If only you could know
My secret since early childhood
I try to find an inner peace and a spirituality to help guide me as I try to understand what is happening with me and I look to all the people so important in my life that make me able to go on and try real hard to live and find happiness. I look into my son's eyes as I appreciate his smile and his youthful innocence which makes me feel so blessed as I try to not get so emotional. Life is a wonderful gift and I am fortunate and yet there is a part of my life that no one knows about except for those most closest to me. I have lived my life always trying to do all the right things and trying to be that perfect little boy who would one day grow up to be a man. The sad reality though is that as a young boy I knew something was not quite right. I was 5 years old when I first felt different and it was not easy for me. I cried many times and tried with all my heart and an inner strength to fight and be what I thought I was supposed to be. Deep down I knew I was a girl and I was only trying to find time where I could dress and feel comfortable knowing that I should be wearing dresses and all the things that little girls wear. I did not understand why I felt this way but I knew it was real and it was a part of me that I had no control over. It was my secret and I never told anyone as a child. I kept it to myself and at times it was so very hard but I was afraid to tell anyone. I couldn't even tell my parents or my sisters. I just tried to be brave and work on trying to be the boy I was born as. I cried at night though many times and the only times I felt happy was when I dressed in girls clothes. I felt like I belonged in them and they were what made me feel alive.
I identified as a girl and I dressed as one whenever I could in secret. This was something I lived with my entire life and as hard as I tried to hide and repress it I felt I could never escape these feelings as they were my very essence as a person and as a small child. I don't know what happened or why I felt this overwhelming need to dress or identify as a girl. I just believe in my heart and soul that this was something I was born with as I never made a conscious choice that I would start to wear girl's clothes and hope one day to be a female. Over time I have come to learn that what has plagued me my whole life and to this very day is a condition called gender dysphoria. You may never have heard this term but I knew it when I was 13 years old when I was at the onset of puberty and felt I wanted to die. I could not understand why I had to suffer like this feeling I was a girl but not having the right match of body to my mind and my internal soul.
It was utter chaos for me and all I could do to get away from it was to escape into my own little world where I felt safe and could dress up to my heart's content. In reality this is what helped me to get by and to find salvation in my crazy mixed up life. I was so uncertain of my future and I was painfully shy. I could not be honest to anyone in my life as I truly felt all alone and had no one I could trust. I had the hugh burden of carrying this secret and I just didn't know what to do. I felt trapped with no where to go and no one to turn to. I sometimes felt I was losing my mind but I tried as hard as I could to get a grip and stay grounded. It was the female in me who protected me and made sure I would be ok. I felt safe being in tune with my feminine side and I felt most happiest when I expressed that side of me. I did it through dressing and just by my internal thoughts and feelings trying to give my self the self support I needed to get through the pain I felt.
There were times when I did slip up and was caught in the act like the time I tried on my sister's nail polish on my finger nails when I was 8 years old. It was hard to hide it and my mother asked me why I was wearing it and all I could say was that I liked the color and wanted to see what it looked like. She told me she loved me and that I should not do it anymore because boys are not supposed to do that. I felt hurt inside hoping desperately to hear my mom say it was ok and that I could still do it but that was not what I heard and at that point the reality of the situation hit me and I was convinced that the only way I could dress and do these girly things was in total secrecy hiding it from my parents also. I felt shame in hiding it but I had no choice and this was my survival mechanism. I could not tell a single person and so I lived in the closet and carried this secret with me for all my life. I have been living a double life since I was a young and innocent 5 year old even though I did not realize it back then as I was just an innocent child.
I remember going to the library trying to find books on what was going on with me and I just wanted to know that I wasn't crazy. I knew there had to be others like me but I had no way of knowing who and it was a very difficult time for me emotionally as I had to pretend and find ways to overcompensate for my feelings. I was very lucky that I had a fondness for little league baseball and I was actually very good. I learned how to field and swing a bat and was considered a very promising player. In fact I won a trophy in my first year of playing as Most Improved Player and our team, the Indians won the championship. It was a tremendous time for me and I fit in with the other boys and was treated just like them even though I carried this secret with me. I even wore girls underwear underneath my uniform. It was a very confusing time for me but I tried to repress my feelings as best I could for fear of ridicule and total isolation. I did not want to be shunned by others so I carried on as if nothing was wrong and I had periods of time in my life where it seemed I was ok and I could manage. I even went without cross dressing for some lengthy periods of time.
When I turned 16 I remember I learned about Christine Jorgensen in some article I came across and I knew when I read her story I could relate to her experiences as a child. I was definitely in that same situation and then I realized what I kind of knew all along. I realized I had transgender issues and I was a female in my mind and my inner core. I could not easily dismiss this but I was not sure what I should do. The only thing I continued to do was cross dress whenever the urge came to me and it was more prevalent for me at that age but then again I could not express it outwardly. Whenever I dressed it was at home and when I was alone or at night when I was in bed and I would sneak one of my mother's or sister's dresses to wear. I was in heaven when I wore a dress and everything was right with me and the world when I did this. I was happy for that brief moment. As I think back to these days of my youth I sometimes wish I had the courage to tell my parents what I was going through because then maybe I might have received the much needed support and therapy. I may have also decided that I would transition at a much earlier age and would have the courage and conviction to do so.
High school was a time where I was somewhat of a loner though I did have some friends and I was on the cross country and track teams. I ran and that helped me with my inner feelings. When I ran I could get away from what I was struggling with internally but I was also trying to develop and achieve in the sport. I was a little kid but I had a big heart and my coach saw that in me and he recruited me for the team which was a very happy time for me. I was involved in sports which I loved. I was accepted and I had friends. I never spoke about my transgender issues but I still had to deal with them at this time. I would go to school sometimes wearing a dress underneath my male clothing to help me with my gender identity. I was always happier when I had a dress on. I even enjoyed when I would go to the mall even though it was by myself. I loved shopping and always made my way to the girl's and young women's department. I absolutely loved buying my own female clothing. I just felt so excited and when I found something I liked I was so happy.
I had a few close calls sometimes when I dressed underneath with my girls clothing. On a couple of occasions I had gym class so I had to sneak taking my dress off in the bathroom in a stall and I was extremely nervous. I had to sneak it in my gym bag so no one would see it and then I had to hide it in my locker. Sometimes I was too afraid to put it back on that I would just leave it in my bag but I made sure I would not forget to bring it home. There were other scary stories I could share but I would have to save them for another entry. As I was coming to the end of my high school days I had to make plans for college and I had to make some very big decisions. The idea of transitioning had crossed my mind back then but I was still living at home and I did not have the financial resources to do so. I also had to focus on my studies and could not do both as they both would equally be stressful. I made the decision that I would focus completely on my schooling and I would deal with my transgender issues as the need came up. Cross dressing was definitely my way of keeping those feelings in check but it was always secretly and I always remained in the closet. In my first two years of college I attended Nassau Community College where I studied Pre-Engineering. I took all the requisite course that any first two year engineering program offered. I took all my calculus and physics requirements in addition to the elementary engineering courses. I was a hard working student and my studies kept me out of trouble. I wanted to eventually continue my studies in a four year college and pursue a mechanical engineering degree. As I completed my first two years I then had to select a transfer school and after many schools I decided on Virginia Tech where my mother's brother attended and completed an electrical engineering degree.
I loved the school and campus and I started my studies taking the traditional course that a junior would take. I excelled in my Thermodynamics class and my Physics class but I had to study for long hours which was expected. I had a need to cross dress at school but only in private. It was a bit tricky because I was sharing an apartment with others and I had to be very careful. I usually only dressed when I was alone and I knew my roommates would be gone for the weekend. My cross dressing helped me to relieve stress particularly at this time in my life. I had always wondered what I would do if I met a girl. How would I even tell her that I cross dressed and that I was also transgendered. It was so hard for me to have a normal social life and this contributed to my awkwardness and my painful shyness. I was afraid to live my life because I did not feel free. I felt the same entrapment that I felt as a young boy. Despite my feelings I still managed to do my school work and survive. I had no choice. I had to carry on and do whatever it took to get by. I also had the backing of my parents with regard to my studies and I could not disappoint.
I did feel homesick after awhile and my grades were average despite the fact I was studying all the time. I found Virginia Tech to be a tremendous school and I had well educated professors from all over the world. I learned a great deal and I was challenged all the time. I was trying to do all the right things even with my transgender life and no one even had a clue I was transgendered because I did not reveal it to a single person. I managed to keep this a big secret and would find it very strange that I could not be honest with people about my situation. I also wondered if there were transgendered college students and how they managed if they were open about it. I desperately wanted to be open also but I could not. I had to repress it as if it was not a part of me. In retrospect it makes me very sad that I had to live like this. I had to hide a big part of my life and I was never revealing the true person that resided in me. I was a woman inside but a frightened little boy who now had to fill a young man's shoes who did not know how to deal with it.
I managed to get through my classes but I was depressed and needed to be closer to home so I told my parents that I wanted to transfer and I decided on attending Hofstra University where I shifted gears and pursued an accounting degree. I was happier to be home where I felt more comfortable and I could cross dress every night at home and still do my studies. It was a stressful time in my life and I had to take summer classes and work to graduate within a 2 year time frame so I could start to embark on a career. I was also hoping to transition in my 20's but I did not know if I was mature enough to transition and I realized I needed the support of others. I was all alone and I did not even know what transitioning was all about. All I knew was that a male transitioning to female had to see a therapist, see a doctor for hormone treatment and actively dress as a woman in public and live the 2 year real life test. This was absolutely necessary if they were planning to go the full distance with SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery). They had to follow the standards as prescribed by Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in working with improving the quality of life for transsexuals.
I managed to do well at Hofstra and I completed my degree in Accounting within 2 years and pursued the CPA and started working in the field starting with a small CPA firm. I had to obviously embark on my career in male mode as I was not even ready to consider transition. I hurt inside realizing I was going to face the need to transition but I was not sure when and how. This had become a big dilemma in my life and sometimes I felt very depressed about it because I had no one to communicate my feelings to and I felt I was dying on the inside. I felt I was suffocating and that my inner beauty was being stifled.
I could never understand how I could escape my feelings but I took steps to try when I purged all my female clothing. I must have purged my wardrobe of female clothing on 5 different occasions and I was so upset later on as I absolutely loved my clothes but I was trying to rid myself of these feelings. It did not help and I wound up replacing my clothes only to start all over accumulating female clothes. After all I still needed to cross dress to give me peace of mind and help me to find some small amount of happiness in my painfully shy and isolated life. I was always happy when I was dressed in my favorite dresses. It made me feel at peace and I was able to smile and feel good about myself. I was a girl at these times and I felt normal.
I sometimes wonder why people have a hard time understanding transgender. It really isn't all that hard to understand. I have always felt I was a female and I have denied it all my life but as I am getting older I have come to realize I truly need to address my feelings and I will always feel I am a female. I have many considerations and I have family who are near and dear to me who I never ever want to hurt. I just feel I have hidden my identity for way too long and I have been suffering all these years and though I have family who I love I still feel I need to transition to become the woman I have always been. It's not about the clothes. It's about me and who I am. I need to be honest and true to who I am. I don't want to die feeling like I could never tell people who I really was. That would be the worst possible thing I could ever think of. To die and never live as I felt I should all of my life. I have a son who means the world to me and I would never want to hurt him. i love him very much and I will always love him no matter what and I hope he will still love me too. I have shared things about my son and autism in a blog and my intentions were always to help him and provide him a legacy of my writings so he could better understand me and will have something that would have some meaning to him.
I also have a wife who I met through a therapist I was seeing when I was exploring my transgender issues. I was expecting to transition but was still uncertain and so I decided over time after dating that I would marry with the intention of raising a family. The biggest regret i have is that I was not honest with my wife about my transgender issues and my need to cross dress. I thought I could put a lid on it and just keep it buried but as we all know once you are transgendered you will always be transgendered. The hardest part about coming to this point in my life is the decision I must make. I need to transition and I need to keep my family intact. I also need to work and provide for my family and help put my son through college. I also have a wonderful employer and a great opportunity that I need to continue with and I hope that the company will understand the severity of my situation and how important it is for me to seek this path. I have an overwhelming need to be me and that means transitioning and coming clean to all the people important in my life including my family, my friends, my employer and my co-workers. I have agonized over this for so long and I have been suffering so much. One thing that hit me really hard and contributed to this all coming to this was my dad's unexpected suicide 3 years ago. I was totally devastated and felt so guilty in ways but it was not about my transgender issues. It was about us not being able to help my dad with his depression and not realizing he had become so desperate.
I also have recently celebrated my 50th birthday and as I am getting older my time is waning and my need to transition has become an incredible necessity for my own sanity. I am afraid if I don't transition I will just lose my will to go on and I will wind up like my mother dying because I just could not go on anymore. I do not want to lose my fight and I truly believe in my heart and soul that when I transition I will still be the same loving and caring person and I will be a happier one too because my gender will now be consistent to my feelings. I have a long way to go as I will need to be prescribed female hormones and continue the painful electrolysis to my face to permanently remove the hair growth. The surgery is necessary and I will have to deal with that later.
My sincere hope is to transition and to keep everything the same and have people realize that this does happen to people like you and me and hopefully they will come to understand that I am just like everyone else. I have feelings and I am a good person even though I am transgendered.
Edward D. Iannielli III
aka Emily Iannielli
Transgender child: Jazz singing Mama Mia
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