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Tara’s Letter To Her Parents

Copyright © 2006-2007 by Tara. Reprinted with permission.

(Tara’s 360 Website)

It was only three short years ago, that I finally came to grips with my transgender feelings. Like so many of you, I had spent a life-time in a near constant state of self-denial and depression, riding the cycles of secretive joy and guilt-ridden purging. When I finally reached the point where, for the first time, I resolved to accept myself and move forward, I decided to tell a very long-time and dear friend. It was the most terrifying moment of my life… but I survived…and gained an even closer friend as a result. (I’ll share more about this later…)

Early last year, I sat down to write “the letter”…more specifically, this was the letter that I composed to my family that, for the first time, shared my “secret” with them. It was along letter…in the end…nearly six pages long. (I’m forty-two; and, I’ve hid my secret from them for my entire life; I had a lot to say). It took two weeks to compose, revise, revise again, and again, and again…until, I finally was able to capture exactly what I wanted to share with them.

Those two weeks were some of the most difficult of my life…because, for the first time, I was putting thoughts on paper that – until then – had only ever resided between my ears. It was agonizing…and even after I had written it…several more weeks (and a couple dozen readings) passed before I could read it – from start to finish – without crying my eyes out.

I wrote the letter because, at the time, my wife and I had been fighting…a lot. Actually, we had been fighting for two years – ever since I broke the news to her about my life-long transgender feelings…but, at the time that I wrote the letter, our fighting was reaching a fear pitch. I was sure that, at any minute, she was going to expose my secret to everyone in the world, including every one of my family members. So, as a contingency, I decided to write my letter…I figured that, if she was going to tell my family, I wanted to be prepared to break the news first – in my own words and on my own terms.

With this in mind, I wrote “the letter.”

I’m posting it below (most of it, at least – with a few edits to protect some identities). I want to share this with you, because over the past few months, I’ve read so many of your life stories…and after looking back at some of the “fluff” that I’ve written…I’ve realized how little of myself that I’ve been willing “to put out there.” (Thanks, Jocelyn, for an ounce more of courage) So, with that in mind….here goes…..

This isn’t going to be easy for me…so, please be kind…

The Letter

Dear Mom & Dad,

This is by far the most difficult letter I’ve ever had to write, because I’m going to share with you a truth about myself…a truth that I have tried to hide from you (and deny even to myself) for my whole life. I’m sorry that I didn’t have the trust in you over the years to open myself to you. It is a trust that I believe, as wonderful parents, you deserved. As a child I feared rejection…and as I grew older I feared hurting and disappointing you (and those around me who depend on me). Now, I realize that deep relationships must stand on truth. The hiding is over; I am placing my love and trust in you.

I’m sure by now you’re really wondering what this is all about…so here goes. For as far back into my childhood as I can remember, I have struggled with a secret that I tried so desperately to hide – the deep feeling within me that I should have been born a girl.

This was something that I knew would displease you; and, throughout my life, I tried so hard to make you proud of me. Without going into detail, there were many, many times during my childhood (when I was alone) that I would dress as, and imagine being, a girl. As a teenager and young adult, when I saw a beautiful girl, I would (along with all my friends) outwardly express how much I wanted to “be with” her, while inside I was secretly – desperately – wishing I could “be” her. Despite my best attempts to deny them, these feelings have followed me all my life – through my childhood, my adolescence, my military service, and both of my marriages. They have not waned as I have grown; in fact, the feelings have only become more nagging and urgent as the years have passed.

Throughout my life, the thought that someone would “find out about me,” scared me; and I worked very hard to keep my secret hidden. I wanted so desperately to have your approval and the acceptance of those around me that I became a master of hiding my secret and building a fa�ade of “maleness” around me. My career choice, my military service, my marriages, and my children – I did everything that I could do to reinforce to the world that I was a “guy.” I also distanced myself from the people who knew me best to minimize the likelihood that someone would discover my secret. Wherever possible within my life, I set up barriers to prevent myself from being able to act upon what I was feeling inside. To a degree, I was successful…but, like the feelings, the secret was always there.

When I was growing up, I thought I was the only person in the world in such a dilemma. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned that there are others like me. Since then, I have done a significant amount of research, spending many hundreds of hours reading medical and psychological material on the subject. Long ago, I learned that there is a name for my condition – Gender Identity Disorder (GID). It is characterized by a pervasive, life-long identity with the opposite gender. It is not homosexuality; it is not a fetish, nor transvestism (crossdressing), nor anything related to sex. It is not an issue of sex at all; it is a matter of personal gender identity – the sense of what (and who) one is.

As I have grown and learned more about myself and my condition, I have become more accepting of this part of myself. More than that, as time has marched on, I have begun to feel more and more compelled to adjust my life to relieve the emotional discomfort and depression that is caused by the tension between who I am…inside…and how I present myself to the rest of the world. Not wanting to disrupt my children’s lives with “my problem,” I decided long ago to forgo doing anything until they had grown and left our home. That was my plan; however, a few years ago, my third child was born. Understand that I love him very much – he is a wonderful blessing to our lives, but with his birth, I felt like my hope of someday dealing with my issues evaporated. The world closed in on me; and I became very depressed. On a few occasions, I had thoughts of suicide. I felt trapped…I still do.

Despite years of hiding, I had to do something – now. I had to finally face this part of myself – head on; and I had to find someone to discuss it – immediately. While searching on-line for answers, I stumbled upon someone’s on-line website – a transgendered girl living in Australia – whose biography read like my life, right down to being born a boy; being raised in the same hometown; serving in the Navy; divorcing and remarrying; and having children. Here was someone who I could relate to. Here was someone I could contact, anonymously over the web, with no fear of my secret “getting out.” I contacted her via an anonymous e-mail address and began an on-going “electronic dialog.” Over a number of weeks, I began to feel a little better (although no less scared) about who I am. I also began to realize that denial of my true self would continue to drive me deeper into depression. Like me, she had experienced the same stresses of self-denial and the same fears of discovery. Like me, her feelings had led her into deep depression and thoughts of suicide. At one point, she had even attempted to kill herself. I did not (and still do not) want to ever reach that point in my life. Thus, I resolved to stop living the lie and begin the process to change my life. I have begun planning my transition. Over all, the process itself will take several years to complete, but I can’t (and won’t) turn back.

After reaching this conclusion, I decided that I needed to actually talk to someone about this. I needed to begin the process of moving forward. I decided that I needed to share my secret – verbally – with someone who knew me. That person would be someone who had known me for a long time, who I could call and talk to, and, yet, who was far enough away (and far enough removed from my life) that they could not adversely affect my life, my timetable, and my plans if my revelation was poorly received. I needed to talk to someone “safe” who knew “me.” Kori, my girlfriend from high school, fit the description. Over many years, we have kept in touch, mostly through occasional e-mails, acting as a sounding board for each other and, generally, being supportive of each other in times of personal difficulty. I selected her as my “safe” person.

Over Christmas break 2002, while the kids were in Pennsylvania with you and my wife was in Tennessee with our child, I called Kori to tell her. Next to this letter, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. This was the first time I ever verbalized my secret to another person. Despite years of soul searching and coming to grips with my condition, I physically trembled when I told her. My guts were in a knot as the words escaped my mouth. After a moment of silence that I thought lasted forever, her response was amazing…no rejection, no castigation, no mockery, or anything even remotely negative. Her actual response was, “well…thinking about it…it all makes sense now.” Apparently, I was not as good at hiding my secret as I thought I had been. Even though she did not outright know, or even suspect, there were a lot of confusing signals between us during our teen-years’ relationship, which, in this new context, now made sense to her. I was surprised and incredibly relieved with her response. At last I could discuss my secret with someone who was completely understanding and supportive. We spoke for hours that night and – over the past few years – we’ve spoken many times since. She continues to be very supportive and understanding; she is a true friend.

My next step was a lot less “safe.” I had to tell my wife. Shortly after her return from Christmas in Tennessee, I revealed my secret to her. Because I feared her reaction, I tried to find a creative way to tell her. My method – revelation by way of anonymous e-mail that I thought I could later deny – was indirect, hurtful, badly done and, overall, a very poor choice. I didn’t give her the benefit of my trust; and I will always regret that I didn’t. Despite all that has happened between us, I really do love her. She is a very sweet, caring, and loving person – and a terrific mother. I truly regret the pain that I have caused her. Unfortunately, she has made it clear that she cannot accept this part of my life and the changes that it will entail. I understand; but it hurts no less to lose her…and our son.

Obviously, this revelation is a strain on our marriage unlike all others. Over the past few years, our already stressed marriage has become worse, as the reality of my secret set in with her. She feels betrayed that I “led her on” for so many years. My explanation – that I only recently had been able to admit my issues with even myself – understandably has fallen on deaf ears. Her world and her hopes for the future are shattered. The past years have been hell for both of us; and I doubt that our marriage will last much longer. I’m sure that the only reasons that she has stayed have been her love for me, the financial limitations of our existence, and her dwindling hope that my revelation is just a passing “phase” that I’ll “get over.”

After nearly two years together in counseling, I think she is finally realizing that this isn’t a “phase”; in fact, just the opposite is true. My condition is such that the years of denial and depression weigh heavily and have finally taken their toll. This does not go away.

Since telling her, I have shared my secret with a select handful of people (friends and ex co-workers) that I have grown to trust and who I was sure would be accepting and supportive. With each revelation, I’ve become more confident and comfortable with this part of me. It doesn’t scare me as much as it once did. As I told a friend recently, “as my discomfort with my current situation grows, my aversion to risk (i.e., that others may find out about me) diminishes.”

I have been to therapists and support groups. I continue to see a therapist even now. I have learned much, and made some wonderful friends with others like myself. That was another frightening step to take. Before taking that step, I envisioned a pathetic world populated by the sort seen on talk shows and tabloids….drag entertainers, prostitutes, and men garishly made up as women. Instead I found caring people from all walks of life struggling with the same secret I felt so alone with for all my life. I now count among my friends other transgendered people who are physicians, pilots, engineers, computer programmers, police officers, university professors, lawyers, and, well, people from every walk of life who are wonderful, kind, supportive, and caring people.

I am absolutely certain that my gender identity is that of a female. I know this is a terrific shock to you, and I am sorry – very sorry – for the pain it must cause you. It is not something I have been able to face for over 40 years. Now, I realize that it doesn’t “go away”…it’s who I am. I have to come to terms with it; I can no longer live within this perpetual pretension. In recent years, through my contacts with professional counselors and with others, I have finally realized that I did not choose to be this way, and that despite the stigma placed it by society, it is not something to be ashamed of.

Be assured, this is not something whimsical. Obviously, there is a great gulf between the “me” that you (and the world) have always known and the “me” that I have lived with all my life and feel I must to be true to now. This journey isn’t easily trod or even lightly undertaken; but it is something I must do. Luckily there are many resources available to help me. I do not plan to rush into this, but gradually and methodically take the steps to transition my life. I’m sure that you will have a thousand questions; and, in time, I will try to answer them all.

Like I said, I’ve come to terms with it. I’m not shouting it from the rooftops, but I’m not ashamed either. I know it may take time, but I hope you will not be ashamed either. I have prepared resources for you when you are ready for them. I realize too, that it may be some time before you will be ready to discuss this with me, and that is OK. I understand. I have agonized a lifetime over telling you this. It was so hard to write, and I have held back for so long to spare you the pain I know you now feel. But, I want you to be a part of my life. I will hope that, together, we will find a place in our minds to understand and a place in our hearts to love and support one another.

I will wait to hear from you. Take your time; this is a lot to digest. If, in the end, you are not able to find acceptance in your heart, I will understand. Like I said, it’s taken more than 40 years for me to reach this point; it would be completely unrealistic to expect you to be able to immediately embrace any of it. I hope you eventually can find acceptance in your heart. I love you both.

All my love,

 

Comments»

1. Megan - January 30, 2016

This is a lovely letter that must have been both agonizing and terrifying to compose! I am a 33 year old trans woman who just began to accept herself after three decades of denial. I am planning to write a letter like this myself and I am scared out of my mind! I hope your life has been better since coming out and I hope my own process which is just beginning will also be better!

2. Evie Star - February 28, 2016

Thank you so much for this. I am going to use it to help me draft a letter that needs to be written. Your letter is right on par with most of what I need to say. I can tell from the words you use and how you express yourself, you are a wonderful person and I wish you all the best.

3. candicejune - May 13, 2016

Hello dear, this is a wonderful letter. I found it by searching for help in writing my own letter. Many parts of what you wrote is similar if not right on top what I feel and need to say. If you don’t mind, I would like to copy your letter and revise it for my self to send to my parents. I love the fact that you put it so well. And it would be a great help to me if I could use parts of it.

Thanks
Candice

Tina Simmons - July 8, 2016

Go ahead.

4. Anonymous - July 8, 2016

I liked the letter but I did not like that you referred to gender dysphoria as a “disorder” and a “condition” because it is not.

Tina Simmons - July 8, 2016

Hi. That was her state of mind at the time, not mine. I believe we have to respect that there are different viewpoints, and that we have different viewpoints at different times in our lives. I know mine is quite different than when I first accepted myself totally about 10 years ago, due to life changes (career, health issues, relationship changes, etc.).

5. Nik - October 15, 2017

I am an 18 year old man that feels as if I should have been born a girl. I do not know how to tell my family because they are transphobic. I need help telling my family who I am.

Tina Simmons - October 15, 2017

Hi Nik! I am so sorry you are dealing with this. Do you know if there are any trans support groups or other trans people in the area where you live? If I knew the state I might be able to help you find some. Hugs and love for you!

6. Dai - November 1, 2017

I actually just wrote a letter to my parents just like this, except that im only 16… I was extremely scared to write them, and I repeadedly took the letter in and out of my mail box to get shipped. It took me 4 weeks after I wrote it for me to send it. I had admitted to my parents I wanted to be trans, and forced all of my other feelings into the letter also. thankyou for letting me read this.

Tina Simmons - November 3, 2017

Hi Dai, congratulations on taking this step. It can be quite scary, but I hope that you have some friends who are supportive of you. I hope that your parents take it well, and much love for you! – Tina


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