Self is Not a 4 Letter Word

Today’s post was written by my wife Jennifer.  Jenn’s story is intensely personal and I applaud her courage in sharing it here. I am so grateful to have her in my life. If you would like to read a bit about my experience with this check out the next post.

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How do you love yourself when you hate the way you look? The way you walk? The way you talk? How do you love yourself when you are always trying to be someone you’re not? How do you love yourself when you spend nearly every waking moment desperately trying to conform to social norms, no matter how much your heart and soul aches to be anything but who you are?

These are questions I dealt with for nearly 3 decades. Questions I still struggle with but am coming to terms with.

I firmly believe that to love yourself requires you BE yourself. Loving yourself is inherently selfish. That’s ok! Too often we think of “self” as a “four letter word”. That if we do things for the self, it is wrong. If we make choices that support the self we are… Self-centered. Self-indulgent. Self-interested. Self-seeking.

About 3 years ago, I made a critically selfish choice.

I chose ME.

Not my wife. Not my family. Not my friends. Me. I chose to talk to a therapist about ME. I chose to take the steps needed to fix ME. I put my needs first. My heart. My mind. My soul. My body.

Since I was a small child, I have always wondered why I was denied being born a girl. I learned very early on that I was born a boy and boys do boy things, but I was always curious, envious and angry that I couldn’t do girl things. In preschool, I got mocked for wanting to wear nail polish – I quickly learned to keep that a secret. In elementary school, I was made fun of for being a “wimp” and because I got along better with the girls than I did the boys – I quickly learned to defend myself with vicious words and rhino-thick skin. In middle school, I endured the horror of starting to grow facial hair and the aching envy as the girls around me started growing breasts – I quickly learned to hide, even in crowds, even from myself.

I learned that it was better to hide who I am and how I felt to maintain the status quo. I thought that if I immersed myself into high testosterone activities that the pain would go away. I prayed that these feelings of longing and confusion would disappear. I joined the army. I learned martial arts. I lifted weights. The pain did not go away. The longing and confusion were just as crippling. I hated myself.

Something had to give…

After months of therapy I came to the understanding that the depression, the anxiety, the pain I had suffered through for so many years was not going to go away without drastic change. That the feelings I had buried in the deepest darkest places of my soul was no longer going to sit idle and be ignored.

It was time to be selfish.

It was time to love myself.

Loving myself meant…

  • Choosing not to become a statistic – Fully 50% or more of transgendered people dont get the help they need and end up taking their own lives.
  • Risking the loss of my marriage – The vast majority of marriages – nearly all – end in divorce when one partner transitions.
  • Risking being disowned by my family and friends – Due to lack of awareness and acceptance, many transgender people lose contact with their family. Often it is as simple as just not seeing eye-to-eye and drifting apart, often it is a pronounced and profound rejection.
  • Risking violence and abuse – As a community, the transgender population suffers some of the highest incidents of criminal abuse, physical violence and even murder, with some of the most lax protections.
  • Paying for my therapy and medication out of pocket – Though I am “fully insured”, my insurance does not cover my time with therapists (which averages $100 per 60 minute session nationally) nor does it cover the needed medication and surgeries.

I was lucky…

I did get the help I needed.

I did not lose my marriage.

I lost a friend or two, but I did not lose my family.

I have been blessed to not be harmed in my transition.

Cost of treatment is still a struggle. I am thankful that my liver is able to handle the generic meds though they still cost $50 a month, and I only need to see my doctor every 6 months. (Surgery is another story since it costs between $35,000 to $70,000 on average.)

Was the risk worth it? Of course!

I am alive.
I am happy.
I am stronger and more authentic in how I face the world.
I love the person in the mirror.
I’m even starting to tolerate the idea of having my picture taken. (which, as a guy, was a fate worse than death! Egad!)

Most importantly, having taken the steps needed to begin living *my* life, I can now begin to be genuinely present in the lives of others. My wife. My family. My friends.

If you look in a thesaurus, the antonyms to “selfish” are words like “caring, kind, benevolent, giving”. But I ask you, how can we be caring, kind, benevolent and giving to others, if we don’t take care of ourselves first?

*******

Jennifer’s word for the year is “Authenticity” and she is striving to find it in her life and in her self.

About Tina

I'm Tina Robbins. A Core Spirit Coach helping folks drive their own lives after too long following the courses laid out by others. I'm also a spiritual explorer, animal lover, believer in magic and science, and seeker of beauty and connection. How can I help you?

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40 Responses to Self is Not a 4 Letter Word

  1. Christine (Girl on Fire) Reed February 14, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    All humans could learn from stories like yours. I mean, how many people walking around, seemingly fitting in to “normal,” are just dying inside a tiny bit every day because they are, in no way, fully being themselves? As someone new to my own understanding of my Asperger brain, I am learning every day, the millions of ways that I have learned to “pass” and the cost of that has been immense. Un-learning is so very difficult…

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

      The tragedy of “conformity” is that it robs us of our truth. Blessings to you. :)

  2. Loran February 14, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    This is an awesome post in so many ways! Life is meant to be lived authentically but it can be such a challenge. Congratulations on your bravery. I’d like to nominate this for the Best Valentine’s Post of the Day!

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      :)

      The meaning of life, as they say, is to live it. Might as well be living it with all the authenticity you can. Its more real that way, I think.

  3. Ellie Di February 14, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Absolutely fucking brilliant. Selfishness at its most pure. My dear, I salute you. <3

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      <3 back!

      Honor the self, respect the self, and it will be pure. :)

  4. Carrie February 14, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing your courage, authenticity, and truth. You are a rare gem in this world of conformity and sameness. You are a breath of fresh air reminding us all life is too short not to show up and be yourself. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Life really really is too short. A blip in time and yet, its all we got. Might as well spend that blip living with as much fierce-truth as possible. The karma-slaps are less painful that way ;)

  5. Sarah February 14, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Brava, Jenn. Thanks for being willing to put this out there.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Thank You :D

  6. Melissa Dinwiddie February 14, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    I love this post so much I want to marry it! Thank you for sharing, for your courage in finally living your truth, and your courage in sharing it. Your story is so powerful and important!

    Gender is the first label we slap on everyone, nowadays even before they enter the world. It is hard for me to imagine the pain of growing up knowing you’ve been put in the wrong-gendered body. Thank goodness you live in a time when you can actually do something about that, and that your wife and family could embrace your transition.

    You are a hero, Jennifer! I’m so grateful to you for writing this, and for modeling living your truth so beautifully.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      This post is flattered but is actually happily married to tomorrows post! :)

      Our society is soooo enmeshed in concepts of sex and gender. He and She carry so much weight. Ever call someones baby – or heaven forbid their *dog* – with the wrong pronoun? To be saddled with the wrong gender for your whole life? Yeeeouch!

      Thank you for your kind words!

  7. Rhiannon February 14, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    This is gorgeous. Authenticity is definitely your word, darling Jenn. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Thank you! and you’re welcome!

      (miss you on G+! ;) )

      • Rhiannon February 15, 2012 at 11:48 am #

        I’ll be back! *hugs*

  8. LaVonne February 14, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    What a gorgeous, brave, strong, smart woman! Thank you for sharing your fierce beauty.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Thank you. :)

  9. daphne February 14, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    what a powerful post. so much courage and strength. I bow down to your self-love and the steps you have taken to honor who you truly are.

    The Pleasure Nutritionist

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      :)

      blessings and thanks.

  10. Jo February 14, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    The most beautiful love story I have read today. Thank you for being such a braveheart.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      The most beautiful love story? Thats incredibly kind of you. :)

  11. Skaja February 14, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Brava! Thank you for being brave enough to put yourself first.

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Thank you very much.

  12. Marta Botto February 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    You are amazing Jenn! Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      And you are an amazing person too!

  13. Michelle February 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    This is a gorgeous post and it must have been so hard to put it out there. You’re such a brave woman Jenn – both for writing + publishing this post and for putting yourself first. <3

    • Jennifer February 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      <3 to you!

      Thank you very much.

  14. Denese February 15, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Love you Jenn! You go girl. And you already know that Im so jealous of your hair cuts. May I always provide you with love, support and a feeling of safety. As that is what I believe you would provide for me if I ever need it. Plus… not to mention that your beautiful wife happens to be one of my bestest ever friends.

    • Jennifer February 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      I have no idea why your jealous of my hair LMAO! Love you too and thank you for your friendship!

  15. jen February 15, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Jennifer!! I am thrilled on many levels…haven’t seen you two in years but I so enjoyed the times I spent with both of you and didn’t know what had happened. I am so glad that two wonderful people I love have been so good to each other and are still going strong, together. Much love to you both, and thank you for sharing your story. xoxo

    • Jennifer February 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Hi Jen! Wow! Its been so long! Like, 5 years! More?

      I hope you are doing gorgeously! Thank you the kind words!

  16. Pace Smith February 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jennifer. I look forward to getting to know you — the authentic you! (:

    • Jennifer February 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Thank you :)

  17. Kate February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    You go, girl!

    • Jennifer February 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      :D

      thanks!

  18. Karina B. Heart February 21, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jen. I am so honored to know you as your Authentic Self. You are beautiful and powerful in every single way. Big, juicy blessings coming your way.

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