Most of us grow up with the expectation that the way we view ourselves and experience ourselves will eventually make sense. As young children and adolescents, we muddle along, helped and sometimes hindered by those who raise and care for us. We reach adulthood with varying degrees of self-understanding, hoping that a road map to a happy life will emerge. This process of figuring out our lives is never without challenges to overcome, wrong turns, successes and failures. But when something as basic as the physical body doesn't match the internal view we have in our minds, then there is a searing division within the self. And when the sex of the brain and the sex of the body clash, then the only treatment is some form of transition to the other gender. Without this treatment, in my opinion, lives are never fully lived. In many cases, they are shortened by suicide or self-destructive lifestyles.
I am now forty-one years old. This realization, this slow-emerging understanding of myself, became the ultimate motiva¬tion to write the book you now hold in your hands.
It would take me almost ten more years before I truly under¬stood the significance of my gender dysphoria, a clinical descrip¬tion that gets to the disconnection between how the body presents its sex and how the brain experiences its sex. In essence, when these two are different (the brain feels itself to be a man but the body is a woman's, and vice versa), the confusion and discomfort is so deep, so disturbing, that most of us try anything to either deny our true feelings or otherwise avoid dealing with ourselves.
Like everyone else on this planet, I grew up in a society of rigid gender roles and had the same distance and lack of under¬standing about what being transgender really means. I, too, thought it was weird to be transgender. So for years, I fought that secret lurking within me with thoughts such as "Trans peo¬ple aren't 'normal'—how could they be?" Historically we have been a culture that accepts very little gender variance. Look at our discomfort with feminine men and, to a slightly lesser extent, masculine women. We have plenty of derogatory labels for peo¬ple who don't fit into our society's strict notions of masculine and feminine: sissy, queen, fairy, butch, dyke, and tomboy, to name a few.
The actual clinical term to define being transgender in the DSM IV (the diagnostic manual used by physicians and psy¬chologists) is "gender identity disorder," which still carries with it a certain degree of pathology, not to mention negative conno¬tations. This labeling, this constrained understanding of what it means to be transgender, is only one of many reasons why mak¬ing the decision to transition is a difficult and often painful con¬clusion for anyone to reach. Transitioning often leads to loss of jobs, friends, spouses, and family members. And even when rela¬tionships aren't severed, they are often pushed almost to break¬ing points.
Before I made my decision to start the process, I was terrified about how all of the people I was close to would handle and feel about my transition. I also had to contend with the fact that, unlike most individuals who transition relatively privately, because I was a public figure with famous parents, my transition would have to take place in front of the whole world. This reality added a pressure to my decision to transition that for years com¬pletely incapacitated me.
I was blindsided by the full realization that I'm transgender. I felt completely helpless and paralyzed with fear—at an emo¬tional ground zero. Finally summoning the courage to act on the essential truth about myself was a deep, dark, and often ugly struggle. I had to relive moments of shame, embarrassment, and pain. And yet, though the struggle to start my transition was as frightening and challenging as climbing Mount Everest, I have written this book to show and share with the world something even more remarkable: ever since my first dose of testosterone, I have never felt so whole, so complete, so happy in my life. And this triumph is what Transition is all about.