Editors' note: Monica F. Helms is the president of the Transgender Americans Veterans Association.
At the end of June, I will have been living as Monica for 15 years. It is not as much of a milestone as I thought it would be, because the world is a different place, and I am indeed a different person today than I was 15 years ago.
The biggest issue I faced just before starting my transition and in the early years was, "What to do with 'Him'?"
I had 46 years of being that other person, and it wasn't all bad. I did everything I could do to suppress "His" existence - my past - moving far into the fem aspect of life. Embracing the fem life felt the best way to distance me from "Him." It worked for just a few years before I decided that it was a lot of work to hide those 46 years of life experience.
A little back story is needed here. I remember at age 5 praying to God to change me into a girl. Being raised Catholic, I was under the impression that if you wanted something, you prayed to God for it. It was kind of like a "spiritual Sears catalogue." You put in your order, then God delivers. Only, in this case, it took him 41 years, which I'm thinking is like over-night delivery for God.
The year was 1956 when I turned five. What outside stimulus was available to a five year-old boy about wanting to be a girl, especially one who couldn't read or write? Add to the fact that I loved doing all the boy stuff as a kid. I played Cowboys and Native Americans, and wore a Davie Crockett coonskin cap as a boy. I built things out of wood, played with Legos and Lincoln Logs, and made roads in the dirt for my toy cars. Later, I got into chemistry, astronomy and biology. At age 16, I launched my first model rocket, a hobby I have taken up several times in my life, the latest being in 2007.
I was a boy, liked girls, joined the Navy and served on two submarines. I worked on cars and homes, got married, had two sons, and lived my life as a man. I just wasn't really a man in the full sense of the social expectations. I hid the fact that I desired to transition, and my mother said she had no idea when I came out to her.
I lived and worked as a woman for the next three years, until I had my first cis-gender woman as a lesbian girlfriend. She didn't like kissing a woman with lipstick on, so I stopped wearing any makeup. Then, I stopped wearing dresses, except at important events. Even though my outward appearance changed, I still hung onto the notion that I was to disavow my past the best I can. After being chastised hundreds of times by some trans women, and even being called "Mr. Helms" by them, I was not about to give them pleasure on what I'm about to admit. Their blogs will be buzzing about this. I really don't care any longer.
As time went on, I slowly noticed that "He" never really left completely. There are times when I noticed that my male past makes a very noticeable and visible appearance. The biggest time is when I'm driving. Monica is not behind the wheel, but "He" is. As a man, I was a very aggressive driver, getting angry at the stupid drivers on the road and even flipping people off at times. That behavior is no different then how I drive today, which means, "He's" really the one behind the wheel.
Another time is speaking with stupid customer service people on the phone. Monica starts off when they pick up the phone, and I get "ma'am." But, if the experience goes sour, then "He" steps in. I am even reminded that "He" has taken over when I start hearing "Sir."
Other times are when I am building things, fixing things or working on any of my hobbies. This is the good side if "Him" appearing. I consider it good because these are the talents I learned as "Him," and I am no longer embarrassed saying so. Why should I be?
I guess I now consider myself as an "amalgamated human being." The definition of amalgamated really says it all, "To combine into a unified or integrated whole; unite." Some trans people resist this, yelling and screaming if you pointed it out. Others will take it in stride. I'm willing to guess that many late-transitioners are like me in some ways. It depends on how successful their male lives were and how their transition affected them. I enjoy who I am, and it no longer matters what others may think. After all, isn't being one with yourself the purpose of transitioning in the first place?