Who am I – really?
This is a question or feeling dealt with by so many in the Transgender community. It is such a deep and layered question that were I feeling ambitious, I could dedicate a book to the subject.
Who am I? Depends who you ask. My driver’s license, birth certificate and other papers identify me as Leslie McMurray – female. So on the most basic level, we have established my name, gender, age, where I live and my eye color. But who am I?
Adding to the complexity in my case is a drivers license I still have, although it is no longer valid…that has the name and picture of someone I spent over 50 years trying to be. So, who am I now?
Transitioning from one gender to another is a monumental change and one that is so very complex and nuanced. It is filled with excitement and wonder balanced with fear and uncertainty.
I’ve spent a lifetime in the radio business and early on, something that program directors often said to young air talent was: “Be Yourself.” For me, that was the most confusing advice imaginable.
For too many years, I tried to be someone else. Someone my parents, society and soon, my wife expected me to be. But that wasn’t who I was. I did the best I could. Hell, I put 54 years of my life into it. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
That has created it’s own set of challenges as you might imagine. Being that other person was a full time job! I was fully engaged in his life. He was a son who loved his parents and missed them terribly as they were his anchors to all that was right in the world.
He was a husband for 33 years. He tried to do the things a husband was expected to do. He did love his wife very much.
He was a dad to two beautiful daughters and he didn’t want to let them down, or hurt them in any way.
He was a good employee who worked hard and made a lot of good friends along the way.
He was raised to be a boy and was socialized in the ways of men but never felt comfortable in the role.
So – after 54 years, suddenly I’m female? Well, it doesn’t work like that. It’s been a process, like anything else and it takes time.
The exterior is a lot faster and easier to change than the interior. Hormones and practice have created a female exterior that does just fine as I move about my world. I have had zero problems there. Surgery is available to complete the exterior…but what of the interior?
Who am I?
I have a therapist I work with but our visits have become infrequent at her suggestion as she finds me well grounded and her time can be better used for those who are truly struggling. This woman is a legend in the Trans* community. She has helped me a lot, mostly in the area of self-acceptance…but who I am? She can’t help me there. Nobody can, because, that’s up to me now, isn’t it?
I am a work in progress. I am experimenting. I am trying new things. I am seeing the world through a new set of eyes and the answer to every question is potentially “yes.”
I am the same starry-eyed optimist I’ve always been, that will never change. What’s different is the sand in my hourglass is past the halfway mark. (For all I know it may be WAY past) For the first time in my life, time is a factor.
I feel a little pressure to sort out whom I am so that I can enjoy life as her. Does she play an instrument? What matters to her politically? Does she paint? Ever try needlepoint? Are you OK being alone? If you seek a mate, would they be male or female? Think you can alter this dress? What kind of lover are you?
There are so many things that go into who a person is and they are built over a lifetime. I kind of started over. I “zero based” everything, meaning I almost started from scratch. I have the benefit of 54 years experience, so I can easily evaluate the things I want to bring along and those I wish to reject.
I am fully aware now that who I am – or who I will become is up to nobody but me. I tried playing by society’s rules and that made me miserable. I am even a bit of an outlier in my own group. I am an extrovert among introverts; where some experience anxiety around large groups of people, I look at a crowd and see an audience. I really don’t view myself as a rebel although sacrificing white male privilege is a pretty rebellious thing to do.
I am full of contradictions as well – for as much as I love to create and perform, I am also perfectly comfortable in solitary pursuits. I love to write, I am a thinker.
I love the woman I am becoming because she is me and I fought so hard to become her. She is not the construct of someone else’s expectations. She loves completely but not easily. She has a sense of adventure but loves her home and is perfectly content there.
I periodically hear how hard it is to transition. That’s true; it isn’t for the faint of heart. I hear how dangerous it can be for Trans* people, especially Transgender women of color. I pray that changes and soon. I know the challenges of those faced with discrimination – but that too is changing. Trans* people have all of the obstacles that everyone else has, plus a whole other set reserved just for us. I just choose not to let those obstacles become excuses.
As of this writing, I have been “out” as Leslie for about a year and a half. I am still early on in this transformation. I have much to do. I will make mistakes but I will not make the same one twice. In many ways, I have been given a gift that few people receive – the opportunity to re-invent oneself.
So – who am I?
- I am a woman
- I am the parent of two wonderful daughters and the grandmother of 3 beautiful grandkids.
- I am Andrea’s girlfriend
- I am Katie’s roommate and best friend
- I treasure the company of my friends – I am blessed with many
- I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative but I am a defender of the 2nd amendment – well – all of them really. I’m especially fond of the 1st and 14th.
- I am a Buddhist
- I am an unabashed girly girl – I love tie-dye skirts, cute socks, warm sweaters, soft t-shirts and dresses more than pants.
- I am a good cook; I enjoy a nice glass of wine
- I miss the ocean so much it hurts
- I am a writer – one that is even paid from time to time!
- I want to be loved – really loved
- I am a skilled on-air talent and a gifted radio program director
- I wear my emotions on my sleeve and am honest with my feelings
- I love dogs
- I’m a biker (I have a Harley) Yes, I can be a girly girl and ride a Harley
- I like to keep my surroundings neat and clean
- I am well read and have a wicked sense of humor
- I believe ignorance can be addressed but willful ignorance scares me
- I am fearless (Ok – I’m working on that)
- I am creative; putting my own stamp on nearly everything I do
- I am a good listener and I truly care
- I love music and a good book
- I love flowers – all kinds, but especially roses (and snapdragons)
- I have kept a journal every day since I came out
- Human touch is a big part of my life. I love hugs and to have my hand held.
- I almost never lose at Ping-Pong
- I dance when I put on my make-up in the morning
- I love who I am and am just so happy to be me.
That’s who I am…and so much more!
Ask me again tomorrow!