know this is the true me. This is how I was meant to be—this is who I am–a woman. And I know there will be many challenges and difficult times ahead, but my joy supersedes those worries. I am blessed. And yes, it will take many of you time to get used to this. You’ll make it though. I believe in you. As I seek to truly join my spirit and my body we will go on a wonderful and scary journey together. I will do my utmost to be patient with your transitions as they reveal themselves in relationship to mine.
That said, there are some things I would like to ask of you as we begin a dialog that might, perhaps, last years. I ask these things not out of disrespect for you, but out of an attempt to preserve the energy I am going to need in order to go forward. There are a few topics I want you to not ask me about, and I ask you to vigilantly hold these boundaries for my sake. No one’s curiosity gives them the right to ask questions that cross a line of appropriateness and since most of us know little about transgenderism and struggle with what they feel they should know or what they want to know about my condition I am offering these boundaries.
I am unwilling to discuss whether or not I am considering having any operations or “the” operation. While my condition is rather uncommon, I am not an exhibit. In the same way I would never ask you how your genitals look or if you’ve ever had enhancements or implants or any other type of sexual related surgeries, I request you not ask me such about things.
Please do not ask me about my sex life. Please do not ask me how, or if, I have sex. This is all, obviously, private.
Please do not assume this is a horrible, wretched thing I am “doing” to my family. Again, this is not a lifestyle choice.
If you want to talk with my family about this experience, please do not approach the topic under the assumption that they must be suffering. Instead you could simply ask them how they are doing and be genuinely open to their answers.
Please direct any questions you may have about me to me, and do not go through my family to find out about me.
Finally, I want you to know that I am sure about this—I am transgender. I am a woman, so you needn’t ask me if I am sure, or if I am sure I’m sure. I have never been so sure of something in my life.
I also want to briefly dispel a couple of assumptions that may be out there about transgender people.
The first thing is I am not a drag queen. A drag queen is a man performing as a woman—often men wearing flamboyantly “feminine” clothes or makeup. That is not me. I am transgender. I am not performing. I am living a real life.
I am also not a transvestite, for whom wearing “women’s” clothes is somewhat of a fetish—a sexually charged behavior. That is also not me. While I feel a tremendous sense of liberation wearing the women’s clothes I now wear, it is not a fetish—it is an affirmation, confirmation, celebration of my womanhood.
Lastly, transgender people can be gay or straight just like anyone else.
While I know most of you will respond to this letter with kindness and grace some of you may have objections—perhaps “religiously” or “morally,” to what is happening to me, please do not let me know. In the same way someone should not be hated or assumed to be evil, perverted, or otherwise dangerous because of any physiological or biological conditions they happen to be born with, I should not be either for having been born transgender. People born blind did not choose to be born blind, neither did I choose to be born transgender. You, of course, have a right to your opinion, but I would prefer not you not share any negative judgements with me.
Please know to that I cannot reply to all the comments you leave here. I will do my best though. Feel free to message me for deeper conversations. I look forward to your kind words and support. If you reply negatively to this post I will delete your comments. I know the vast majority of you will reply with grace and love.
I want to say how incredibly grateful and moved I am by Mandy’s amazing and remarkable acceptance, support, understanding, and love. She is my biggest ally. I am so blessed and lucky know such a wonderful person. Her compassion is off the charts fantastic. We can now share the same clothes. 🙂
I also want to thank our boys for their amazing support. They have been so kind, so understanding, and so happy for me. They are showing such grace, strength, warmth, and kindness. I am so, so grateful. Thank you my dear children. I love you so much.
I have many other friends and therapists to thank, but understandably I just cannot here. There are a few here I would to mention however. One is my friend, Mika. She is the one who helped break this shell open. She was the one who helped me see myself for the first time. She used her magic, wisdom, insights, kindness, and encouragement to help my true self reveal itself to me. And she continuously supports and celebrates me.
Another friend is Brian. He has accepted and loved me as I am from the beginning. Never questioned me once.
Two friends, Mindy and Jeanie, have taught me many things about courage, authenticity, joy, and creativity. I am grateful they are in my life.
I also want to thank my friend and colleague, Erin, for her amazing and empowering support and guidance these last couple years.
I also want to thank my friends at Transway and Evolutions, and to the Mazzoni Center for all their guidance, support, and encouragement.
So there it is. That’s the news. And there is one more thing.
I will be changing my name (legally) as soon as I can. Taking inspirations from my favorite transgender author, Jennifer Finney Boylan, as well as my mother’s name, Angie, I am changing my name to Jennifer Angelina Petro. Not sure how to do that on Facebook yet, but I will figure it out. As best you can please refer to me as Jennifer from now on and with feminine pronouns. I understand this will take getting used to. It will for me as well, but this is my new name—one I picked, one I feel honors who I am and the characters and gifts I want to embody.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for loving me and for your support all these years. I need it now more than ever.
I love you all.