My Dearest Matthew,
I know that writing this letter will never make up for the hurt I am certain I will cause you, especially since you deserve so much better than I could ever give. You should be with someone smarter, more attractive; someone with far fewer problems than I.
I woke this morning and a simple, yet tremendously difficult question popped into my mind.
What is a "real woman?"
What makes a real woman?
All anyone really knows -definitively- is that they can point at me and say, "that is not a real woman";
or so they think.
I was given a back handed compliment some time ago when a friend said, 'you look so much like a real woman.'
I have not really spoken to her since.
So much like a 'real' woman; like I was a robot, or a doll.
And that is what hurts the most; that I am somehow less than those born female. I don't think I will ever really get used to the idea of being considered less than what I know myself to be.
And yes, I regret this.
I have stared into the abyss for too long and now the abyss stares back.
The further along I go in my transition, the more acute my incongruity seems.
The pain of knowing - the inescapable fact that I am a prisoner of two conflicting genders, psychic and physical- grows worse and worse.
When I first started, it was only a vague gnawing at the edges of my soul. It was there, but I reasoned that it would go away once I started.
As my mind and body become more feminine, the torment of being trapped in this male body with its male frame and male parts has eaten a great hole right through the middle of me, and there is nothing I seem able to do to ever fill it.
And the void only continues to grow.
I used to be able to put on a brave face, paper over the growing chasm in my soul, but the facade is cracking and falling away. My strength is fading, and I seriously contemplated suicide for the first time in over five years.
My biggest fear now is not of discovery, but of inflicting serious and irreparable harm upon myself...or worse.
I don't know where to turn or even how to ask for help, because I was never shown how. I came from a time and place where boys were raised to be strong and independent. Only girls cried and asked for help.
This hole is slowly eating me alive and I am not sure how much longer I can last. I am on the verge of a breakdown of major proportions, and there seems nothing I can do to stop it.
But what happens after? Will I have the strength to pick up the pieces, or will I be left a mere shadow of myself, dying in a corner?
I should just let the storm hit and do what damage it will and go on from there.
But I can't.
I can't afford the time or what will power I have left. I can't sacrifice any more, because I have so little left, and I don't have the words to make normal people understand.
I had been led to believe that life would get easier once I accepted my transsexuality, but I think I have been misled.
I am only too aware now of the utter falsity of my existence -only too painfully aware that I am not now-nor will I ever be- that which I want most...the only thing I ever truly wanted.
To be a normal female.
And that is the cruelest punishment of all. To be so keenly self aware of what separates me from my peers, and to be so completely unable to do a damn thing about it.
The saddest part of all this is that I look back and realize that I have taken all that negativity, all the hate, the abuse, the scorn, derision and belittling and internalized it. I have become my own worst enemy so that no one else will have to.
I have allowed myself to become so consumed with self-hate, anger, jealousy, and pain that if anyone tries to compliment me in any way, I simply write it off as sarcasm or patronizing condescension. I will automatically assume that everyone knows -that everyone can see- what I am and what I was. I do not trust many beyond those who knew me before, and continued with me as I transitioned or who also share my trans-identity. All others are automatically The Enemy, and I rarely give anyone the chance to prove their intentions otherwise. That I even dared open my heart to you was the greatest risk of all.
I am alone.
At home, in the office, with friends, among family; I am alone.
Isolated from most of my family because they cannot accept me for who I am.
Isolated from old friends because our point of reference is now vastly different.
Isolated at work because I am afraid of losing my job.
I am isolated, because it is safer that way, at least, I think it is.
It is safer for me not to open myself up, to reveal too much about myself, because I am afraid of how others might react, or what they might say or do.
Better my co-workers think of me as the sad, quiet woman who keeps to herself.
Better they don't find out I am a freak.
After all, who would willingly want to work with "some tranny"?
So, I insulate and isolate myself so they won't have to know.
I am just the strange woman who doesn't socialize or go to office parties.
All I have to do to justify my isolation is to imagine their reactions...
Shock "I had no idea..."
Revulsion "You mean, you're a man?"
Betrayal "You lied to us"
Snobbery "Then, you're not a real woman"
So I isolate myself to protect me from all that. I hide behind my wall, safe inside where I won't have to experience that pain, safe from all the horror stories I hear about people like me.
I am sinking back into the hole that nearly consumed me before transition. I know there is something wrong with me. It cannot be fixed by hormones or by subjecting this hated body to any number of "feminizing" surgeries...not even The Surgery.
But, whatever is wrong with me is exacerbated by being a transsexual. It clouds every emotion and taints every relationship, like a bogeyman waiting to devour me.
How do you tell someone you think you love that "there is something about me you need to know..."
I used to be miserable as a man. Now, I am miserable AND alone AND a freak as an MtF
So I long to reach out to someone -anyone- and tell them what is happening to me and tell them who and what I am.
But I can't.
It is safer to hide in my closet where nobody knows and no one can see and cry out into the void instead.
And I regret this most of all.
Matthew sat and read the confession from the woman he thought he loved...thought he knew. He turned the pages over and over in his hands, unable - or perhaps unwilling - to accept that all this grief, all this pain, could have been bottled up inside one person.
The waitress came and asked if he cared to top his coffee. He smiled and nodded, all the while he could not tear his attention from the sheets in his hands. He read it again, hoping maybe there was some hint, some clue, as to why she would leave this on his pillow then disappear without saying goodbye. He tried calling her. Naturally, the phone went to voicemail, so he was left to stare in wonder at the letter, the goodbye he held in his trembling hands.
Had there been unkind words? Had he said something, done something to illicit this kind of reaction? At no time did he ever, to his best recollection, treat her as less than she deserved as a human, as a woman, as his lover. This sudden departure left him empty and cold.
He tossed a few bills on the table, stood and departed the café.
The insistent buzzing of the phone drew her attention away from her monitor. Without looking to see who it was, she sent the call to voicemail and returned to her work.
"Mina?" the voice called from her office door. "The boss wants to see you."
"Thank you, Alice," Mina said. "Can he wait a few minutes so I can finish the schedule?"
Alice checked her watch. "Yeah, but he wants to see you before you go to lunch."
"Thanks, Alice," Mina sighed. "I'll just be a bit longer."
Alice departed leaving Mina to her chores. "What a fucking day," she whispered to herself. She finished her last entry, checked her face for any stray hairs and stepped into the hallway.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Malone?"
"Ah, Mina," the boss looked over the sheaf of paper in his hands. "Please have a seat. Do close the door behind you."
Mina did as asked and sat directly in front of the boss. He took a few moments to square his pile before he set it to one corner of his desk. He then folded his hands, smiled and looked directly at her.
"How have you been, Mina?"
Mina cocked an eyebrow. "I am doing well, I suppose. Why do you ask?"
"Several of the others in your department have brought to my attention that you seem...different."
Mina stiffened. Shit, they found out! I'm gonna get sacked!
"Is everything alright at home?" Mr. Malone asked. "I know I really oughtn't pry, but the past few days, it seems as if you've been on another world."
"Ah, yes, about that," Mina laughed nervously as she scratched the back of her head. "I - uh - broke up with my gi - er - boyfriend and..."
Malone regarded Mina impassively, but she could see the eyebrow twitch. She lowered her head. "I'm sorry, Mr. Malone," she said. "I will do my best to keep it together."
Malone smiled once again and handed over the stack of paper from the corner of his desk. "Would you be so kind as to distribute this among your department?"
Mina accepted the paperwork and stood to leave.
"You know you can come and talk, Miss Schweiger." Mina stopped in her tracks, hand on the doorknob. "My door is always open to my staff, especially to those with special needs."
"Th-Thank you, sir," Mina said haltingly. She forced herself to stop trembling, turned the knob and disappeared.
Mina met Robert and Laura in the hall outside their department. They smiled politely and stood aside to allow Mina by.
"Should we ask?" Mina heard Robert ask.
"Let's wait a while," Laura said. "She's busy. Catch her at lunch."
Mina lowered her head and hurried her pace. They're talking about me, she thought to herself. Damn it.
She kept her gaze down as she silently distributed that week's schedules to the job captains.
Mina reached her office, closed the door as if to ward off the plague, and sat back behind her desk, her face buried in her hands. Things were not going according to plan. She should be much happier than this.
"Did you hear? Mary-jo is pregnant!" a voice asked, muffled slightly by the closed door. "There's going to be a shower this weekend."
"Oh, how wonderful," another voice answered.
The voices grew indistinct as they moved down the corridor. Mina bit her lip in effort to stop her tears, but to no avail. Fucking perfect, she cried to herself. One more fucking reminder.
Eric offered her a cup of tea and sat next to her on the sofa.
"I just don't know what I want anymore," Mina sobbed. "I hate my life, I hate my job, I hate my body."
"So, you're giving up."
"That's real sympathetic of you, Eric," Mina snapped.
"What do you want me to say?" Eric said, sipping his tea. "Gee, I feel sorry for you?"
Mina choked another sob. "I don't know."
"Look, I'm your friend, you know I'm your friend," Eric said as he laid his hand on Mina's shoulder. "I think you're just tired, aren't you? You can never bring yourself to admit when you've had enough. You keep everything bottled up, hiding yourself away. The pressure builds, and before long, you're melting down. You need to unplug from the world for a bit."
"I-I don't know."
"You don't know? How can you not know? It's there, plain as day, you're just not letting yourself see it."
"What can't I see?"
"You are not as broken as you seem to think you are, Mina."
"Bollocks. I turned my back on everything and everyone, and for what? To be a woman? And not a very good one at that. Everything I am is a lie. I am a creation, a creature of science. Chemicals and psycho-babble and legal paperwork. There is nothing real about me except pain."
Mina cried aloud for a few minutes. Eric's hand never left her shoulder.
"You know that's not true," Eric said once Mina calmed down. "You are not a 'creature of science'."
"That's bull and you know it, Eric," Mina said. "If I let my body do what it wants to do naturally, I would be this hideous, muscle-ly, hairy thing. It's chemicals and cosmetic intervention that make me look even vaguely like a woman."
"Not vaguely," Eric said. "You are - no, you always have been a - very attractive woman, Mina."
Mina stared at Eric in disbelief. "Now I know you're just saying that to make me feel better."
"No lie," Eric said. "Remember the New Year's party? Everyone commented on how pretty you were."
Mina buried her face in her hands. "Lies."
"Then why am I the only one who can't see it?" Mina wailed. "Why is it when I look in the mirror, all I see is That Man...the one I used to be?"
Eric fell silent. Mina knew he couldn't answer that question. She wept further and slid onto the floor into a heap. Eric hefted her back onto the sofa. "There's no need for theatrics, Mina."
"I feel like complete shit," Mina complained.
"Are you sure? There is a good man out there who loves you."
"Matthew?" Mina asked. "He deserves better."
"Than you? You are everything he wants in a partner."
"What can I give him that a normal woman can't? I hurt every day, I loathe what I am and I can't burden him with that. He deserves someone without this kind of baggage…Someone perfect."
"Perfect is a lie, Mina."
"Then more perfect than me. Someone thinner, prettier, younger…someone not born with a fucking penis."
"Is that all that's wrong?"
"Isn't it enough! Normal women aren't born with penises, Eric, men are. I'm just some pathetic little boy running around playing at being a girl. Sometimes I wish I had the guts to finish what I started with that razor. I couldn't even do that right."
"I used to know where I wanted to be, who I was and who I wanted to be. I'm 35 years old now, and I'm stuck, spinning my wheels."
"Have you tried looking elsewhere?"
"It will all be the same," Mina said. "They will all find out I used to be a boy and it will just start all over again."
"Have they said anything to you at Bluestone?" Eric asked.
"But what?" Eric pressed. "They haven't said anything, have they? I don't think anyone cares, Mina."
"They do care," Mina blurted. "I can hear them talking; laughing and making fun of me. They all know about me. All anyone has to do is look at this stupid male face and it's obvious!"
Eric sat silently while Mina continued to sulk. She fiddled with her hair as Eric switched on the TV.
"I'm hungry," Eric said to break the silence. "Wanna get curry?"
Mina chuckled in spite of herself. "And taiyaki."