1. There were a lot of reasons why I began transition, at last, in 1999. But there was one day that made all the difference.
2. I'd already talked to my beloved about gender issues, and she knew that I was struggling, trying to express myself now and again, without going into full-on transition. I didn't want to harm her, or our kids, or the people that I loved.
3. I felt like that was my job as a man--bearing silently all sorts of burdens, in order to protect the ones I loved. I saw myself as their shield, and it was a job I gladly shouldered, even though it made me suffer.
4. We lived in Ireland from 1998-99, in a small apartment in Cork. It was a good life. We'd shop at the open-air English market downtown, make soda bread, take the kids to pre-school. And heard lots of music and drank pints of Murphys and it was great.
5. One day, we dropped a wine glass on the kitchen floor. We swept up the shards.
6. A day or two later, someone rang the doorbell, and I ran to see who it was, and as I did, I must have stepped on a tiny sliver of glass from that shattered goblet. I felt the sharp pain as it pierced the heel on my left foot.
7. For the next week or so, I walked around Cork with that tiny sliver in my heel. I can't remember if I didn't think there was really glass in my foot or if I thought it would work itself out, or what. But slowly it began to hurt more and more and more.
8. Finally, one day, I realized I couldn't keep just pretending it wasn't there. So I went to the ER at Cork Hospital--a strangely 3rd world institution given the prosperity of Ireland at the time. There were pools of blood on the floor.
9. It took a long time before they saw me. Then they took me into an OR, jabbed my foot with painkillers, although not enough. For ten thousand years, they hunted around in my heel for the sliver as I lay there screaming. At last they found it.
10. My wife was there when I came out, and she took me in her arms, and drove me to the Apothecary to get a post-procedure prescription filled. I waited in the car--a grey Opal-- while she went into fill the scrip.
11. When she came back to the car, she found me sobbing. It was as hard as I'd ever wept in my life. She held me as I sobbed, and shook.
12. I think in that moment I was realizing that my whole life had been like this. For years I'd walked around with something piercing me to the core, and I'd just pretended like it was all fine, because I had to.
13. But I wasn't fine, and I'd finally reached the limits of my being able to pretend it was all fine. I needed to get to a place where i didn't hurt anymore. I needed to stop being the one who was always shielding everyone else, and to be the one who was cared for.
14. I didn't begin transition proper for another nine months or so, until after we came back to the US. But when i look back, that was the day I shattered like a goblet. That was the day I realized I couldn't take one more step.
15. People often ask late-transitioners, Why now? After all this time? What kind of woman do you think you can be, after missing your girlhood and your adolescence? But those aren't the questions.
16. The question is, How did you manage to go so long? What enabled you to keep carrying your burden in secret, walking around with a shard of glass in your foot, for all those years?
17. It is never too late to live your life.
18. People who arrive at this profound and difficult decision don't deserve to be interrogated and scoffed at and ridiculed. We don't deserve clever think-pieces about "What Makes A Woman?" We don't deserve clueless fucks telling us that they know who we are better than we do.
19. People who arrive at this moment deserve to be held in someone's arms. To be loved and protected. To be admired for the burden they tried to carry to protect others. And to be celebrated for having more courage than most people will ever know.
20. -- X - X - X --
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