I was killing myself in stages they said.
“Charlie you're 23, you've got a great job and a fat bank account, so why are you drinking yourself to death?” said Wills, my older brother after another of my drinking binges.
“Mate you need help quick. I thought you were gonna black out last night,” advised Pete as he helped me into his car a week later.
We'd gone to the pub and I'd drank myself into a stupor and he'd taken me to his flat. I'd awoken with the mother of all hangovers and didn't know if I was coming or going.
Pete my best friend since we were both 16 took me home were I still lived with my parents. Mum sighed as she saw us approach the house with me being helped along by my buddy.
I heard her say, 'Why does he drink so much?” in exasperation as my friend helped me over the threshold and up to my room.
“Thanks,” I muttered as if fell into my bed and oblivion.
Six hours later I awoke with a killer headache.
“Son,” began Dad.
I cringed as he said this, for some reason I hated being addressed like that.
“Your drinking is going to kill you.”
'True,' I thought morosely. I could out drink everyone I knew and Mum and Dad were worried sick since I spent my life either working or drinking.
We all knew something was bothering me and gnawing at my soul and I was using my work and the bottle to numb the pain.at the back of my mind I knew exactly what was eating at me and I knew it wouldn't stop unless I faced up to it.
“We want you to get therapy before it's too late. We don't want you to waste away,” said Mum emotionally.
I could see she was close to tears and it tugged at my heart to hear her so worried.
“Ok I'll do it,” I said.
Anything had to be better than the empty life I had and I knew as it was my life was an accident waiting to happen. I was spiralling out of control.
I enrolled in an AA programme and started seeing a psychologist who gave me her diagnosis after a month or so of seeing her.
“You've got gender dysphoria,” she told me, “You want to be female but you're trying to repress that need through drinking and overwork. You're subconscious has been aware of it for years.”
I just sat and looked at her un-shocked. She'd just put into words my deepest secret. Yes it had been my lifelong desire to be a girl and it was a secret I'd only shared with one person as a child.
“Because you're doing well at being male your frustration keeps building up resulting in increased drinking so as to forget it,' went on the shrink.
I knew it was true.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked in a voice I barely recognized.
“Well either you can carry on as you are and end up suicidal or you can transition and become a woman which I think is the best option for you,” she said kindly.
I did a lot of soul-searching for a week after that and I almost went back to drinking because of the stress I was generating. I remembered Ellen,my childhood friend letting me wear her clothes and telling me I was pretty. I remembered telling her I hated being a boy and enjoying playing with her dolls. I remembered how much I'd hated my puberty and discovering I was attracted to boys while resenting being male. I cried when thought of what my shrink had told me.
“Physically you're okay. Your height is great and you've got good hair so you'd look okay as you have a nice face.”
I thought of the name I'd chosen when I was six and had used with Ellen; Charlene. At 15 she'd moved away and I'd been terribly lonely. I'd survived by escaping into my schoolwork while suppressing my urge to be a girl.
I finally came to a decision, I couldn't run away from who I was forever. Charlene was going to be set free.
I went onto the Net and googled transsexual, stuff I'd always avoided finding out lest I opened a Pandora's box I couldn't close. The evenings I'd spent nursing a beer and being miserable were replaced by nights lying on my bed and browsing different sites on my laptop. I learnt about hormones like oestrogen, blockers which would prevent testosterone from working and would lesson body hair and the like (I ordered blockers happily), passing, voice therapy and surgery. But first I had to “come out” so to speak and to let friends and family know I was transgendered. I decided to tell Pete first.
“What?” exclaimed Pete when I first told him what my psychiatrist had said. “She must be insane,” he almost said but didn't when he saw the look on my face.
“What do you think of that?” he asked.
“I think she's right Pete. I do hate being a guy and I've always wanted to be a girl,” I replied without batting an eyelid.
The look on his face told me he had a lot of questions on his mind.
“No I'm not crazy. Yes I like guys, not I'm not gay and I'm definitely not attracted to you,” I said quickly although the last bit was only half true. I'd once had a crush on him which is why I'd made friends with him but I didn't tell him that or he might have felt insecure around me.
“Are you serious?” he finally asked. “You really want a sex-change?”
“I'm dead serious about this,” I replied, “I'll go crazy if I don't do it okay?”
Pete stared at me feeling like I was a total stranger. After being friends for seven years through high school and varsity your best friend didn't just become a woman.
“Who are you?” he said, still in shock.
“Your best friend, thats if you still want to be pals,” I responded.
“Don't be daft. Why wouldn't I want to be friends?” he retorted righteously, clearly affronted I'd say such a thing.
“Great but from now on its Charlene okay?” I said grinning.
“Charlene? I'll try but it'll take some getting used to,” said Pete.
“Fine,” I said.
“Have you told your parents?” he queried.
“Not yet but if they go ballistic and throw me out can I camp with you?” I replied.
“No problem but Myra would have to know why,” he answered. Myra was his current beau and I was friends with her too.
“Sure and thank you,” I replied, pleased he didn't hate me.
Before I could transition I needed to fix my voice which I'd hated ever since it broke. A few emails later I had directions to voice school and I happily enrolled telling Pete who nodded absently and Dr MacMillan, my psychologist who wished me the best. I went after work for two hours before I went home and practiced at Pete's when he was out with Myra or in my room at home. My parents had no idea what I was doing but they thought it was related to my job or my AA programme and seeing I'd stopped drinking were quite happy with how things were.
Two weeks after telling Pete I finally worked up the courage to tell Mum and Dad.
“We need talk,” I said to them one evening when we happened to be watching a show no one liked.
Dad put down his paper and Mum looked at me. Breathing deeply I told them I'd been seeing a shrink and getting help for my bingeing. I then trotted out what I'd been told before telling them I agreed with the diagnosis.
Dad sat silently trying to absorb what I was saying but Mum hit the roof when I mentioned my plans to transition.
“Charlie you can't. Thats a big mistake you'd make,” she hollered.
I didn't want to argue and said so, “It's either that or I can drink myself to death.”
“I'm sorry but I hate my life right now and my body and I'm sick of that and being a man,” I continued.
“Then you can leave this house. I won't have it!” said Mum furiously.
I could see she was angry and upset. I wouldn't get anything from rowing with her. I stood up.
“Alright I'll go. I once thought you cared for me which is why I agreed to get help. Now that I've stopped drinking the least I could have expected was your support but clearly I'm expecting too much. I'm sorry. I'll be gone by lunch tomorrow,” I said calmly before walking out.
“Charlie,” whispered Mum when I was by the door. I turned to face her.
“I'm sorry. Don't go like that,” said Mum gently.
“I'm still going to do it,” I replied. Neither of them said anything and I left and went to my room.
One month later I walked into my boss' office and told him my situation. To my surprise he was sympathetic and didn't fire me as I'd feared he would. Instead he gave me a week off of paid leave during which I'd get myself ready while he prepared the rest of the office for my transition. I left his office in transports of delight, thrilled that he'd been so understanding. Coming out of the boss' office smiling could only mean a raise or a promotion thought my colleagues. Not one of them had an inkling of the truth.
“I kept my job man!” I squealed delightedly to Pete, “He didn't fire me.”
Pete looked pleased.
“Told you so. It would have been discrimination,” he remarked.
“Yeah so I've got a week to prepare before I show up as Charlene. Gosh I wish I had a sister to help me. I don't think Mum will,” I said with a sigh.
Wills 27 was my only sibling, married with a son.
“Get Jo to help you out,” suggested Pete.
“Hopeless both of them think I'm nuts,” I replied balefully
Despite my lack of a female sibling I'd made some progress over the past month. I have no facial hair thanks to some good genes and it'll stay that way because of the blockers and I've been regularly shaving my legs while using depilatory cream on my arms. I've had a go at tweezing my eyebrows with pleasing results. On the other hand loads more needs to be done, I have no clothes for work and only a couple of outfits for home use and my hair is lamentably short although it hasn't seen a scissors for ages.
I put all these thoughts out of my mind though and headed to the bathroom so I could wax my legs which was arguably the most painful thing I'd had to yet but I loved the results though. Silky smooth legs are it!
When I turned up for breakfast wearing prosthetic breasts (bought online) under a blouse and a knee length skirt to signal the start of my transition proper both my parents shared the same disbelieving look, they glanced at each other then went back to their breakfast.
'Good,' I thought as we had our breakfast in silence. I'd spent ages trying to get my hair right and I guess I looked funny. I didn't need any comments to worsen my mood. Once or twice I caught Mum about to say something but she thought better of it and clammed her mouth.
I could still feel her radiating icy disapproval. I ignored her and debated whether to tell them that I'd be changing my name that week and so did they have a second name for me.
'Nah,' I thought, it would give Mum the opening she wanted and that I wasn't about to do.
To be continued.
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