‘Three and a Half Decades of Denying that I’m Transgender’

Inspired by the recent National Trans Day of Visibility, here’s a bracingly candid essay by Jane Demuth published at BuzzFeed: “How Running Helped Me Explain My Transition To Myself.” The piece is a sober meditation on running, literally and figuratively. At a time when she’s first transitioning from male to female, Demuth clocks many miles daily, up and down hills, and wherever her feet will take her:

“Transitioning from male to female, one year and change. Three and a half decades of denying that I’m transgender, 36 years of a constant inner refrain of “I couldn’t” and “I won’t” have finally shifted to acceptance — “I could,” “I will,” and now, “I am.” 100 milligrams spironolactone twice a day to block testosterone; 6 milligrams estrogen, taken sublingually so it doesn’t destroy my liver. Softer skin, bigger ass. Plus one cup size. Maybe two if I suck in my gut and squint. Just numbers. Doesn’t matter. Keep going. Run. Run. Run…”

She’s running to try and calm herself and quiet her mind, to keep at a distance from painful realizations about her tendency to, well, run from intimacy:

“What they don’t tell you prior to transitioning is that once the thing you’ve been hiding behind is no longer there, you still need to deal with everything else; the losses accrued in the shadow of a truth you never thought you could live, and the collateral damage from those losses. It’s like addiction recovery, except that there are no 12-step groups for this.”

Transitioning raises many hard questions for Demuth herself. To what degree is that choice a form of running away? Is she closing doors she won’t be able to re-open later? Will it bring her closer to or further from her ultimate desires: love and family? But she’s troubled most by the questions asked by others, especially questions about the exchanges to her exterior:

“I’m running from what friends have asked me: “When are you going to start presenting as female?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Am I supposed to start wearing dresses and heels every day to confirm my gender identity to the outside world? Fuck that. I am presenting as female, 24/7. And most of the time I’m doing it in jeans and a T-shirt, like almost every other woman I know. People who don’t know me are already gendering me correctly as female, and, god help me, even chatting me up and hitting on me when I’m sweaty and gross, out on the trail. Asking me when I’m going to start trying to look more female is bullshit.”

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