It has been just over a month since I came out as transgender and I am still so incredibly exhausted.
Everything is tired, I come home and mostly sleep. It’s not uncommon for me to be in bed by 8:30 pm, it’s still light outside at the time. It’s also a specific type of exhaustion, it’s total, it feels like being pulled into sleep, or dragged into lethargy.
I am familiar with this feeling, it’s the comedown that follows the breach of an intense and/or prolonged period of anxiety.
Existence as a closeted transgender person was its own weird kind of anxious hell. It was a world where every action, response and feeling had to be carefully choreographed. It was an elaborate façade to portray an acceptably masculine exterior. Out, I am allowed to shed that weight and it is only now that I’m actually realizing how much that mental weight actually was.
Below is a short list of experiences that have simmered to the top of mind, due to their impact, frequency, other, or combination thereof.
You must be patient
I’ll admit patience is a virtue I do not easily possess, it is a skill I have worked to hone through many years of practice.
Frequently, people ask me to be patient with them, bear in mind this is usually before anything has happened, good, bad, or otherwise. What it comes down to are names and pronouns and the possibility that they may confuse them or get them wrong and the concern that I’ll bite their heads off for making a mistake.
In reality, I have almost endless amounts of patience for the occasional slip. What I lose patience over are intentional mistakes, high frequency of mistakes (fifty per cent or more error rate), and/or repeated requests for patience.
If people accidentally make a mistake and correct themselves, I don’t need patience, because I don’t care.
Welcome to the team
Three or four days after I came out a coworker came flying into my office and gave me a huge hug. She followed that with a comment about how she liked my name and ‘officially welcomed me to the team.’
She said I “picked the right side.”
Seriously I smiled for weeks following this.
I heard through the grapevine…
Some background first; on the day I came out, I spent most of the day at work. There was an emergency management training session I had been at (for those that care ICS-300) and it included a fair amount of group work. The class was comprised of, mostly, firefighter types or municipal administrators.
One month later I was in a neighbouring city for yet another emergency management training session (this was for an emergency alerting system). I was REALLY stressed about this because I knew I would likely be seeing the same trainers I had met multiple times before, except now I was a woman.
In reality, it went quite fine, there was a different set of trainers involved and everyone was quite friendly. What was the most pleasant of the surprises that day, was to run into one of my group partners from the ICS training a month earlier. I said hello upon seeing him and he replied in kind. I sat down and we started to catch up.
“I hear through the grapevine you have a new name now?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I go by Autumn now.”
“Well, nice to meet you, Autumn,” he said.
It was a shockingly simple, direct, and deeply meaningful way to address, and then move on from things. We engaged in small talk, he asked about my experience over the last month in generalities, I asked about his farm etc. The class started and things went on like normal.
Those kinds of things demonstrate the frustrating realities of the anxiety I feel sometimes. In my head I had to imagine and prepare for the worst case scenario, that was simply a matter of personal safety.
Then it turned out that things were fine – it was such a relief. While the stress felt a bit like wasted energy, it is what it is and I could not have known it would have been that fine.
Future Planning Committee
Right now I’m embracing the come down, giving in to sleep whenever possible. It’s been a 28-year-long campaign to stay in the closet and I can finally relax on that front. While one type of anxiety has been taken care, there begins a new one: that of daily existence.
Existing, every damn day is so exhausting right now but it won’t always be. Right now is a period of adjustment, in a sort of existential sense and in a very literal sense, I’m undergoing a transition.
Mental resources are being re-assigned to handle the anxieties of transition. I expect I’ll see a pretty fast ramping up period. As the transition progresses and I and those around me grow accustomed to those changes, I expect to see a steady decline in stress over time. As graphed below.
Of course, that fails to account for an unknown number of potential variables that could impact that trend line. While some might look at this with sad eyes, this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the root of most of my anxiety is my former gender assignment. A legal and biological transition would be the final stage and although fraught with its own set of stresses – it has a finite timeline, more or less.
I know that within five years, for example, I can be through the bulk of that phase of my life. It’s a huge difference from before where it felt like I would be stuck indefinitely in fight or flight mode. This is why acknowledging the oncoming stress of transition, with all of it’s included variables including a timeline (roughly) offers a level of hope I just haven’t had before.
This is, of course, just a forecast at this point, we’ll see what happens.