|Posted by Alyssa.fenix on July 8, 2014 at 9:50 AM|
Dean Kole Robbins
I grew up in a small town, where everyone knows everyone in mid-Michigan. Never wanted for anything and if there was something I wanted, Mom usually got it for me. My mom told me even when I was very little I was fussy about being put in girl clothes that I preferred a white t shirt and diaper or no shirt and diaper than wearing the outfits she picked out.
In the Oct of 1979, two things changed for me; I had chicken pox so bad the doctors recommend Mom cut my hair all off and my younger sister was born. Mom was very busy dressing my sister in all the frilly things I hated wearing and I started to become my father’s shadow. All those years of fighting with me to wear a dress or even a girly top and pants were contradicted when Dad dressed me in overalls or jeans and a corduroy blazer. Looking back at these early signs my mother told me not long ago that it all makes sense to her now.
All my friends were boys and to them, I was just one of the guys. Everywhere I looked the “in thing” was to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Where I grew up we were all sheltered from what really happens in the real world. We learned about AIDS in the 80’s from the TV and most kids joked that if you swapped spit with someone you could get HIV. So to say we knew what it really meant to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender would be impossible. I grew up in an era where all gays were “faggots” and all “fags” had AIDS or would end up with it.
I was already different because I was the chubby kid in school. I never much liked my name because it rhymed with banana, so everyone just called me D and that too should have been a sign. All these signs appear throughout my younger years but there wasn’t the internet or home computers yet. So you heard things from TV shows, in school or from your parents. I tried hard to please my parents and fit in like my sister did but boys never really interested me. I did have a bf in 8th grade and I tried hard to like him.
By now most CIS girls were getting their periods and going through puberty. Not me, and I was A okay with it but not Mom! Mom took me to a specialist who said my testosterone levels were very high for a CIS female. The doctor wanted to put me on birth control pills. I refused because I thought that would lead to me having sex and I wasn't interested in boys like that.
In high school, I participated in basketball and softball and swimming. I excelled at all of them. I would work twice as hard as the other kids and not lose much weight but became very muscular and toned. Another sign looking back that some higher power out there was trying to tell me. I met a girl in band my junior year who was probably my first crush although as I saw it then we were best friends and nothing more. She liked to hang out watching movies and liked to snuggle up to me while watching them. I had no idea what that meant but I just remember the first time she did that my heart raced I thought it was going to jump out of my chest.
I became obsessed with this girl and when she started dating a guy I knew. I had such a meltdown from it. I was angry at him, at her, at the world. Perfectly normal, right? NO! Another sign and I ignored it or chose not to think about it or flat out didn’t know what any of it meant. My counselor in high school was also my Varsity Softball coach so it wasn’t like I could ask him anything (plus he was already middle aged and tough as nails).
One common theme in high school is I always remained friends with the guys but my friendship with girls seemed to be short lived. We would spend a lot of time together at first and then it “got weird” was what I was told later in life. I never understood what that meant until many years later – it was yet another sign.
Fast forward several years and another failed relationship with a guy; this being the worst one yet as I almost married this one (literally two months away). I was miserable, depressed and living back at home with my parents. By this time internet chats were popping up through AOL and the younger generation was talking with others all over the country.
Around this time my feelings for women were increasing and I was more confused than ever with no one to talk to about it. My family believed in putting on your best smile in public so people didn't know what was going on in your life. We swept everything under a rug. So I did the same for now.
I now have my own apartment, working and spending time with new friends and still talking in chats to try figure out what I wanted and what it all meant. I met Stacy who was living in Ohio at the time about two hours from me. Instead of a romantic relationship I made a friend for life. Stacy had “come out” as a lesbian many years before we met. Through her friendship I was given an outlet to talk through all the things in my head what everything meant at that time.
Over the next several years I went through phases, from being outed by my sister’s bf which in retrospect wasn't as horrible as I had imagined in my head. I had already told my Aunt I thought I was gay and she was so supportive. She even offered me a place to stay if my parents disowned me which neither of us thought would happen, but it was a relief to know I would not be alone.
The next phase was the “butch lesbian” years and learning about what it meant to be butch and what the term femme meant for lesbians. As far as my physical appearance it was much the same, dressing in polo shirts and shorts or men’s jeans or khakis. I kept my hair short and wore baseball caps. I looked masculine. I never really liked the term lesbian and rather considered myself gay at the time.
Through all this there was still something missing. I was still unhappy with myself. I had a great job traveling, met a girl in Michigan who was intelligent, taught me a lot about sex, intimacy, boi vs boy, strapping and loving yourself. We only dated for about six months about what I learned in that time could have saved me so much pain had I known earlier in my life.
The next phase of my journey brought me to Maryland and I learned about Drag Kings, gay men, queers, transgendered men & women and the freedom to be neither. For the first time, I felt alive when I started performing and passing as male. I still remember telling my mom about it and how fun it was but not to worry as I had no intention of becoming a man. Boy I was still in denial even then!
When I moved in with two gay men and rented a room from them my life changed. I learned what it meant to have family accept you for who you are and how to truly work through what I wanted in life. One of my roommates and dear friend fought a courageous battle with Cancer but ultimately lost the fight January 2008. My friend was 40 when he passed away. Watching as it unfolded from first diagnosis to his partner deciding to turn off the machines changed my life forever.
In 2008, I came out to my friends as Transgender (still not knowing what it all meant for me), met the woman who is now my wife (we will celebrate our 3rd Anniversary October 1st), changed careers and came out to my parents and sister as Transgender.
I still had no clue what this journey would bring but my mother asked one thing of me and that was not to reveal this information to my grandparents.
My grandfather was 92 and grandmother was 90, my Mom’s mom was 89 with early dementia. It was an extremely difficult time and trying to respect my mother’s wishes felt like I was living two lives; one here on the East Coast and the other when visiting family in Michigan.
I know now that it caused mental anguish and depression; serious ups and downs that interfered with friendships, my relationship with my wife, my family and a strain on my work. In February of 2011, I lost my grandmother on my fathers’ side, she was 91. Twenty-six days later, my grandfather, her husband passed away. He said he didn't want to live without her, he was 93.
After their passing, I shut everyone out; I fell into a dark depression all the while finalizing plans to be married. My friends tried to be there for me but I was numb and not really there. A month or so after our wedding my wife and I got into an argument and she left. By this point my friends had walked away already so when she left (it was only for one night but) it was a wake-up call.
I found a therapist and was in the next week. The next 8 months were a struggle to find myself and repair my marriage. The first step was that summer; I met with the Employee Relations Manager at work and came out as Transgender. We discussed what it meant and how to explain to my boss and team, then how we would notify the rest of the company moving forward. All through this I was seeing my therapist once a week. She was a tremendous help and I’m eternally grateful.
No longer was I living separate lives anywhere. My family knew, my friends knew and now I was free to be myself even at work. As terrifying as it was, I found out that I was supported by co-workers, friends, family, my therapist, my doctor and even high school classmates.
My journey is far from done but come this August I will have been on testosterone for two years, my driver’s license says male and I’m saving towards top surgery. Last fall I started a new position at my company where most of the people only know me as male and the others have been very respectful. I use the men’s room all the time in public and at work. Also, it never gets old hearing “sir” when out in public.
I still face surgery in order to change my birth certificate, working to change my name and yes there are days where the wait of these changes can bring you down. These are the days I step back and look how far I’ve come and celebrate the steps knowing I will get there when the time is right for me.
I know now that each person’s journey is their own and no one has a right to say otherwise. It is okay to take your time to figure out who you are and what is best for you. I know I am loved. I know now that my family will support me wherever my life takes me.
There is a wealth of information out there available to you, now take advantage of it, learn all you can and make informed decisions. Respect yourself, remember Stonewall, remember Matthew Shepard and learn what Harvey Milk did for San Francisco and this country.
Most of all, remember to be yourself!