Undoing the Damage

I transitioned last century. Okay, it was in the mid-1990s but sometimes it feels like a century ago. The days of worrying about electrolysis, saving for surgery, battling employers and walking terrified in public places are long gone.

For a long time before I was officially "reassigned" (isn't that the most ridiculous term for changing gender?), I believed that once I had my surgery, all my trials would be over. Life would be a breeze. I would meet the man of my dreams, adopt a few little kinderlings and drink margaritas as we all watched the sunsets together. Suburban bliss. What was smoking?
I once read that if you ever want to hear God laugh, tell Her your plans. And it's true. Oh, yeah, I did meet a man. And for a year or so, his four-year old daughter lived with us. And that's when my world began to implode...slowly.

Whether you are a cross dresser, a drag queen or a full-on transsexual, being transgender is hard. Duh! We are too often abandoned by everyone we know, rejected by employers, and shunned from our places of worship as abominations of the Almighty. Living full time in a new gender and even getting surgery can't undo all the damage. It runs too deep.

Just a few months before I was to get my reassignment surgery, I found myself in the emergency room having my stomach pumped (not an experience I would want to repeat). I realized as I lie there that I had a problem. I was an out-of-control drunk. My husband was a rage-aholic. My life was a disaster area.

It was then that I began a journey, determined to find a way to end a lifetime's worth of emotional pain. Failure in this quest was not an option because failure meant death to me. I explored a wide variety of religious and spiritual paths. Some helped. Some didn't.

In the end, I learned what I call bliss dynamics; a set of principles that helped me recognize the beliefs and attitudes that greatly affect my experience of joy, peace and love.

I learned that resentments (however justified) kept me miserable. Self-pity kept me trapped in a quicksand of delusion. And isolation prevented me from feeling loved or lovable. These were some of the dynamics that had caused me a lifetime of grief.

But there were other dynamics, that when utilized, removed my blocks to love. I became willing to see myself and my circumstances differently. I became aware of feelings like guilt and shame that had been hiding deep in my subconscious. I started to connect with others (and not just trans people) who struggled like I had. I actively practiced gratitude, compassion and most of all forgiveness. In this way, I reconnected with joy and serenity, no longer hiding in a bottle or a dysfunctional relationship.

There is a great temptation to believe that you could be happy if...you had an understanding spouse or you could live full-time in a new gender or you had surgery or had a different voice or had a different body or had been born differently or whatever. But that is a lie.

The truth is that you don't need a reason to be happy. You have a right to be happy right now and just the way your life is right now. The question is whether you are willing to exercise that right.

Yes, life would be easier if things were different. But your happiness is not dependent on it. Right now, you probably have food to eat, even if it's just Ramen noodles. You probably have a roof over your head, even if it's just a temporary shelter. And you probably have clothes on your back, even if they are not appropriate to your preferred gender.

We undo the damage of years of abuse, shame and neglect not by getting surgery or even attending a few therapy sessions. We do it by letting go of everything that isn't love. We do it by abandoning our self-pity and our resentments. We do it by letting go of labels and guilt. We do it by reaching out to others in need. And we do it by choosing to be happy right now.
Dharmashanti is the author of Fight the Misery Conspiracy: Reclaiming Your Right to be Happy and is the host of the Zen Punk Radio podcast. Please visit her website at www.dharmashanti.com.