Up until three years ago, Bethany hated herself and contemplated suicide. Her struggles with depression improved when, living as a man, she came out to her wife and friends as transgender. Now Bethany, 29, is a student at Spokane Falls Community College, where she is preparing to pursue a career as a psychologist and hopes to one day help other transgender veterans. (She spoke to the Inlander on the condition that her last name was withheld for her and her wife's protection.)
I told my wife at about 10 at night. She knew I had always felt this way. That I had always had this feeling in the back of my head. This constant refrain: I wish I had been born a girl. She was the first person I'd ever told that to.
I had gone online. I checked Wikipedia and the American Psychiatric Association. In forums, I found stories from people who had transitioned. As I was reading those stories, it clicked. I finally had a reason for I why I hated myself, and why I felt the way that I did. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I had to do.
About a half an hour later, I went back into the bedroom and I told her: I'm transsexual.
Growing up, I had a lot issues with authority. I got in trouble in my classes for disrespecting the instructors, arguing with them or not doing homework. I left Shadle Park High School two weeks before they were going to expel me. I started going to school at Havermale. They told me not to return. I began attending North Central. I graduated — barely. I joined the military because I really had few other options.
I hated myself, and I took it out on everyone else around me.
All of my life, as far back as I can remember, I wished I was a woman. I thought that this was just a weird thing I needed to keep secret from everyone else, and I did my best to repress it. Still, I grew my hair long. I allowed my friends to dress me in women's clothing. When I played video games, I always played female characters because it was the safest way to express those feelings.
Around four years ago, I started seeing a counselor through the Veterans Administration about once a month. At that point, I had been suicidally depressed for almost my entire life. At the time I was unemployed. I would wake up around noon-ish and crawl out of bed. I wouldn't even bother to change out of my pajamas. I would go over to my computer in the next room and jump onto World of Warcraft and play until dinner. After that I would go back to the computer and just keep playing until 9 in the morning or so. I was unpleasant to be around. I didn't want it to be like that anymore.
It was at that time that I started looking into transsexuality. And it just felt right. There's really no other way to explain it.
I started hormone replacement therapy through the VA seven months ago. My face and neck have slimmed. I have curves in my torso. I have small breasts and hips now. My buttocks have enlarged, so the pants I buy fit a lot better. (Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything for my voice!)
Psychologically, I noticed immediate changes with the first dose. As soon as my body stopped using testosterone, I no longer felt aggressive or angry. It honestly felt like I was in a blissful, meditative trance. It was like the best afterglow from a great orgasm.
I've heard the stories and statistics. I know I have to be more careful now than even "cisgender women" [a term referring to women born as women who identify as women]. But I could be unhappy and depressed and suicidal and pretending to be a guy still, or I could take the risks and be me — and I'd much rather be me. I'm doing a lot better now. I don't have any depressive problems anymore. I'm just trying to live my life like everyone else. ♦